Blog Entry

NBA Draft 2011: 3 GMs in the pressure cooker

Posted on: June 20, 2011 1:01 pm
Edited on: June 20, 2011 1:51 pm

Three GMs have more riding on the 2011 NBA Draft than the others. Posted by Ben Golliver.


In all the NBA Draft over-analysis, mock drafting and trade rumors, it’s easy to lose track of a big picture, fundamental truth about this time of year: Thursday night means vastly different things to different teams.

For the league’s poorest sisters, it represents hope; for the middle of the road teams, it’s a bit of a crapshoot; for true contenders, it can become almost an afterthought. For rebuilding teams, it’s the center of years of planning; for veteran teams, it can be almost irrelevant. For small market teams, the draft is the best – if not only -- chance they’ll get to land a superstar; for the successful larger markets, it can be just another day on the calendar.

The 2011 NBA Draft carries added importance for three franchises. Whether because of poor on-court performance,  endless stagnation, financial implications or potential relocation, the stakes are highest for three teams and their executives. With so much riding on the draft this year, a swing and a miss could prove fatal for these three chief basketball decision-makers. 

Minnesota Timberwolves – David Kahn

Recent First Round Draft Record: Wesley Johnson (2010), Ricky Rubio (2009), Jonny Flynn (2009), Wayne Ellington (2009).

Let’s start with the Minnesota Timberwolves because articles about GMs potentially getting fired always start with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

President David Kahn has been the laughingstock of the NBA for a few years now, but he recently got in a few chuckles of his own when Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio finally decided to take his talentos to the Great White North. Rubio’s presence addresses Minnesota’s two biggest problems. They lacked a franchise-type point guard and desperately needed a hype factor to get fans in the seats following two seasons that produced a combined 32 wins.

There is a catch: Rubio might not actually be that good and it’s an open question whether Minnesota has the support system and personnel around him to ensure that he succeeds in the short-term.

The Timberwolves hold the No. 2 pick and have question marks up and down the roster. They’ll need to turn that pick and other fringe assets into multiple rotation players to ensure a smooth transition for Rubio and to keep Kevin Love from grumbling about his lot in life again.

Kahn has essentially staked his job on Rubio’s success as a pro. If the Timberwolves aren’t able to make significant forward progress in the 2011-2012 season, it’s difficult to envision their way too patient owner Glen Taylor letting Kahn have another go-round.

Houston Rockets – Daryl Morey

Recent First Round Draft Record: Patrick Patterson (2010), Joey Dorsey (2008), Aaron Brooks (2007).

We’ve reached the point where the theoretical idea of Daryl Morey is far better than the actual Daryl Morey. The Rockets’ famed “Moneyball” style architect has gone years without drafting an impact player in the first round. Try as he might via the trade route, he hasn’t been able to locate a core building block to replace chronically injured center Yao Ming, so the franchise has spun its wheels, missing the playoffs in each of the last two seasons. The Rockets admitted to themselves that a rebuild was in order this summer, an idea that former coach Rick Adelman apparently didn’t take kindly to. Enter new coach Kevin McHale.

Focusing relentlessly on market inefficiencies can sometimes cloud the bigger picture. Star types win in the NBA, and the Rockets don’t have any. Kevin Martin and Luis Scola both exist one tier below where they need to be to truly build around long-term. The issues facing Houston next season, then, are two-fold: No one is going to get that roster to play harder and produce more than Adelman did, and the No. 14 spot on Thursday will not yield a franchise difference-maker.

To give the franchise some direction, Morey will need to get creative by packaging assets to get a true top end talent. There’s no better time to do that than draft week. Another NBA Draft week with a zero on the board, you would think, would force Rockets owner Les Alexander to change his thinking from “What have you done for me lately?” to “no, really, what have you actually done?”

Sacramento Kings – Geoff Petrie

Recent First Round Draft Record: DeMarcus Cousins (2010), Tyreke Evans (2009), Omri Casspi (2009), Jason Thompson (2008), Spencer Hawes (2007), Quincy Douby (2006).

The Maloof Family is a mess. The Kings’ ownership group is bleeding money, selling off assets, skimping on payroll and hinting that they will try to leave Sacramento again after next season. The NBA had to step in this summer to help conduct the team’s basic business affairs. Sad stuff.

Kings president Geoff Petrie, despite solid picks in each of the last two drafts, has found himself in chopping block rumors for most of the last year. That’s what happens when your team misses the playoffs – and misses out on playoff revenue – for five straight seasons, winning just 66 combined in the last three years.

Sacramento is picking at No. 7 this year but has an ultimate trump card in the form of tons and tons of available cap space to facilitate trades. Of any team with just one first round pick, the Kings have the most flexibility and widest variety of options this week. With Evans and Cousins in place as core blocks, the mandate is clear: put pieces around them that will turn this into a fringe playoff contender.  

Petrie isn’t simply drafting to keep his job. His decisions this week could ultimately impact whether the Kings win enough next season to keep the team in Sacramento. Given the shaky state of the Maloof family, the implications of the moves made this week could even extend to the ownership level. How many years of also-ran existence can the Maloof Family sustain before the coffers dry up? The Maloofs have steadfastly denied that they would ever sell the team but there could come a time when they don’t have a choice.

You want to talk about pressure? That’s pressure. 


Since: Dec 18, 2007
Posted on: June 23, 2011 12:48 pm

NBA Draft 2011: 3 GMs in the pressure cooker

The comparisons of the movie Major league and the magoofs are scary. No money for big star players and move the team to the south…crazy!

Since: Nov 23, 2007
Posted on: June 23, 2011 11:45 am

NBA Draft 2011: 3 GMs in the pressure cooker

Rubio is only 20 yrs old...So there is no way anyone can tell how good he is or isnt......

Since: Dec 5, 2006
Posted on: June 23, 2011 1:43 am

NBA Draft 2011: 3 GMs in the pressure cooker

David Kahn has a plan. David is determined to succeed where Kevin McHale failed. One trouble is there are few free agents who want to sign with Minnesota. He is dependent on the draft and trades. Is Ricky Rubio the answer? He struggles to shoot from outside and is not a great defender. He is an exceptional passer. With Kevin Love and Michael Beasley on the court he can facilitate the offense. But there is a move that David Kahn needs to make tomorrow which will insure the success of Ricky and perhaps save his own job. That move is to somehow trade with Portland to acquire Rudy Fernandez, one of Ricky's best friends and Spanish National teammate. Portland is open to trading Rudy and Ricky will have amazing opportunities with Rudy for alley oop passes and finishes. In Rudy's rookie year he was a sensation with Sergio Rodriguez making those passes. Now Ricky can ne that player and both should not only prosper but deliver an entertaining aspect to the Timberwolves' games.

David Morley is dependent on Kevin McHale to coach well enough to save David's job. Kevin McHale could not coach well enough in Minnesota to save his own job so this is one big irony as the two Davids are tied together with one of the worst GM/coaches in league history. McHale does talk a good game. Can he now show substance to his palaver?

There does not seem to be any hope for Sacramento. The most important factor in building a team is culture. Drafting and signing players who will leave it all out on the floor and work diligently to improve. That is not evident in Sacramento. There are several players who seem to be playing for personal stats while winning and teamwork are simply foreign. Now that Samuel Dalembert is gone (free agent and he is not coming back) the team is woefully lacking in culture. This draft will not save them. They would be better off to sell the pick for $3M and a bench player. How can Sacramento and its fine Mayor, Kevin Johnson, convince the Sacramento area that it is wise to build a new basketball palace in a depression? Without a team identity that the populace can embrace, this is the impossible dream. Sacramento has some of the most saavy fans in the league but Anaheim is working now on improvements for the Kings Royals for 2012-2013 league year. Chances are high that it will be moved under the care of a new General Manager.

Since: Apr 29, 2011
Posted on: June 21, 2011 2:56 pm

NBA Draft 2011: 3 GMs in the pressure cooker

I find it amazing that these guys still have jobs when kevin pritchard is out there.  If i was glen taylor, I would be on the phone with Pritchard tomorrow offering anything he wants for the job!

Since: Nov 7, 2010
Posted on: June 21, 2011 5:03 am

NBA Draft 2011: 3 GMs in the pressure cooker

every time we talk about someone or something in Houston...must start with Yao Ming...and then talk again about Yao...and again..and again...
everything'd be different with him..with a healthy Yao  now will obviously look into Adelman, players, and front office choices differently...Scola, Martin, Brooks (Battier)in a slow(to help Yao) and well-organized game system(typical of Adelman..few things but well-executed) could prove their real value as role-players minded and probably the  result would have been easy playoffs and Morey looks smarter

Since: Jul 29, 2009
Posted on: June 20, 2011 11:31 pm

NBA Draft 2011: 3 GMs in the pressure cooker

How in the world did these dudes get to this position? Petrie making decisions on who to pick? Geoffrey, you're hopelessly outclassed,outsmarted and basically outfoxed because your days in Sac-Town are numbered. Dude; just let some slug make your pick as we all know that you'll screw it up. Stern is awaiting your bosses' demolition of this franchise. Geoff my man; you'll never make an appearance in Orange County til 2017.As for the"shaky" situation of the Maloof family, I'm confident that Paris and/or Britney will bail these clowns out of the mess they put themselves in. Just give it some time bro!

Since: Aug 12, 2008
Posted on: June 20, 2011 10:13 pm

NBA Draft 2011: 3 GMs in the pressure cooker

I wouldn't be suprised if Morey pulls out a blockbuster trade in the draft. Iguodala, Bosh, Pau Gasol are some of the big names that are being tossed around. Mabye even trade up and take Enes Kanter.

Since: Aug 12, 2008
Posted on: June 20, 2011 10:06 pm

NBA Draft 2011: 3 GMs in the pressure cooker

In 2008 the Rockets first round pick was Nicolas Batum who was later traded for Dontae Green and Joey Dorsey. Donte Green was a first round pick and Dorsey was taken with the first pick in the second round. Morey ended up flipping Green and the Rockets 2009 pick for Artest.

Since: Dec 25, 2006
Posted on: June 20, 2011 10:02 pm

NBA Draft 2011: 3 GMs in the pressure cooker

The Kings are such a mess. i used to be a big fan of the Maloofs but after all the garbage they've been pulling lately between the attempted move and all the salary slashing they've been doing the last few years it's hard to route for them.

As their personal empire has crumbled the last few seasons they've refused to spend any money and as a result the team has really suffered. I hope the Maloofs have to sell the team and the new owners keep the team in Sacramento. Its a great fan base. They deserve great owners.

Since: Sep 29, 2008
Posted on: June 20, 2011 8:39 pm

NBA Draft 2011: 3 GMs in the pressure cooker

And that excellent post from Commodore gets a 74? CBS is trash

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