Nobody Can Predict the NBA without a Crystal Ball
By Mike Rice
In my early days on the show Courtside on Monday nights with Steve Jones, I did a segment on looking into the future as 'The Swami'. I had a crystal ball and made outlandish predictions on the future of the NBA.
I still have that crystal ball and might offer it to Rich Cho.
This is the era in NBA history where the front office personnel might be more important than the basketball coaching and playing personnel.
The front office personnel must look into their crystal balls and decide not only how to handle their teams the rest of this year, but must figure out how their moves now may change what we do in the future.
You have to try to figure out how how each team goes into the future. How will the pie be divided between players and teams? How can each GM stay ahead of the future curve of what to pay your stars, and how many stars can you afford?
Rich Cho might have the most difficult job in the NBA looking into the future.
It seems the Miami Heat started the trend of getting three All-Stars to play on the same team – Wade, LeBron and Bosh took less money so they could get a shot at a championship.
Now the Knicks are trying to get another 3 supers together in Amare, Carmelo and Chris Paul.
It won't stop there. In 2012, Orlando's Dwight Howard, Deron Williams of the Jazz and Chris Paul all become free agents.
Now if you're Rich Cho, you have to wonder: Do I have a Big 3 in Oden, Roy and L.A.? Should I give Greg Oden a qualifying offer to retain his restricted free agent rights? Will Brandon Roy regain his All-Star ability and will L.A. continue to improve when Roy does come back?
Everyone knows about 'Decision Day' for LeBron James and how badly it was handled, but a couple of 'Decision Days' lie ahead for Rich when he must decide on what to do with Andre Miller, Marcus Camby, Joel Przybilla and Jeff Pendergraph.
A lot of GMs have already made bad decisions on what to pay their players. According to the figures I found in Athlon Sports Magazine, the Nets overpaid Travis Outlaw (4 years, $28 million) when they could not get LeBron. Ben Gordon got 3 years, $37 million from the Pistons when they thought he was the answer to their scoring problems. Rashard Lewis is getting $44 million for 2 years from the Wizards, and let's add Tyrus Thomas' 5 year, $40 million deal.
All these deals come about when GMs try to find a short-term solution for a long-term problem.
The main concern of most GMs is to not panic into making moves that strap your future. It will be interesting to see how Michael Jordan (new owner of the Bobcats) and Mikhail Prokhorov (Russian billionaire and owner of the Nets) work with their GMs on not making moves that either hurt chemistry or overlap talent in trying to get a quick fix.
I read that Prokhorov paid about $50 million in taxes last year, so he does not sound like someone who will wait too long to get a winner.
Finally, is it the GM who is on the hot seat to get the talent to win in the NBA? Or does it come down -as it has throughout history- on the NBA coach to put everything together for a winner?
I will say it helps if you have a coach like Nate McMillan who can win with all kinds of injuries and he never complains about not having enough talent to win. It gives the GM time to work things out without having to make bad moves for a short-term solution.
By the way, rumors have it that John Kuester of the Detroit Pistons, Jim O'Brien of the Pacers and Keith Smart of Golden State are all NBA coaches on the hot seat who might not make it to next year. So far I have not heard of any GMs who are at that level.
But my crystal ball has been a little foggy lately...