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Shaun Powell

Even though it's early in his tenure, new Magic GM Rob Hennigan already has plenty of issues on his plate.
Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

Pressure turns up for several on-the-clock GMs

Posted Jun 27 2012 12:34PM

The playoffs have arrived for general managers. This is the time of year where they win or go home ... and must explain to their owners and fans what happened and why.

Basically, there's no tougher week-long stretch for a GM than the NBA draft (Thursday) and the opening of free agency (starting Sunday), a talent search that can save or sink a franchise.

Some GMs are under stress more than others. We list several who will sweat the most these next few weeks:

Rich Cho, Bobcats: He was hired last summer to relieve owner Michael Jordan of the major personnel decisions and put the Bobcats on the right path. Well, his first big decision will be what to do with the No. 2 pick, which isn't exactly a no-brainer. Trade down and get multiple picks and/or players? Or keep it? And if Cho keeps the pick, well, who's the pick? This decision could impact the immediate future of the franchise. A bust could set the seven-win Bobcats back a few years. Getting Ben Gordon from Detroit was probably the right move for a team that just can't score.

Rob Hennigan, Magic: The 30-year-old boy wonder and designated savior of the franchise doesn't have the luxury of a comfy transition into his new gig. If Dwight Howard wants out, Hennigan must make a blockbuster trade that transforms the franchise. Sort of the way Herschel Walker enabled the Cowboys to win a Super Bowl years ago. There's also the matter of re-signing Ryan Anderson, the Most Improved Player. Oh, and finding a keeper with the 19th pick. If he pulls that off, we'd have a front runner for executive of the year. Can rookie GMs win that award?

Joe Dumars, Pistons: His reputation appears back on the upswing after he erased a previous mistake, which is what good general managers do. Getting cap relief in 2013 for dumping Gordon on the Bobcats was a necessary move. And now Dumars must find another Greg Monroe with the ninth pick Thursday. Dumars is working in a much better atmosphere than he did under the short but stormy Karen Davidson regime. If he has a good summer, and right now he's off to a decent start, fans might actually return to the Palace.

Neil Olshey, Blazers: He has two picks in the top 11 selections. There's also the issue of Nic Batum, a free agent. Jamal Crawford, too. And he must find a point guard. Basically, Olshey needs to create a team around LaMarcus Aldridge, the only remaining piece of a Big Three era (Brandon Roy, Greg Oden) that never really materialized. And he now works for a quirky owner, Paul Allen, who has chewed up some GMs lately. Olshey left the Clippers for a challenge that might be just as tricky.

Ernie Grunfeld, Wizards: His job was likely spared when he swung the Nene trade at the 11th hour. But Grunfeld is on the clock again as he tries to upgrade the Wizards before John Wall gets discouraged; Wall is only under contract for two more seasons. Getting Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza means the Wizards want to make the playoffs next season, but do those two take playing time away from Jan Vesely and Chris Singleton? And assuming Thomas Robinson is gone when the Wizards pick at No. 3, which direction does Grunfeld go, a guard (Bradley Beal) or a forward (Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Harrison Barnes)?

Bryan Colangelo, Raptors: His team hasn't made the playoffs in four years or advanced beyond the first round since the early Vinsanity era. Also, the roster seems jumbled, with no star in the making. Colangelo's reputation can be saved by 20-year-old Jonas Valanciunas, who's ready to join the team after an impressive year in Europe. Colangelo also must get lucky/be wise with the ninth pick. And finally, Colangelo has trade bait in Jose Calderon, who's entering the final year of his contract. So that's the deal. Toronto's immediate future is riding on Valanciunas, the No. 9 pick and Calderon. And would Colangelo also dangle DeMar DeRozan, whose contract is up after next season?

Dell Demps, Hornets: With new ownership in place, Demps finally has the green light to mold the Hornets in his vision. Getting Anthony Davis with the No 1 pick is a good start, but only a start. Does Demps trade the No. 10 pick for veteran help, now that he wisely dumped Okafor and Ariza, or do the Hornets use that pick on a young backcourt player (Austin Rivers, Jeremy Lamb)? Plus, he must re-sign Eric Gordon, but how do the Hornets do that without overpaying? With plenty of cap space this summer and next, Demps can turn the Hornets around fairly quickly, but only if he manages his draft picks and money wisely.

Daryl Morey, Rockets: Give Morey this: He's not afraid to try anything. But has anything worked so far in Houston? Morey stockpiled three picks in the middle of the first round in an attempt to rent Dwight Howard for one year. If he doesn't get Howard, he's stuck with three picks that few, if any, teams will want. Speaking of which, Morey doesn't have many players on the roster that anyone wants, or any that will fetch the star the Rockets need. His best player might be Goran Dragic, who might sign elsewhere this summer.

Shaun Powell is a veteran NBA writer and columnist. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

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