I think I could succeed as the general manager of an NBA organization.
Here’s the existing blueprint:
- Draft a player with superstar and/or franchise player potential
- Assemble a mediocre set of players around him, preferably one or two players who were signed to huge deals after overachieving during their final contract year
- Watch the team miss the playoffs without questioning the coaching or front office moves
- Watch your drafted superstar / franchise player walk away to a better situation
- Blast the departed player by calling him names and/or indicating that he was not the right choice to lead your team
Pretty easy, huh?
That’s happened in two cases so far this summer. And it’s no coincidence that the griping GMs were the ones representing the teams of LeBron James, and now, Chris Bosh – who both left their respective organizations for milder weather and greener grass in Florida.
But somehow, I don’t think an individual with the class of Pat Riley (Miami Heat GM) would have given Dwyane Wade the same type of critique that Dan Gilbert and Bryan Colangelo dished out to their mega-stars. Here’s what Colangelo had to say about the departed Bosh:
“Despite limited swelling and any excessive damage on an MRI, he felt like he needed to sit for six more games … I’m not even questioning Chris’ injury. I’m telling you he was cleared to play subject to tolerance on his part, and the tolerance just apparently wasn’t there and he chose not to play.”
“The fact that our season was spiralling downward and we were hoping he’d come back sooner and we were also dealing with a few other things at that point … we were really struggling there. Whether he was mentally checked out or just wasn’t quite into it down the stretch, he wasn’t the same guy. I think everybody saw that, but no one wanted to acknowledge it. At the same time, I never felt we were quite in the game (in terms of signing Bosh to a new contract). There was too much out there, too much built up for him to take an easy out here, and he decided to do that. We tried in vain to put pieces around Chris. Different pieces, different styles. It didn’t work out. No matter what type of player we brought in, it didn’t seem to have the right mix with him as that centerpiece.”
Colangelo seemed to be the type who would be above this type of strategic, but still petty, sound bite. But in the end, the ego keeps these GMs from taking full responsibility for the product that they have assembled. They expect their players to be exemplary citizens, saying the right things during interviews while they allow their egos to direct the content of their media sessions.
Inevitably, there was going to be plenty of debate as to whether Bosh is truly a franchise player – but does it really matter? What does matter is that there would have been a number of teams that would have signed Bosh to a max contract (just look at what the Knicks gave the less-skilled Amar’e Stoudemire), and they wouldn’t have looked back. The hidden fact here is that Bosh was the key to this summer of free agency. It all ended up being about Bosh (and not LeBron or Wade) because he was the best available big man of the bunch.
No matter how you look at it, there are only a few select bigs that are franchise material: Tim Duncan (who is aging, and not better than Bosh anymore), Yao Ming (who is injured way too much, point blank), and Dwight Howard (who is a franchise talent because of his defensive dominance more so than his offensive dominance). I would say that Bosh belongs more in this group than the second group, which would include Stoudemire and Carlos Boozer (who signed with Chicago for $16 million a year).
The quality swingman market will always be more saturated, as they have more opportunities to control the rock. But bigs are forced to rely upon the generosity of their point men, as well as the flow of the game when it comes to their touches.
To quantify the impact that Chris Bosh could make, one would only have to look as far as the Los Angeles Lakers. L.A. couldn’t get over the hump without a skilled big like Pau Gasol. Gasol is not a brute, but provides the quickness, mid-range shooting, and overall basketball IQ that was required to get Mr. Bryant his fourth and fifth championship rings.
If you watched Gasol toil in Memphis as their best player, you saw a good player – but one who was not as impressive as Bosh has been in Toronto. In fact, there was a time that the Bosh to L.A. rumors were flying around a few years back. For the Lakers, acquiring Bosh could have been more promising for the present and the future. By no means are they disappointed by what Gasol has allowed them to do. But Bosh is almost four years younger than the Spaniard.
The past three NBA titles have been won by teams without dominant big men. And by surveying the landscape of the league, do we think that is going to change? The game has changed, the rules have changed, and organizations have to be careful with their personnel selection.
It’s no longer about having that one unbelievable player. The league is past that, and defenses are far too athletic today.
It’s all about the mix. And while Colangelo’s comments mention that, he’s not being self-critical at all. When all is said and done, he’s a finger-pointer.
And who wants to be in trenches with a finger-pointer?
Not Chris Bosh.