Dwyer: Top 10 NBA General Managers of the Last Decade
Old 09-23-2009, 11:45 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Dwyer: Top 10 NBA General Managers of the Last Decade

No Colangelo?



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Originally Posted by Kelly Dwyer
OK, we know the first decade of the 21st century doesn't really end until 2011. We think. But we also know there have been 10 full NBA seasons played since the phrase "Y2K" was on all of our lips (1999-2000), and here at Ball Don't Lie we've decided to use this as an offseason excuse to rank some of the best and not-so-brightest of the 10 campaigns in question. The result? Why, top 10 lists!

Hey, I don't care if it's the Clippers' war room — a war room is a war room. That's a Yeats paraphrase, I believe.

We've done this before, and though a lot has changed since 2007, the difficulty in ranking GMs stays the same.

After all, while everyone wants to win, teams have different ways of going about it. Some need to lose, for a few years, to win. Some need to stay mediocre, for a few years, to win. Some teams have $120 million to work with, after luxury taxes, some teams have half of that, some teams have a third of that.

Different value systems, different eras (is Sam Presti worse at his job right now than the GMs of the last two title-winning teams? You can't go on winning percentage, alone), different sets of rules. Stuck in a particular era, looking forward to 2009-10, with an eye (and heavy emphasis) on the last decade — here are our top 10 GMs.

10. Daryl Morey, Houston Rockets

Admittedly, Morey's presence on this list is due to one hot start, and a whole lot of optimism as his band of obscure role players head into 2009-10 without the services of Yao Ming(notes) and Tracy McGrady(notes). There's a feeling about this team, it has Morey's stamp all over it, and it could weather the crap-storm it's had to deal with as Yao and T-Mac consistently pull up lame. And his 2008-09 turn wasn't all that bad, either.

9. Mark Warkentien, Denver Nuggets

He didn't finish the job, but the Nuggets' core was created by Kiki Vandeweghe, who saw fit to (finally) lay waste to former Denver prez Dan Issel's obsession with creating a .500-team back in 2001-02, rebuilt, and picked up Carmelo Anthony(notes), Kenyon Martin(notes), and Andre Miller(notes) in the process, while getting Denver back to the playoffs. And it should be noted that, after Vandeweghe was let go, Warkentien has had help — most notably from Rex Chapman and Bret Bearup - in the Denver front office.

Doesn't matter, Mark's fantastic at his gig. And a deserved winner of the 2009 Executive of the Year award.

8. Pat Riley, Miami Heat

Riley has made quite a few iffy moves, his Heat are always near the top of the league in payroll, he's obsessed with big names (who may not always be boasting big games at the point in their career that Riles acquires them), and he often seems a half-step away from returning to the coaching sidelines. Again.

But he's also rebuilt his Heat a few times, he's been in the playoffs seven times during the last decade; and while his moves during the summer of 2005 may have been pound-foolish, it won the man and his superstar (Dwyane Wade(notes)) a ring. Something you can't say for LeBron James'(notes) general manager.

7. Kevin Pritchard, Portland Trail Blazers

I can't say I'm as smitten with Pritchard as most, he's the luxury of dealing with Paul Allen's ("give ‘em $3 million and they'll give us Fernandez") money, but he also concocted a series of draft day trades that could put his Trail Blazers into the NBA Finals as early as this season.

A good chunk of these deals were created by Pritchard while he served as the number two behind the insufferable Steve Patterson, and while we're a little dubious as to how Portland used Raef LaFrentz'(notes) expiring contract and eventual cap space hole (only Andre Miller? No trades? That's it?) you can't argue with a team this young, and this good. Great, actually.

6. Mitch Kupchak, Los Angeles Lakers

If we're honest, it looked as if Kupchak didn't really understand what sorts of players fit best inside Phil Jackson's offensive and defensive systems; the guy should have studied at the feet of Jerry Krause, seriously, instead of signing Isaiah Rider.

Now, Mitch was hamstrung by an owner that didn't want to pay the luxury tax, and a top-heavy roster that left little wiggle room once Shaq and Kobe walked off with their cash. Still, it was a rough start, as the role players surrounding the 2001-02 and 2002-03 championship contenders were pretty awful, rebuilding was fitful, and we're two years removed from wondering if Andrew Bynum(notes)-for-Jermaine O'Neal is a good idea.

But smart lower-round draft picks, luck (other teams had better packages in place for Pau Gasol(notes), but Memphis didn't want to deal; by the time Mitch came calling with his package, the Grizzlies were desperate to unload), and the help of Jim Buss (who pushed to draft and then keep Bynum) have had the Lakers in the Finals in consecutive years, with a win in 2009.

5. Otis Smith, Orlando Magic

We're getting at a point in this list where you could easily switch one GM for another, and I'd have a hard time arguing against you.

Smith (and fellow Magic personnel man Dave Twardzik) had a rough start in Orlando, botching a draft (Fran Vasquez), a role player signing (Keyon Dooling(notes)) and two coaching hires (Brian Hill, Billy Donovan). He then cleared the cupboard to sign Rashard Lewis(notes), and though he was exactly what Orlando needed, you still don't pay $122 million for exactly what you need, unless he's named after a type of steak, shares initials with our 36th President, or has a mother who obviously didn't know how to spell the name "Dwayne." Among one or two others.

But Smith also worked well around the fringes, built around the pieces left for him (the previous administration was awful, but they did acquire Dwight Howard(notes), Jameer Nelson(notes), and Hedo Turkoglu(notes)), and had his team in the 2008 Finals. And, somehow, the 2009-10 version of the Magic looks far, far superior.

4. Danny Ainge, Boston Celtics

If it seems odd to rank this guy so high, considering he's spent years presiding over some pretty rank teams, I can understand your fears. But this is a decade-long list, and while some of the men at the top of this page may have better futures (and won't have to pay Kevin Garnett(notes) over $21 million in 2011-12), Ainge's drafting acumen and willingness to take chances make him a winner in my book. If not one in the standings, from 2003 until 2007.

3. Donnie Nelson, Dallas Mavericks

No rings, I concede, but this is a decade-long list. And while I can't count the Shawn Marion(notes)-for-Steve Nash deal that helped turn the Mavericks around in 1998, to say nothing of drafting Dirk Nowitzki(notes) (both deals happened before 1999-00, a point that hurts Sacramento GM Geoff Petrie), I can admire the way Nelson (above, left) has sustained a winner for the bulk of this decade.

Nobody knows, exactly, how Dallas is going to put it all together with their older roster in 2009-10, but they should be a fun watch, an expected winner, and the latest in a series of what should be ten consecutive playoff appearances for Dallas. For someone who watched the team flail through the 1990s, that's still a little mind-boggling.

And, no, we're not going to mention Pavel Podkolzin.

2. Joe Dumars, Detroit Pistons

Bum moves, Joe's made a few. But he's been in the front office since 2000 and running things on his own since 2001, and the sheer amount of moves he's made has still left the Pistons in the playoffs for every season he's run things singularly. He's also presided over a title-holder, built solely around his trades and pickups.

Dumars started by playing it smart, working with teams in cap hell, leaving things flexible, sometimes acting as if Bird Rights didn't matter and he had an NFL-styled hard cap to work with. The Pistons were in the Eastern Conference finals every year between 2003 and 2008, and it was only the players' fault they didn't win more titles.

He's also screwed up a fair amount. Let the Larry Brown situation linger, let his players walk all over Flip Saunders, drafted Rodney White, drafted Darko Milicic(notes), picked up lower-rung free agents that just didn't work, hired Michael Curry, and seemed all too willing to quickly cash in his 2009 cap space for Ben Gordon(notes) and Charlie Villanueva(notes) - two nice players who might not even start for Detroit for spells next season.

Could it have been better? Yes, Detroit's run could have been much, much better. Spurs-like, better. But overall, it was still pretty damn good.

1. R.C. Buford, San Antonio Spurs

We don't know how much impact Gregg Popovich has had on Buford's wheelings and dealings, and R.C. has had help (current Oklahoma City GM Sam Presti was on his payroll for years, the same with Kevin Pritchard), and Buford had nothing to do with the acquisitions of David Robinson (1987), or Tim Duncan(notes) (1998). He wasn't even, technically, the team's personnel boss (that would be Popovich) when the Spurs drafted Manu Ginobili(notes) (2000) or Tony Parker(notes) (2001).

But he's emblematic of an organization that, from the owner on down, works together to sustain a winner, and stay frank and honest with themselves. Not a lot of game-playing in San Antonio, besides the 82 (and many, many extra playoff contests) they work from October until spring. Call it a symbolic choice, rail on me for not picking the lone GM gunslinger, despise the fact that, over ten years after winning their first championship, the Spurs are still contenders under Duncan.

Do what you want. Organizations do win championships. The players are part of the organization, and the players need help. The executives need help, too, in the form of the expert player. The Spurs get this. Owner Peter Holt gets this, and Buford gets this. Unafraid to ask for help, unafraid to chase down a winner. And the results (the playoffs in every year, four championships overall, three during the decade in question) speak for themselves.

So I'll shut up.

Questions? Comments? Furious and righteous anger at a world, not to mention top 10 list, gone wrong? Swing by later today at about 3 p.m. Eastern for a BDL mini-chat regarding this very list.
Source - The top 10 NBA general managers of the last decade - Ball Don't Lie - NBA - Yahoo! Sports
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Old 09-23-2009, 12:02 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I'm not a Colangelo-worshipper by any means, but how is Colangelo's track record in the past decade not better than Kevin Pritchard's? It would be one thing if Pritchard had boldly picked Durant instead of Oden... but he didn't.
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Old 09-23-2009, 12:04 PM   #3 (permalink)
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How is BC not on that list?

He won GM of the year 2 times?
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Old 09-23-2009, 12:08 PM   #4 (permalink)
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I'd argue that Kevin O'Connor from the Jazz should be on that list too.
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Old 09-23-2009, 12:14 PM   #5 (permalink)
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i guess BC fell off the radar when he hit Toronto!! too bad, he deserves to be in the top 3 at least!! probably as high as #1
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Old 09-23-2009, 12:28 PM   #6 (permalink)
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7 of the top 8 on the list have had teams that have either won the Championship or reached the Finals. Perhaps that had something to do with it? Still not sure why he wouldn't at least round out the list then.
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Old 09-23-2009, 12:32 PM   #7 (permalink)
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He could of been 10th for his work in Phoenix, I suppose.

He hasn't had any tangible success in Toronto yet. This year might be different.
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Old 09-23-2009, 01:07 PM   #8 (permalink)
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I'm surprised Warkentein is on the list.

He's made one move really and that was getting Chauncey Billups last year. If he doesn't get that gimmie trade, then that team could've missed the playoffs.
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Old 09-23-2009, 01:12 PM   #9 (permalink)
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I don't like people being rewarded for a one good move. What did ainge do besides dealing with his buddy for KG? What did kupchak do besides stealing gasol from the memphis? It's easier to win when you have kobe and are the top destination for FAs.

And if you judge by succes, what did morey do in Houston? With two future hall of famers, he won exactly two playoff rounds. Or Presti (without roy, where would they be know?)

But the top of the list must be otis, the guy who gave lewis one of the worst contracts in history.

And it's not clear what did they use as criteria for ranking. Draftin? FA signings? Winning? Financial performance of their club (which is technicall the top criteria for the job)
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Old 09-23-2009, 01:29 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by moremilk View Post
I don't like people being rewarded for a one good move. What did ainge do besides dealing with his buddy for KG? What did kupchak do besides stealing gasol from the memphis? It's easier to win when you have kobe and are the top destination for FAs.

And if you judge by succes, what did morey do in Houston? With two future hall of famers, he won exactly two playoff rounds. Or Presti (without roy, where would they be know?)

But the top of the list must be otis, the guy who gave lewis one of the worst contracts in history.

And it's not clear what did they use as criteria for ranking. Draftin? FA signings? Winning? Financial performance of their club (which is technicall the top criteria for the job)
Man you are selling these guys short. KG didn't win Boston a championship. DA built a team with enough young pieces to pull off that deal, clear room to sign Allen and still keep enough solid pieces like Rondo, Allen, Perkins around...knowing that with the big three in place he could attract cheap veteran free agents. Seems pretty smart to me, and effective.

Pau Gasol did not win the championship for LA. They have some solid pieces there that contributed. There were lots of smaller moves that made that team into a champ as well. Bringing Fisher back, guys like Vujacic...they have a very well constructed team for their coaches style, and yeah raping Memphis was a good move to put them over the top as well

Lewis' contract might be bad, but it's not the first..and look what he's done with that team. Bringing in Ron Jeremy, getting some solid and useable pieces around Howard, not just big names but players that compliment him. The team has been big the last few years.

You have to understand that building a team to the point that they're one piece away from winning is no easy feat, and no one player can win it by themselves.
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Old 09-23-2009, 01:46 PM   #11 (permalink)
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seriously, a two time executive of the year, a good drafter, and very intelligent man. no, colangelo.

c'mon consecutive 50 win seasons.

and pritchard doesn't deserve to be on their.
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Old 09-23-2009, 01:47 PM   #12 (permalink)
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How doesn't Pritchard deserve to be on there? He's completely rebuilt Portland from the mess that they were.
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Old 09-23-2009, 02:10 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Quote:
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How doesn't Pritchard deserve to be on there? He's completely rebuilt Portland from the mess that they were.
because he's only been gm for like a year or two.


he's not top 10 of the past decade it's only been two years of 10.


if colangelo doesn't deserve to be on their then neither does pritchard.
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Old 09-23-2009, 02:38 PM   #14 (permalink)
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How doesn't Pritchard deserve to be on there? He's completely rebuilt Portland from the mess that they were.
And how long did that take? Not only that, what have they done? They are just now recently, going up the standings... who knows how far they'll go.
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Old 09-23-2009, 02:42 PM   #15 (permalink)
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How doesn't Pritchard deserve to be on there? He's completely rebuilt Portland from the mess that they were.
And how long did that take? Not only that, what have they done? They are just now recently, going up the standings... who knows how far they'll go.

How many playoff rounds have they won in the last 10yrs?
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Old 09-23-2009, 02:46 PM   #16 (permalink)
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Pritchard has been a genius for the Blazers, a friggin' genius. The Blazers of a couple years back were an absolute wreck; stagnant, full of off the court problems, not to mention the city had turned its back on the team. Turning that team around looked near impossible, but Pritchard rebuilt the team and produced results quickly.
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Old 09-23-2009, 02:51 PM   #17 (permalink)
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We'll see what kind of ramifications there are going forward after Pritchard spread rumours about Daruis Miles and threatened to sue any team that signed him.
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Old 09-23-2009, 03:03 PM   #18 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jeffb View Post
And how long did that take? Not only that, what have they done? They are just now recently, going up the standings... who knows how far they'll go.

How many playoff rounds have they won in the last 10yrs?
They probably have the brightest future of any team in the NBA. They were really going up the standings about 2 years ago. They're deep at almost every position and they have manageable contracts in case they want to move any. Plus he's developed assets.

Considering the train wreck he inherited he's done a fantastic job. But Acie's right in his Darius Miles comment. However, it's likely done everyday in the NBA, this one was just leaked.
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Old 09-23-2009, 03:10 PM   #19 (permalink)
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They probably have the brightest future of any team in the NBA. They were really going up the standings about 2 years ago. They're deep at almost every position and they have manageable contracts in case they want to move any. Plus he's developed assets.
Agreed on all counts. But they haven't proven a thing other then being very bad for very long can eventually help turn things around. I just think that this list should be a little bit more results driven for a longer period of time.
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Old 09-23-2009, 03:19 PM   #20 (permalink)
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But being results driven doesn't show or mean you're a good executive.

A good executive is able to create or develop a future. That's why so many people are high on the Blazers and Pritchard. Do you remember how bad of a cap situation they were and how many bad contracts they had? It was a mess.

He's made good draft picks in the draft (Oden v. Durrant isn't quite finished yet) and he's given reasonable contracts out and made good trades. I think he easily has to be looked as one of the better executives out there.
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