...but rather, "Welcome to the realities of building a championship roster in the NBA."
And what exactly am I talking about (hat tip to TrueHoop for originally posting this)?
He’s the kind of player Rockets general manager Daryl Morey has spent the last 18 months trying to acquire, and until he gets someone a lot like him, this franchise is going to be stuck in a bad place.
The Rockets aren’t terrible despite a 3-7 record. Terrible they could live with. They could at least see better days ahead.
They’re not very good, either. If they’ve got every player in uniform and playing at a high level, they might win 45 games, might even make the playoffs. But that would be about it.
Daryl Morey. Rockets. 18 months spent trying to get an A1 talent. Not a bad team, but not a great one either. A franchise that, without that A1 guy, "is going to be stuck in a bad place."
At first when I read this I was going to write about how even the great Daryl Morey couldn't even work his magic to get the new cornerstone for the Rockets, that for all his smarts and greatness and advanced stats madness the Rockets have gone from 55 wins, to 53 wins, to 42 wins, to now standing at 3-7 and looking (as the article points out) like a team that will max out at 45 wins this year. How, in the context of this quote, is what Kahn has done with our team that much different in terms of net results as what Morey has accomplished (that is, the Wolves - all things staying the same - look like a probable 40ish win team as they grow and mature together)?
But I think to try and argue that Morey isn't that good (well, at least the results are lacking given the expectation level surrounding this guy), or that Kahn is even better because his results mimic Morey's, is to miss the greater point. Point blank: finding that A1 guy in the NBA is hard. It requires a lot of luck. And it's extremely hard to pry one of those guys away from another organization once they have him. In other words, you can be Daryl Morey, arguably one of the best GMs out there today, and suffer from the exact same long term problem that David Kahn, who many argue is one of the worst GMs out there today, has: where do you get that A1 guy?
It's fair to question whether or not Kahn has made the right choices at the top of the draft. Stephen Curry is certainly looking like a player. DMC has shown flashes of great talent. So far this draft, though, two rookies are looking head and shoulders above everyone else as A1 guys (and one of them isn't technically from this draft) - John Wall and Blake Griffin. But therein lies the crux of the issue - does it really matter who your GM is if you're not selecting in the top 2 or 3 picks of the draft? To me, at least, it is no genius to select KD #2, or Griffin or Wall #1 overall. And it is no crime to select Oden #1 overall, or Beasley #2.
Here's an example of what I'm talking about. Sam Presti versus Chris Wallace. Who's the better GM? Both took over in 2007, but one is universally regarded as a genius and the other is frequently thought of as a dolt. Yet, if we compare records, what do we see?
Wallace - 22 wins, 24, 40, 4-8 this year.
Presti - 20 wins, 23, 50, 6-4 this year.
Well, you say, OKC is clearly the higher upside team. And it's true, but I how much of that is due to these guys? In my mind Presti deserves a lot of credit for Westbrook and Ibaka, but KD was the Pekovic pick of that draft. What about picking Green fourth and Harden third? Wallace, on the other hand, has been rightfully questioned about choosing Conley and Thabeet so high in the draft, as well as trading away Pau. But name the next best player in the Conley draft he could've/should've taken? Answer: Jonny Flynn (as in, there were about 10 guys he could've taken, all with certain positives and all with questions about how well they'd do. For every Noah that turned out there was a Jeff Green that hasn't.)
The point to me, and I'm not sure I've made it very clearly because it's so easy to nitpick the details and argue one way or another about absolutely everything, but the point to me is that Wallace has done a damn good job in Memphis, in my mind arguably as good a job as Presti has done short of one thing - Kevin Durant. It may not look pretty, it may not be sexy or seemingly astute, but Memphis is an extremely difficult place to have success and Wallace is doing it. I'm not saying Presti isn't good, either, and I'm not meaning to sidetrack this post over to Wallace and Presti. Rather, I think it bears reminding and repeating again how difficult it is to find those A1 guys (see: Morey, Daryl at the beginning of this post), and how frequently the opportunity to get those guys is complete and random luck and not GMing prowess at all.
Of the players who've posted 14 WS or more in a season and have shown to be A1 guys, consider:
Lebron James - #1 overall pick
KG - 5th pick (and McHale and Flip deserve credit for this one)
Chris Paul - fourth overall pick (no brainer at fourth)
Tim Duncan - clear #1 pick
Dirk Nowitzki - 9th pick (Mavs deserve mad props for this one)
Kobe - 13th pick (as only the second HSer since KG, and also threatening to everyone where he would and would not go)
Shaq - #1 overall
Dwayne Wade - fifth overall (and clearly a no-brainer at number five)
I guess you can say that of course other teams had to mess up on their picks ahead of some of those later picks, but again I would point out how lucky those teams who picked KG, Paul, and Wade were that those guys simply fell to them. To me, Dirk is the real find at number 9, and I don't know about Kobe. I think everyone knew he should've gone much higher than he did. Him being a high schooler and wanting to play for LA caused him to drop.