Blog Entry

Five GMs who face big dilemmas on draft night

Posted on: June 22, 2011 6:34 pm
Edited on: June 23, 2011 5:29 am
Posted by Matt Moore

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
2. Bryan Colangelo, GM, Toronto Raptors: There's talk that Bryan Colangelo is under pressure, even after his contract extension, from above to stay away from a Euro. This is the kind of thing that happens when you draft Andrea Bargnani and then give him a bajillion dollars in extension. In doing so he's managed to create a problem because the best talent and fit at the No.5 spot is likely to be a Euro.

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.


Since: Jun 13, 2007
Posted on: June 23, 2011 5:02 pm

Five GMs who face big dilemmas on draft night

Minny should take best available talent at #2.  History presents good evidence that two is not the place to gamble on a project (Darko) or get too caught up in immediate team need (S. Bowie).  Having too much talent on one team is never a problem - it means having options.  It means a nice deep bench.  It means trade value.  It means injury insurance.

Having other players who play at the same position as the best available talent in no way makes the "Euro teen center who hasn't played in two years" a "safe" option.  The composition of other players on the team doesn't do anything to make a pick safer or not - a safe pick is one that won't bust and will live up to his draft position.  The writer is falling into exactly the same trap that gets GMs fired when they fall into it.

Since: Jun 9, 2011
Posted on: June 23, 2011 4:31 pm

Five GMs who face big dilemmas on draft night

Rumors always have a seed of truth. Wonder who planted this one . . .

Since: Jun 9, 2011
Posted on: June 23, 2011 4:28 pm

Five GMs who face big dilemmas on draft night

I think . . . if I were a GM . . . I'd hire all those guys who posted below . . . they are "in the loop!" . . . I think . . . Juss Sayin'

Since: Nov 7, 2006
Posted on: June 23, 2011 3:39 pm

Five GMs who face big dilemmas on draft night

People were worried if Stephan Curry could play any defense in the NBA let alone at the #2 where he would physically be outmatched....

With regards to Al Jefferson, they already had Kevin Love at the #4 and Al was the proverbial black hole who, while being the teams best player at the time, had a fat contract, and a bad knee so moving him out of town was the logical move. I should also include the fact that the Wolves were horrible with Al as their "star" (i use the term loosely).


Looking back does have relevance with regards to Kahn's plan back in '09.  While he may have missed with Flynn they would have been no better served by taking Jordan Hill or the majority of other non point guards in that draft merely because they fit a need (which Hill wouldn't have regardless). There was no center, no small forward and with exception of DeRozan no shooting guard that would have made any more sense today then in '09.  The correct logic is you take the best player regardless of the case of a tie you then fill whatever needs you have.  Minnesota selected Rubio with the understanding they won't have him for a couple of years and obviously felt that Flynn was the best player available at 6 (if i remember the # correctly).

Another way to view it is that the Wolves had virtually NO assets going into that draft.  They had broken down, no pass, no defense and no wins with him as the go to guy in Al Jefferson and Kevin Love who, for reasons no one could explain got about 25 minutes a game as a rookie and that was it.  He grabbed the two guys he could give Minnesota two additional assests. While he missed out on Curry and DeRozan he correctly passed on a handful of other guys who fit their need but didn't have the talent to solve the problem at those postions which is the point i'm trying to make. It was a bad draft all for most teams but Khan has been criticized more than any other GM because he took a different approach while having essentially the same amount of success as anyone else who drafted.

I for one hope Rubio pans out (I won't suggest that I know if he will or not nor should anyone else predicated on the amount of times anyone has seen him play) if for no other reason than for some of these writers to eat crow. Would they still suggest the smarter thing to do would have been to take Rubio and Terrance Williams (who fit a need) for example? Probably...admitting they were wrong usually isn't a topic they like to write about.

Since: Dec 4, 2007
Posted on: June 23, 2011 11:52 am

Five GMs who face big dilemmas on draft night

Using hindsight is the mistake here.

Looking at how those players have produced since  2009 has no relevance when you are thinking about Kahn's plan for the T-Wolves future back in 2009.  Plans sometimes do not work out but when a plan is sound it is hard to argue against it merits even if it does fail.  

In my opinion, drafting a 5'10" point guard at number six (And I loved Flynn as a college player) who has no chance of moving off ball just after you choose a point guard at five who also will not be able to move off ball...made litte sense to me at the time.....not in hindsight.

I think if you wanted to plug in a young player at the point to fill the void until Rubio showed up they would have been much better off going with Stephan Curry who, at 6'3" and with an equal amount of predraft hype to Flynn, could move to shooting guard at some point.  That also would have created more balanced scoring for the T-Wolves if and when Rubio did show up; inside with Jefferson and outside with Curry.

I also think, with Al Jefferson up front, taking a shot at a player with size and length would have made more sense than drafting a second point guard.  That would have allowed you, hopefully, to move Jefferson to his natural 4 position.  Jordan Hill, agian not using hindsight, would have made sense.  Even at 6'10" he had the length and shot blocking ability to go to the 5. 

I think DeRozan also made more sense; an athletic wing player to take some scoring pressure off of Jefferson.   

Since: Nov 7, 2006
Posted on: June 23, 2011 10:31 am

Five GMs who face big dilemmas on draft night

I'm curious what non point guard the Wolves should have drafted in '09 in lieu of Flynn (who hasn't panned out).

8) Jordan Hill     &
9) Demar Derozan    &nbs
p;  yes
11) Terence Williams   no
12) Gerald Henderson  meh
13) Tyler Hansbrough  no
14) Earl Clark     
;  no
15) Austin Daye     &
nbsp;    meh
16) James Johnson     no
22) Victor Cleaver    &nbs
p;   no

etc. etc.

The best part is that THIS is with the benefit of hindsight.  So while the Flynn pick has proven to be a poor selection I am yet to hear anyone talk about what they SHOULD have done.  Also keep in mind the feeling of all the players drafted at that particular moment (espn will show you the draft grades delegated immediately's an amusing read).   

People neglect to realize that MN anticipated Rubio to stay in Europe for exactly as long as he did. They also neglect to recall the Johnny Flynn's stock was SOARING come draft day in 2009...some thought he might be the best pg in the draft. The simple logic was the wolves having an emerging star in Flynn (didn't work out) and then have a desired asset in Rubio available 2 years later. If one looks back at the rest of the draft (particularly non pg's remember) it isn't as if they passed on much of anything.

So if one wants to criticize taking a player who has so far been a bust well then most GM's are equally as guilty in the 2009 draft. If one wants to criticize Kahn for trying to stockpile 2 of the highest rated assests (at the time) in hopes of perhaps flipping one a couple years down the road that is fine as well but hindsight even shows us that it wasn't that crazy of an idea.

Of course to understand this would require some consideration and it's much easier to say that Kahn only drafts point guards and is without a clue. 

I would also like to pre-emptively correct anyone who brings up Ty Lawson...the trade was already in place, Lawson was the guy the Nuggets wanted to Wolves to draft FOR THEM.  If I hear another moron "count" Lawson as a 3rd pg then they have no clue how these things work.  Sadly most of the morons are the "writers" for cbssports.

Since: Jan 31, 2011
Posted on: June 23, 2011 10:31 am
This comment has been removed.

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Since: Dec 4, 2007
Posted on: June 23, 2011 9:22 am

Five GMs who face big dilemmas on draft night

What's amazing about Kahn is there just does not seem to be a plan...a forward thinking plan.  I look back at the Rubio draft and I can not blame him for picking the kid but he had to have known he would not be coming over for a year or so.  So what's the plan?  I would say most GM's go with a veteran stop gap player to plug in for a while and maybe even act as a mentor when Rubio does come over.  But to draft another young point guard in the first round?  The Flynn pick, especially for a team that had/has as many needs as the T-Wolves have, was a waste.  

I terms of the draft...if your picking secound your taking the best available player.  That would be either Williams (Who I think is the best player in the draft...or at least the best combination of college production and up side) or Irving.  Anything esle, unless you are 100% sure the kid can play, is a reach. 

Since: Dec 12, 2006
Posted on: June 23, 2011 9:09 am

Five GMs who face big dilemmas on draft night

Kahn may be an idiot, but the writer of this column is right up there with him.  The Wolves "reached" for Wes Johnson?  That was far from a reach and Cousins is a punk.  The only way Kahn would be dumber than this writer is if he passed on Irving, if he slips.  Irving and Williams are the only sure things in this draft and you don't pass on either of them for any reason.  Kanter is interesting, but that's called a reach with Williams or Irving on the board.

Since: Jun 23, 2011
Posted on: June 23, 2011 9:03 am

Five GMs who face big dilemmas on draft night

BREAKING NEWS from Philly: Three team block buster. 
RUMORS out of Philadelphia...Sixers, Spurs and Jazz about to announce a three team trade. 
Sixers send Andre Iguodala to Utah for the #3 Pick in this years draft. Sixers also get Memet Okur and R. Bell.  
The spurs then send Tony Parker to Utah for the #12 Pick, Utahs 2nd round pick next year and Devin Harris and the Sixers M Speights

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