By Matthew Thompson
NBA teams need competent general managers. A good, decisive general manager is just as important as the players and coaches because they make the decisions that put those pieces in place. The best ones seem to always stockpile the best talent and the worst ones consistently over-rate talent or let the talent leave with nothing tangible in return. Managers like Kevin Pritchard, Jerry West, and Jerry Krause always find the best talent in the draft, and most of the time, the best fit for their team. Today, we are giving general manager a shot. We are going to put together a starting five capable of competing for a championship using the average NBA payroll, $64 million, and actual NBA salaries.
There are archetypes for each position in basketball. The guards should penetrate and share the basketball. The post players should rebound and finish. And, the forwards should be high-scoring or defensive stoppers. Preferably, some players would excel at more than one thing, but that is not always the case. I picked players that I thought could co-exist and flourish together on a basketball court.
1. Point guard – Penetrating point guards put the most pressure on defenses, because they already have the basketball in their hands. Ideally, a team wants a guard that is fast from end to end, and also quick in crowded areas of the court. He needs to have enough strength to finish in traffic and the vision and selflessness to keep his teammates involved in the game. Preferably, your point guard knocks down open jumpshots also. The prospects at point are Tony Parker, Deron Williams, Chris Paul, Rajon Rondo, Derrick Rose, Steve Nash, Jameer Nelson, and Baron Davis.
Nash, Williams, Paul are not even options because they are max players.* Both Parker and Davis have reliable jumpers, penetrate at will, and finish in the paint, but they are nearing the end of their careers. The best prospects at point are Nelson, Rondo, and Rose. Nelson has the best jumpshot of the three, but is small in stature and relies on the jumpshot too much. Rondo is the best passer of this bunch, but the mechanics on his jumpshot may be unsalvageable. Derrick Rose is the best point guard. He is the fastest in the open court, he is bigger and stronger than all the point guards, he moves well in traffic and finishes or dishes the basketball. He tends to over-penetrate occasionally, but that is correctable and he is a steal at $5,546,160.
2. Shooting guard – Shooting guard is one of the most vital positions on the basketball court, because scoring is expected from this guard slot. The average star shooting guard accounts for about 1/5 of the points per game average of their team. There are two types of shooting guards, the shooter and the slasher. The slashing shooting guard, however, still has to be able to hit some open jumpers. Either of these guards is effective when next to a quick, penetrating point guard. The elite guards are Kobe Bryant and Dwayne Wade. Joe Johnson, Vince Carter, and Brandon Roy follow right behind. And then, there is a glut of players with varying skill sets after that, like Stephen Jackson, Jason Richardson, Anthony Morrow, Manu Ginobli, Eric Gordon, Ray Allen, O.J. Mayo, and John Salmons.
This is where most general managers would take an elite max player, but I am a bit unconventional. Anthony Morrow is the perfect compliment to Rose. He is one of the last pure shooters in the league and can knock down 3′s with his eyes closed. Rose penetrates and dishes to a big, or kicks to Morrow. Morrow can also handle the basketball sparingly and has excellent size at 6’7″. He only costs $4,000,000.
3. Small forward – Small forward or swing men, are typically defensive stoppers or pure scorers. Sometimes they are both. The versatility of these players, necessitates that your player be very productive. This forward slot is one of the premiere positions in the NBA. It is littered with MVP candidates, like LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, and Kevin Durant. Rudy Gay, Hedo Turkoglu, Gerald Wallace, Danny Granger and Andre Iguodola make the next tier of players. Rashard Lewis and Paul Pierce follow close behind them. Andrei Kirilenko, Omri Casspi, and Mickael Pietrus complete the last tier.
Trading for LeBron or Carmelo would negate having Rose, because they command the basketball so much. Durant would work.He is an elite scorer too, and is the reigning scoring champion, but he is expensive and his salary would leave the power forward position undermanned. Danny Granger is one of the best athletes in the league slightly south of LeBron James and Gerald Wallace. He gives you great defense and some scoring punch in and out of the post, and at a reasonable price of $10,973,202. He also gives a lot of intangibles, like playing passing lanes and the occasional block.
4. Power forward – Power forward is the deepest slot and the most important position. To win in the National Basketball Association, your power forward has to be productive and efficient. General managers need both scoring and rebounding from this position. Al Jefferson, Tim Duncan, Chris Bosh, Carlos Boozer, Kevin Garnett, Dirk Nowitski, Pau Gasol, Amare’ Stoudamaire, Josh Smith, David Lee, Al Horford, LaMarcus Aldridge, Lamar Odom.
Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett are old, Carlos Boozer and Amare’ Stoudamaire are oft-injured, and Dirk Nowitski, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Lamar Odom are talented, but soft. Smith, Horford, and Lee are all under-sized. Al Jefferson has some of the best footwork in the NBA and procures 10 rebounds a game. He is fluid in the post and can kick the ball out to shooters. As a bonus, you get superstar game and numbers at only $13,000,000, at least $6 million less than most other 20/10 power forwards.
5. Center – Center was the most important position in the NBA before the 90′s with Jordan and Pippen, but in recent years, it has been a throw away position. However, a solid center gives their team extra possessions and easy buckets. Center is probably the most sparse position in basketball. Brook Lopez, Dwight Howard, and Yao Ming, when healthy, are the only elite centers. The differences between Shaquille O’Neal, Javale McGhee, Andrew Bynum, Chris Kaman, Andris Biedrins, Nene, Kendrick Perkins, Marc Gasol are trade-off’s of defense for scoring and of rebounding for higher field goal percentage.
Brook Lopez is the only viable option for an elite center. Yao is always hurt and Dwight Howard, though improving, is limited offensively. Biedrins and Nene are the same player with high FG percentage and good offensive rebounding. Since the team has a penetrating point guard and a go-to posting power forward, it needs a rebounding, athletic center who does not need plays run for him in order to score. Perkins is a good rebounder, but is mechanical on offense. Gasol and Kaman are botth injury-prone. The best pick is Javale McGhee at $1,601,040. He is a legitemate 7-footer, with excellent strength and leaping ability, good rebounding, the ability to finish at the rim, and intimidating shot-blocking.
That’s an above average, athletic team with good skilled players for around $35,000,000, with a about $29,000,000 left to supply a strong bench. Could you imagine Rose on a fastbreak, hitting Morrow on the wing for a three, hitting Danny Granger for a dunk, or finishing himself. How about, Jefferson posting on the right block and scoring over his left shoulder, or missing with McGhee cleaning up the mess. Being a general manager is not as simple as I am implying, but it also isn’t as difficult as some of them make it. It is finding the best talent with cohesive skill sets and putting them on the basketball court and it is not that hard.