It's a new year and time to rank the guys in charge to see where our fearless leader stands. >
The Top Two
RC Buford (Spurs): Whether you give the credit to him or Gregg Popovich, the fact remains that nobody is better in the business than the Spurs. Losing Rasho and Nazr looked bad to some experts but the Spurs reloaded with the cheaper Francisco Elson and Fabricio Oberto. The only complaint is not being able to pull off the much rumored Brent Barry for J.R. Smith deal.
Bryan Colangelo (Raptors) : Colangelo the Younger has only been in Toronto one year but the improvements are many. And the job he did in Phoenix was top notch. While I'm not sold on his deal with the Spurs (taking on Rasho's contract), Colangelo is still one of the best. It's no coincidence that the top best GM's in the NBA are also two of the most savvy when it comes to deals with foreign players.
The Second Echelon
Randy Pfund (Heat): The Heat sold out for the title and now could be feeling the repercussions. That being said, when the 2001 Heat team fizzled, it didn't take long for Pfund to rebuild them into a playoff contender. Two down years and then they were back in the playoffs with Odom, Wade, and Butler. The transition probably won't be as smooth this time but I wouldn't be willing to bet against the Heat coming back sooner than a lot of their rivals.
Donnie Nelson (Mavs): The Mavs have been making great moves since Donnie took over for Don and could be looking at another trip to the Finals. The key move will be to see if they can upgrade from Jerry Stackhouse. Devin Harris' maturation is also going to be interesting to watch.
Joe Dumars (Pistons): Joe was ranked higher in years past but there's trouble on the horizon in Detroit. His recent free agent additions have not panned out, Rasheed is looking older and older every game, and Chauncey Billups is about to be a free agent. Still, the Pistons are a top team and it's because of Dumars.
John Paxson (Bulls): Paxson came into a great situation and made good. The Bulls are back amongst the East's elite but they still need a move or two to get them into a true contender for the title. Giving away J.R. Smith for Howard Eisley and two 2nd round picks is looking like an awful deal right now and Paxson needs to figure out what to do with Ben Gordon and PJ Brown.
Kevin O'Connor (Jazz): I was really down on O'Connor at this time last year but his guys have turned it around. Deron Williams is playing like a #3 pick, Carlos Boozer is healthy, Okur is fitting into his role. As always, the Jazz seem to be that one scorer away. Ronnie Brewer seems more like a great role player off the bench so right now it is on CJ Miles' young shoulders to mature into the man at the 2.
Geoff Petrie (Kings): Before Petrie arrived in Sac-town, the Kings were a laughingstock who hadn't broken the 30 win barrier in eight years. In the eleven years since he's taken over, Petrie's squad has been a playoff team 8 times. The Kings are struggling a bit this year and it should be interesting to see if Petrie can rebuild the team once again.
Larry Harris (Bucks): Harris started off with some great moves but right now and although the Bucks have stalled a bit this season, the team has cap space next season and could be looking to add the final piece of the puzzle. On the downside, Larry fell for the ol' "I Put Up Good Numbers on the Clippers" free agent trap with Bobby Simmons and sold low/bought high in the Ford/Villain deal. His record isn't perfect but the Bucks are in a great place to make a move next offseason.
Ernie Grunfeld (Wizards): Ernie definitely knows what he is doing but he seems like a guy that can build a team into a Conference Finals contender but never a squad that's really competing for the title. His Bucks teams were good but never great and his Wizards seem headed in that direction. Perhaps he can turn Antawn Jamison in a deal and get a better post threat but right now, the Wizards seem like their ceiling is a run to the Conference Finals.
Rod Thorn (Nets): Thorn was on fire at the beginning of his tenure but since drafting Nenad Krstic, the Vince Carter deal is really his only shining achievement. In the meantime, he's utterly failed to add to the roster and hasn't given the Nets the big man that they've been needing. Now Thorn has to figure out if he wants to go for one more run or rebuild, although his cupboard is pretty bare when it comes to potential/trade assets.
Carroll Dawson (Rockets): A decent job building around T-Mac and Yao. But only a decent job. The team still has too many holes and with Yao and T-Mac making so much they simply couldn't afford a mistake like Rafer Alston's contract.
Bernie Bickerstaff (Bobcats): He's been working with a lower cap and some frugal owners so it's hard to argue with the job he's done. Still, the team can't win a game and the talent on the team looks like it could be good but not great. Bickerstaff can't afford to simply let Gerald Wallace and Primoz Brezec walk away but at the same time, he can't afford to overpay them either. And it may be time for Bernie to give up the coaching reins and bring in someone new to run the squad on the court.
Mitch Kupchack (Lakers): He's done a solid job rebuilding around Kobe but nobody is forgetting Shaq. Kwame isn't as bad as people make him out to be but he isn't all that great either. Andrew Bynum's emergence is impressive so the Lakers could be a year and a move away from really making a push in the West.
Larry Bird (Pacers): Bird's made some good moves of late but the team is still mired in mediocrity. After a while, you have to look at your coach and start to wonder if Rick Carlisle isn't the type of coach that whips a team into shape so that someone else can come in and lead them to the promised land. At the very least, it's time to improve at the PG spot so this team can really contend.
Elgin Baylor (Clippers): He made a lot of great moves to get the Clippers into playoff contention but then reverted to form this past offseason. I simply can't believe someone was fooled again by Tim Thomas. While his deal isn't terrible, he doesn't give you anything that a lot of low salary guys like Matt Barnes couldn't add. The handling of Corey Maggette has been horrific and they really need to make sure they get something solid in return for him (and for the sake of chemistry, they have to trade him). And if Elgin even listens for a second to Mike Dunleavy telling him to trade for Mike Jr., Elgin will be back in the bottom of the rankings.
The Bottom of the Barrell
Jerry West (Grizzlies): West's run in Memphis started in the lottery, will never have seen the second round of the playoffs and is looking like it will end in the lottery. He built a solid team but his love affair with acquiring role players and never establishing a second star alongside Pau Gasol was what led to his failure.
Danny Ainge (Celtics): Like his team, Danny is living off of potential. He could make a big move but whether he'll ever be able to is another question altogether. Aside from Pierce, the veterans on the Celtics are an abomination. Ainge will likely have to wait for this offseason to move Ratliff (who'll be an expiring deal) and odds are that Wally won't have much value until the year after that, when his deal is becomes expiring asset. He's drafted very well but after four years, the Celtics are just a collection of talented players and don't look anything like a cohesive team. His best move might have been hiring a scapegoat instead of a real head coach to help buy him some more time.
Rick Sund (Sonics): The Sonics are essnetially what the Celtics don't want to become. A bunch of overpaid role players, a fading superstar, and a good second option who could probably be better if he was on another team. And with Ray Allen getting older, why do you spend three straight first round picks on project centers?
Isiah Thomas (Knicks): Great draft picks but too many bad signings and trades for players who are overpaid, overrated, and have little-to-no trade value. For all of the money being dished out, the team's ceiling is a first round playoff loss.
Billy King (Sixers): King figured out the formula for winning with Iverson (surround him with great defensive minded role players), got to the Finals, and then immediately ignored that blueprint. He overpaid for pretty much everyone he signed and wasted the prime of one of the best that ever played. The cherry on the top is that he then gave away Iverson for a song.
Billy Knight (Hawks): He's got a nice young team but it should be a much better young team than it is. Took over and made some nice moves but then took the players he got in those and moved them in somewhat mind-boggling trades. He got played by Bryan Colangelo and gave up far too much for Joe Johnson when all he really had to do was offer a huge contract (which he did). Putting limited protection on the 2007 pick now means that the Suns get the Hawks pick if it is four or lower. Right now, it's at #4. As of now, his fate seems tied to Marvin Williams.
Kevin McHale (Timberwolves): He's wasted Kevin Garnett's career. He's added bad contract, little young talent, and traded away draft picks. He's overpaid for point guard after point guard and has failed to bring in a second tier talent to put alongside KG.
Jeff Bower: Bower's made nice moves but I didn't understand the Peja Stojakovic signing one bit. The Hornets were building a great young team so why waste cap space on an older, injury prone shooter? A lot is riding on the banged-up bodies of Peja and Tyson Chandler, as well as the questionable potentials of Cedric Simmons and Hilton Armstrong. Bower gets huge points (if Hoopshype is to be believed) for doing something that I thought was obvious when it comes to contracts. David West's deal peaks next year and then declines every following year so as cap space opens up for the Hornets, West's deal is smaller and smaller, giving them more room to add talent.
Mark Warkentien: He got Allen Iverson and JR Smith for Andre Miller, Joe Smith, Howard Eisley and some mid-first round picks. Unfortunately, he also overpaid to bring Nene back into the fold.
Otis Smith: Smith hasn't been there long but has made some very nice moves. I'm not sold on the JJ Redick selection but so far, so good.
Steve Patterson (Blazers): An active draft night but he still has a ways to go before this team is sniffing the playoffs in the West.
Chris Mullin (Warriors): He's made some great draft picks (Biedrins/Ellis) and a steal of a trade (Baron) but in the end, it is all moot because of the bad contracts he gave to Dunleavy Jr., Troy Murphy, and Adonal Foyle.
Danny Ferry: The Hughes signing was a major mistake IMO. And nobody in Cleveland can be all that excited with Lebron's shorter contract. Ferry essentially has three more offseasons before Lebron can opt out and he's capped out for all of them because of Hughes, Damon Jones, and the inherited Eric Snow.
Mike D'Antoni: Following Colangelo is tough enough but making matters worse by giving up a draft pick to take Rondo, Marcus Williams, or Kyle Lowry for "cap reasons" and then signing Marcus Banks for three times as much as those guys would have made is completely idiotic.