It's passed over because we're so far removed from it and because that's not how the machine works, but stop for a second and consider what it's like to be a general manager who actually has control, whose owner trusts him. It's draft night. The future of your franchise rests with you. A pick gone wrong and that can mean a pink slip. Questions from the media, from the fans. You've got to somehow not only see what these kids, and they are kids, have done, but what they will do. And that's not just on the floor, it's in the locker room and outside the halls of the arena.
You've got to look into a kid's soul and see what he's made of, out of basically a handful of workouts, some measurements, and maybe a psych profile, if he consents. And it's not a simple "yes or no," you have to choose someone. You've got hundreds of options, a dozen or so serious options, and you've got to hit the right one. Miss, and it's a black mark on your career that may follow you forever. And no matter how many people you bring in, no matter how much consultation is done in advance, at the end of the night, when it's time to make the call, it's got to be your say. You have to make the decision.
And we think shooting free throws is tough.
With that in mind, here are the top five GMs/front offices facing the toughest decisions of the draft.
1. David Kahn, GM, Minnesota Timberwolves: He can't miss every time, right? After drafting Jonny Flynn to go with Ricky Rubio, who didn't come over, essentially going 0-2 on viable point guard options until this season, then following it up by passing on DeMarcus Cousins and others to reach for Wes Johnson, the Wolves could really use a home run. So naturally Kahn is trying to trade this pick like there's no tomorrow. They've reached out to everyone, and so far no one is biting. So if they keep the pick, the Wolves have to decide whether to take the best talent available, Derrick Williams, even though he creates a logjam at small forward/combo forward position for them, or roll the dice on Enes Kanter. You know, because what they don't have is enough Euro centers with upside.
Kahn's in a bad spot, having to try and hit a home run to save his job by bringing in a veteran star. He announced at the end of last season that "rebuilding is over" for the Wolves, which is pretty insane for a 17-win team. He can't wait to see if Williams will be an impact guy, he needs one now. If he does have to take the pick, Williams is the best overall talent, but that doesn't jive with what he did throughout the past calendar year, bringing in Michael Beasley and Anthony Randolph. It's a significant problem and not one you should envy. Even if the Cavs were to suddenly pass on Kyrie Irving for Williams, the Wolves still couldn't take Irving because of Rubio.
In the end, the Euro teen center who hasn't played in two years is the safe option. That's how tricky the Wolves' position is.
|2011 NBA Draft|
The Raptors need rebounding and size, and Jonas Valanciunas provides both. Sure, the big man is not coming over till 2012, but the Raptors also aren't going anwywhere until then. Another year of letting DeMar DeRozan, Jerryd Bayless, and Amir Johnson lead the team while trying to find somewhere to ditch Bargnani to isn't a bad option. Then when Valanciunas comes over, they'll have another high pick, and worst case scenario the ability to put Bargnani next to Valanciunas with Amir Johnson at the three for defensive coverage of Bargnani's limitations in space.
If not "Choonus" (as no one besides me is calling him), Jan Vesely is a great fit here. An explosive combo forward who won't need the ball and whose limitations in ball handling will be managed by low usage, Vesely brings size, athleticism and aggressiveness. A DeRozan-Vesely-Johnson 2-3-4 combo is just plain nasty.
But Colangelo may not be able to take either of those and may instead have to reach for... Kemba Walker. If the Utah Jazz aren't too spooked by Brandon Knight's attitude, Walker will be the best known-American talent in the draft at that point, and finding a replacement for Jose Calderon will be seen as a smart pick. No one will criticize them for taking Walker, despite Walker not being the type of defender Dwane Casey's going to want to work with and the fact that he's honestly a reach here. Not much of one, but a reach.
So does Colangelo take the Best Player Available or the Most Popular Available? That's the kind of thing impacted by your previous decisions which come back to haunt you.
3. Geoff Petrie, President of Basketball Operations, Sacramento Kings: This should be easy. There's a good chance either Brandon Knight or Kemba Walker falls this far, despite the above scenario. They take that guy, they're good. But for whatever reason, the Kings are still trying to figure out what to do with their backcourt.
Alec Burks has become the hot name to take but he's not a point guard in any way shape or form. He becomes redundant next to Marcus Thornton, even if Tyreke Evans stays at point guard. Jimmer Fredette is too much of a reach.
Kawhi Leonard is the safest pick possible, filling a need at small forward, a polished player who can defend, and leaving the backcourt questions out of the equation. But he may go higher. The Kings are in a danger zone that guarantees their options will be limited, but the decison tree is complicated by the wishes of the Maloofs. Fredette brings ticket sales, that's for sure, but he's going to be an awkward fit with both Evans and Thornton needing shots. What's going to win out, making money or the right decision? Let's just say we don't have high hopes for the voices of reason.
4. John Hammond, GM, Milwaukee Bucks: Hammond's got a lot of holes to fill and is just outside the ability to fill them in the draft. Meanwhile, he's trying to move down. Move down and not make an improvement, the team could slide even further backwards. Make the wrong pick and he's wasted all that opportunity. Power forwards are abundant at the No. 10 spot for Milwaukee, but Hammond's got Drew Gooden, Larry Sanders, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Jon Brockman,and Ersan Ilyasova (who he's reportedly trying desperately to trade). So that's not really viable. He sunk a huge portion of cash into John Salmons which didn't work out, so while drafting a shooting guard sounds like the right move, it comes with usage concerns.
Popular players like Fredette are there, but with Jennings it may only exacerbate a tense situation. And the other option is a fleet of talented but wholly incomplete combo forwards without a decent lock among them. All are long-term prospects, none are sure things. And that's relative to the entire draft process which is a crapshoot.
The Bucks have been active in trade rumors but are trying to find an identity. They seemed like they'd stocked their team with athletic, relatively young players and yet don't seem to have the right combination. The 10th pick doesn't provide them many answers and may leave them eying simply a chance to move out of the spotlight.
5. Daryl Morey, GM, Houston Rockets: No team with a real chance of competing needed a lottery win like the Rockets. With Yao Ming a huge seven-foot question mark and failed attempt after failed attempt at securing a star, they need a big name to put next to the versatile complimentary talent they have. But instead here they are with two picks that help them almost not at all.
Their options are a series of athletic threes and undersized fours (the Morris twins, Jordan Hamilton, maybe Tristan Thompson), when they already have Luis Scola, Patrick Patterson, Chase Budinger, and Jordan Hill to go with Chuck Hayes. Their only real need is at five, and Valanciunas is almost guaranteed to be off the board. With Motiejunas more of a stretch four than a real five considering his defense and effort problems, there's simply not a fit here. Marcus Morris is the most surefire player available here, and he comes with huge question marks and a limited upside.
Morey is charged with somehow turning these elements into a contender, despite the best "star" on the market being Andre Iguodala, which would be like adding a Swiss army knife when you need a broadsword. His second pick in the first round leaves him only with the exciting possibility of drafting a Euro center who won't be available for several years, or a player like Jeremy Tyler who would likely spend at least a year with the Rockets' D-League affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.
Morey's been considered a genius and a math wizard for years in this league. With the team stangnated and no help available in free agency or trade, the draft looks like his last chance to pull a rabbit out of a hat. And right now, the hat looks awful empty.