Posted Aug 6 2010 6:32AM
Their work is done, for now. At least the hard work. Summer trades, free agent signings and draft decisions are now a thing of the past. Now we get to see how the moves made by general managers will impact their teams and the league.
And then, the hard work begins all over again, once the ball goes up.
The job of a GM never rests, because players are evaluated, trades are weighed and coaches are judged on a constant basis. Depending on expectations, more moves are either necessary right away, or being plotted for the near future.
That said, here are the 10 GMs with the most challenging jobs for the upcoming season.
10. Chris Wallace, Grizzlies. Giving the motherlode to Rudy Gay was more an ownership decision, because it involved so much money. Still, it's a big year for Wallace, who needs to see something from the previous two No. 1 picks, Mike Conley and Hasheem Thabeet. He'll also need to eventually make a recommendation to ownership regarding Zach Randolph, a pending free agent. Wallace is still looking for that superstar who can fill the seats; such player is not on the current roster.
9. Rich Cho, Blazers. Is Portland a great place to work, or a lousy one? Pretty sure we know which answer Kevin Pritchard would pick. The former GM was unceremoniously dumped on draft day, a cruel ending to a tumultuous reign. Cho starts with a clean slate, though, and does have something to work with. He's part of a league-wide trend, where teams opt to hire numbers geeks with law degrees as GMs instead of pure basketball bloodhounds. Cho and the Blazers stunned NBA insiders this summer with a lavish offer for Wesley Matthews, a hard-nosed player who was never drafted or never started for Utah. Cho will be the person who nudges the Blazers to extend Greg Oden's contract or look to trade him.
8. Chris Grant, Cavaliers. The team that was built for LeBron must now be reconfigured some way, shape or form. Tough way to break in a first-time GM. Grant must realize that few -- if any A-list free agents -- will ever want to play in Cleveland; therefore he must be wise with lottery picks and trade proposals.
7. Dell Demps, Hornets. Interesting spot for a rookie GM, who must break in a rookie coach and pacify a franchise player who's getting frustrated and impatient. Demps must decide whether to trade the expiring contract of Peja Stojakovic or let it vanish next summer. Also, whether it's worth keeping backup point guard Darren Collison, who probably could start for a dozen teams. Ultimately, Demps must make the Hornets attractive enough for Chris Paul to re-sign in a few years, a steep task, given the limited number of assets and resources.
6. Billy King, Nets. Very fortunate to have found employment, given the amount of very good GM candidates available, and given how he left the Sixers, his previous stop, in near shambles by doling out horrible contracts (Aaron McKie, etc.). Maybe he spoke fluent Russian during job interview, who knows. No doubt, the mistakes have made him a wiser GM, or at least the Nets hope. Will have plenty of salary cap space to work with now and the near future, so once again, his financial smarts will be put to the test. Nets are blessed with young talent and need King to bring in the right veteran pieces, via trade or free agency, in order to take the next step.
5. Ernie Grunfeld, Wizards. Survived the ownership change and Gungate when some basketball insiders thought he was a dead man walking. Did perhaps his best performance of his career when faced with such pressure, dumping big contracts (Antwan Jamison) and grabbing freebies (Kirk Hinrich, Yi Jianlian) to put the Wiz back on track. Got lucky by landing the first pick in the draft and a low-maintenance prize, John Wall, whom the Wiz can build around. Big task now is finding a taker for Gilbert Arenas, or convincing ownership and fan base that he's worth keeping.
4. Larry Riley, Warriors. Could be a front-office casualty, with new ownership prepared to take over and change the culture. Warriors just finished a hapless decade, second only to the Knicks. Was responsible for giving big extension to Stephen Jackson, then watched in horror as Cap'n Jack blew a fuse and demanded out, surprising nobody but Riley. Trade value was instantly diminished. Club swapped Jackson (big scorer) and Jamal Crawford (Sixth Man of the Year) for nothing of significance, just some cap breathing room. Did sign David Lee, but perhaps overpaid for someone who put up nice numbers on a bad Knicks' team. Monta Ellis is still on the roster, meaning Riley either believes Ellis is compatible with Steph Curry, or simply can't find a taker.
3. Joe Dumars, Pistons. Took bows several years ago when Pistons stole Rasheed Wallace and won a championship without spending lavishly. Now dodging arrows, with Pistons stuck with a mish-mash roster, devoid of any great assets. Spent the owner's money on free agents a year early and came away with two backup-types (Charlie V, Ben Gordon). Saddled with twin relics from the title year, Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince, because nobody wants their dead-weight deals. Should survive ownership change if and when the Pistons are finally sold. But needs to swing a great trade in order to restore rep.
2. David Kahn, Timberwolves. Folks in basketball circles are still trying to make sense of his madness. Drafted two point guards in the lottery, then signed another (Luke Ridnour) this offseason, who may end up starting. Took major risk in re-signing Darko Milicic, the worst nightmare of Joe Dumars, and essentially naming Darko the replacement for Al Jefferson, virtually given away to the Jazz. Did get Michael Beasley for nothing, same for Martell Webster. Wolves better show some intrigue this season, or the howling for Kahn will intensify. Still not sure what's up with Ricky Rubio; Kahn's reputation will ultimately rest on that decision. Chris Webber is rooting hard for Kahn to succeed.
1. Pat Riley, Heat. Scored the coup of the summer, if not the decade, in getting LeBron James and Chris Bosh to join Dwyane Wade. Not too impressed by the trimmings of this steak dinner, however, with Mike Miller the best of the supporting cast by far. Not sure how much, if anything, Riley can do to add more help to the team. All the hard work in getting the superstars together will be in vain if Heat simply aren't deep enough to make it through June.
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