Throwin' it Out There…

From Alison Brie to Zach Randolph, and everything in between.

NBA GM Power Rankings, According to Bill Simmons

Bill Simmons has a well-documented relationship with NBA General Managers, from his bromance with Dork Elvis to his well-publicized feud with Isiah Thomas and even his failed campaign for the Milwaukee Bucks GM job. As you are probably aware if you’re still reading this, each of the last two Fridays Grantland published his list of the Best Bargains and Worst Contracts in the NBA. Because I have little better to do with my free time, I decided to compile this list, look up the GM’s behind all these deals, and determine if Simmons’ published thoughts on GM’s “passes the eye test” so to speak. I am entirely aware how silly it is to make a statistic out of a completely subjective listing, but small sample size and selection bias be damned. This list comes with several caveats:

  • I am aware Bill Simmons’ is not the ultimate judge of NBA contracts.  Nor is this an all-inclusive list of good and bad contracts in the NBA. The idea was to make a fun list out of his opinions that could possibly bring a smidge of precision to the “GM X is smarter than GM Y” argument.
  • I personally love Bill Simmons. Many people do not feel the same way. That has nothing to do with these numbers.
  • Any accusations of “Small Sample Size!” will be dealt with via this Andrew Bogut tweet.

Now, some key notes about the study:

  • Every player (approximately 90 total) mentioned in both articles was included (a few exceptions below) and assigned a positive or negative point value. Honorable mentions were worth 1 GM Point, and everyone else was worth their ranking in GM Points (ie. Joakim Noah, ranked #16th Best contract, worth +2 points, while LeBron at #1 is worth +16 points.)Expiring deals within the honorable mention section were excluded from both best and worst contracts.
    • Since there were twice as many players ranked for Worst contracts, their values were divided by 2 (ie. Joe Johnson at #1 of 30 worst contracts was worth -15 points.)
  • “Category 2- Amnestied Contracts” penalized the GM that gave him the contract, and were worth double the rest of the Honorable Mentions, because, Andray Blatche.
  • “Category 5- Overpaid but Undeniably Productive Guys” were excluded, because I do not want to face the repercussions of people coming across this site by Googling “Kobe” and “Worst contracts”.
  • In many instances, both positive and negative, a player was signed by one team and currently another team is either enjoying or suffering through his contract. In these cases GM Points were allocated to both teams, weighted by the percentage of his contract on the books for either team.

And finally, here’s the full list, from best to worst:

entire list

Some interesting observations:

– RC Buford (1) on top should surprise nobody, the way he’s been playing musical chairs with the Spurs roster since he took over in 2002. Rob Hennigan (7) and Sam Presti (24) inspire confidence from their previous experience in the Spurs organization alone.

-Bill’s boyfriend Daryl Morey (4) was was the odds-on favorite to top the list, but a year of Trevor Ariza’s terrible contract weighed him down a bit.

– Warriors fans must be ecstatic over the recent hire of Bob Myers (ranked 6) who succeeded eight years of ineptitude from Larry Riley (32) and Chris Mullin (33), a regime during which they averaged a .423 winning percentage. Myers is still paying for the sins of his forefathers, with two years left of Richard Jefferson, Andris Biedrins and Bogut on the books.

– Simmons praised John Hammond (34) for Larry Sanders, Mbah a Moute and Tobias Harris, but he did pay Drew Gooden and Andrew Bogut an exorbitant sum of money. He does get credit for making the tough decision of trading fan favorite Bogut at the right time.

-Donnie Walsh (35) is ranked so low solely from the unfortunate Amar’e Stoudemire contract (even Amar’e superfan Waymond thinks it should have been insured). I vote him a free pass for cleaning up Isiah’s mess.

– It makes sense that this data is skewed towards the last 5 years or so, coinciding with the Joe Dumars’ (36) Pistons’ fall from power. Ben Gordon, Charlie Villanueva, Rodney Stuckey AND Jonas Jerebko? Joe Dumars wishes he could trade Greg Monroe and a 1st rounder for 4 more Amnesty clauses.

– Chris Wallace (5), for all the criticism he received for the Pau Gasol trade here, ranks highly- but some of that’s for trading Rudy Gay (at 50 cents on the dollar) before he becomes even more overpaid.

RIP 2010-11 Nets

– If you were a Knicks fan interested in trading in MSG for the Barclays Center, allow Billy King (38) to help your decision. When Rod Thorn (27) stepped down after the above infamous picture was taken, Billy King was supposed to push this new Brooklyn team back into the playoffs. He’ll succeed at that this year, but at a hefty price- committing $250+ million to Kris Humphries, Gerald Wallace, Deron Williams and Joe Johnson over the next 5 years. (Insert obligatory Jay-Z song pun).

Questions? Something I miss? Leave a comment or tweet me @kramerkram. Be nice.


UPDATE 3/12/13 Noon: 1) Yes, Rich Cho is the current GM of the Bobcats. He was not responsible for the Tyrus Thomas contract.

2) The Cavaliers were mentioned once in both lists, for drafting Kyrie. As Bill wrote, it “didn’t take ingenuity” to fall into him. There was no other mention of a Cavalier contract, so Chris Grant was excluded. Sorry Cavs fans, it wasn’t my Decision.


43 comments on “NBA GM Power Rankings, According to Bill Simmons

  1. esfjellin
    March 12, 2013

    You have Dileo, Thorn and Stefnanski way too high in the rankings. They doomed the 76ers for years to come

  2. Eric
    March 12, 2013

    Did Chris Grant (Cavs GM) trade for too many picks to be considered?

  3. Aaron Babb
    March 12, 2013

    Chris Wallace got a great haul for Pau Gasol. Anyone that isn’t seeing that is just too shortsighted to see past the season being played.

    He got Kwame and Aaron McKie’s expiring contracts, that he turned into Zach Randolph for basically nothing but cap space.

    He got Marc Gasol in the deal who is the vastly superior player at this point.

    He got 3 1st round picks that he basically had to sell off because ownership was legendarily cheap in Memphis.

    And Pau Gasol wanted out of Memphis, and they were going nowhere with him on the roster.

    Can’t think of any recent deal where a GM got that kind of return on a guy who was sulking his way out of town.

  4. Kevin
    March 12, 2013

    Lets talk about the fact that Daryl Morey hasn’t made the playoffs in three years and may miss them again this year. Sounds like just the guy I want running my team!

  5. vorbis
    March 12, 2013

    something you missed – the current GM of the bobcats is not rod higgins, but Rich Cho

  6. Troy
    March 12, 2013

    So Cleveland doesn’t have a GM?

  7. Robert
    March 12, 2013

    As a die hard Cavs fan I might be bias when i say this, but I would call Chris Grant a top 10 GM in the league. Im curious why he isnt even on this list. I hate him every year around the draft but he always seams to prove me and other Cavs fans wrong with his picks. …Kinda the reason why he’s the GM and I’m not.

  8. DougE
    March 12, 2013

    Ya, it’s a shame Sam Presti has done nothing with the Thunder to put him over the middle of the pack. Are you freaking kidding me? Who else had James Harden, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka on their radar at draft time?

    • brandon
      March 13, 2013

      you do realize that both harden and westbrook were top 3 picks in the draft right? EVERYONE had them on their radar

      • Tess
        March 14, 2013

        The best selling points for Presti are (1) The Ray Allen trade, (2) that they had several top picks that really developed instead of drifting — few teams pull this off, (3) picking Ibaka further on down the draft, (4) turning a losing team loaded with kids into a legitimate contender so quickly. All of these are huge.

  9. spcoon
    March 12, 2013

    as bad as the nets contracts might look (really, it’s wallace and possibly johnson), the team is in the 4 spot in the east. they were 12-70 a few years back.

  10. Eric Maroun
    March 12, 2013

    It’s funny that “it didn’t take ingenuity” to fall into Kyrie when this was Simmons on draft night:

    7:39 — Our no. 1 pick? Yup … Kyrie Irving. You know, because any time you can grab a freshman point guard who missed two-thirds of the season when you have $20 million of point guards on your roster, you have to do it. We’ll see how this goes: I see him settling somewhere between an extremely poor man’s Chris Paul and a rich man’s Mike Conley. Will he ever make an All-Star team? It’s possible … maybe one or two. One thing I don’t understand: Why does everyone keep saying this month that you “need” a good point guard to win? Didn’t anyone watch Jason Kidd and Mario Chalmers just battle in the Finals? You need good players to win. I believe Derrick Williams will be a more effective professional basketball player than Kyrie Irving. We will see.

    • spcoon
      March 12, 2013

      “I see him settling somewhere between an extremely poor man’s Chris Paul and a rich man’s Mike Conley.” that’s kinda spot on, isn’t it?

      • Bill Baggins
        May 31, 2013

        He wrote that we he (and everybody else) though Mike Conley was mediocre.

        Just admit he was way off.

        “I believe Derrick Williams will be a more effective professional basketball player than Kyrie Irving. ”


  11. blucowboy
    March 12, 2013

    Danny Ainge at 3 is the biggest homer move of this article.

  12. Aceman
    March 12, 2013

    Love the study — good job and made for a fun read. My only disappointment is that Colangelo isn’t at the VERY bottom. In fact, you should have just taken him right off the list so when people asked you could have said that the list for was ‘real’ GMs and not huge piles of excrement.

  13. James (@JFerg_KU_BYU)
    March 12, 2013

    A few thoughts:
    1) Kevin O’Connor is still the Jazz GM (unfortunately)
    2) I think you have the Sacramento Kings GM too high on the list
    3) Wow, Sam Presti’s that far down? Really?

    Still, nice effort on this. It does somewhat pass the eye test.

    • kramerkram128
      March 12, 2013

      1) Dennis Lindsey is the current GM of the Jazz (fortunately)
      2) Agreed. I believe his only mention is Isaiah Thomas.
      3) His only mention is the Kendrick Perkins contract. Obviously deserves more credit for building the team.


  14. BigDave44
    March 12, 2013

    I didn’t need a metric to prove that Lon Babby sucks.

  15. Cosmickaya
    March 12, 2013

    Pritchard hasn’t been Portland’s GM for almost 3 years now.

    • Aaron Babb
      March 12, 2013

      He’s the Indiana Pacers GM now.

    • kramerkram128
      March 13, 2013

      No, he is Indiana’s now though. My bad, did not make that clear.

  16. Matt
    March 12, 2013

    Sam Presti at 24 makes this list pretty tough to buy. There aren’t 3 other GMs in the league you’d take over Presti.

  17. James Boos
    March 12, 2013

    When it comes to the Cavs drafting Kyrie I think we all forget how it wasn’t such an easy choice. At the time it was quite the debate over him and Williams, a lot people we’re mad about that pick around here (not me).

  18. John Franco (@jfranco77)
    March 12, 2013

    but, but, but…. Bill loves Presti in spite of the Perk contract. In fact, Presti should actually get bonus Simmons points for taking Perk away from Bill’s Celtics!

  19. ryan
    March 12, 2013

    Danny Ferry should be included on this list. He managed to trade the worst contract (joe johnson) and the 19th ranked contract on the worst list (Marvin Williams).

  20. Cavs fan
    March 12, 2013

    Cleveland’s Chris Grant didn’t make the cut? All he did was rack up draft picks, trade assets, and young talent (kyrie, waiters, thompson, zeller, ellington) in less than three years while maintaining cap flexibility to go after some big names in the 2014 Free Agency.

    Don’t forget that Cleveland got Kyrie by trading Mo Williams to the Clippers for Baron Davis and the 1st Rd Pick!

    The only mistake Chris Grant made was trading JJ Hickson for Omri Cassppi and a future first rounder. But who knows. That future first rounder could be another steal.

    On another note, How the heck is Sam Presti not in the top 5 !?!
    This ranking sucks – no offense. I respect Bill simmons

  21. dustyokc
    March 12, 2013

    Any list where David Kahn ranks higher than Sam Presti is invalid.

  22. Mike
    March 12, 2013

    How do you factor in titles won? Kupchak may not be the best GM, but he has put together 3 championship teams and 5 Finals appearances. Contracts may not be great, but he has gotten the job done. Meanwhile, Denver’s GM may be great but they keep losing in the first round.

  23. Jim Fat Fuck
    March 12, 2013

    FYI Bill Simmons posted your article on his Facebook page

  24. J.P. Melle
    March 12, 2013

    I think regarding Walsh and the Amar’e signing, you have to take into account how the signing, even if too large and uninsurable may have helped the Knicks convince Carmelo to sign there. He may have been lured it by the bright New York lights alone, but it didn’t hurt that he saw another star there to pair with (even if ultimately that Amar’e hasn’t lived up to his billing).

  25. Pingback: The NBAs Worst Contracts

  26. Thom
    March 12, 2013

    I can’t believe that Kahn is so high on the list. I just went straight to the bottom assurred his him was there. Raptors GM – no brainer. Sadest franchise in the NBA and for a very long time…

  27. The Denver Beer Guy
    March 12, 2013

    The fact that Mitch Kupchak is placed 15th (behind the likes of the Clippers, Kings(!), Warriors, and Magic) makes this list lose almost all credibility. If it is supposed to be about the last 5 years, Kupchak has put teams together that won 2 titles, made 3 NBA Finals, and at a minimum made it to the second round of the playoffs (better than every other GM on the list).

    I can understand that you based the numbers exclusively on what Bill Simmons wrote in terms of “bad contracts” or “great bargains”, which misses a huge portion of players who have adequate compensation for their value (or who are on teams that Simmons hates/didn’t write about). But if that’s the case, while making a list of the top GMs, you should have included these types of factors into the equation. Talent evaluation and drafting should also be factors.

    As for Kupchak’s credentials, he got rid of “bad” contracts at the right time (Sasha, Walton), Used both Ariza and Artest at the right times to win rings, traded Kwame for Pau, turned a year’s worth of a not-playing and weird-haired Andrew Bynum into a still-kinda-hurt-but-at-least-playing Dwight Howard and a productive Earl Clark. He also had the CP3 deal wrapped up before Emperor Stern vetoed, which led to the only real blemish on his record (Odom for nothing). The only truly bad contract on the books over those years is Artest, who was still productive and integral in his first year (hitting that shot in Game 7 probably makes his contract worth it).

    Yes, clearly I’m a Lakers fan, but as a basketball fan in general this list is missing the key factors of evaluation that guys like Kupchak, Presti, and even Forman need in their favor to evaluate their true worth as GMs.

  28. sandrews1717
    March 12, 2013

    I don’t think it’s fair that Simmons gives the Cavs no credit for drafting Kyrie, when he himself recommended against it and said they would regret it.

  29. markleb
    March 12, 2013

    A musical version of Andrew Bogut’s tweet.

  30. nick
    March 12, 2013

    Where’s Atlanta’s current GM?

  31. MosakWeb
    March 13, 2013

    I thought Part Rileys is the top one because of the 3 kings franchise?

  32. Pingback: Five Wide Sports » Ranking the NBA GM’s

  33. Bill M (@HipMrBully)
    March 14, 2013

    I think John Hollinger had a whole lot more to do with the Rudy Gay trade then Chris Wallace.

  34. Chris
    March 15, 2013

    Great article. I can see by the comments that no one actually read it and just skipped to the rankings, though. It’s ashame that people comment when they know nothing about the article actually contained.

  35. Peter Lynch
    May 2, 2013

    I do like what this article is trying to do, but to rank the GM of the kings in the top 15… the guy that traded away their starting PG so that they could draft Jimmer Fredette? The guy who drafted Thomas Robinson instead of Damian Lillard?

    Also, David Kahn 1 spot ahead of Sam Presti….

    …I don’t even…

  36. todocantabriacom
    May 9, 2013

    I got this site from my pal who told me concerning this web site
    and now this time I am browsing this web page and reading very informative posts here.

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