I apologize for the delay, but buyout analysis seemed a fairly moot point following yesterday's results. You stay classy, Mike Bibby.
Hindsight works both ways, and I'm not willing to give Ernie's foresight credit for turning Vladimir Veremeenko into Kevin Seraphin, Jordan Crawford, Atlanta's 2011 first rounder, $3 million, a brief rental of Kirk Hinrich, Mo Evan's expiring, and a even briefer rental of Mike Bibby any more than I'm willing to crucify him for trading Minnesota the #30 and #35 for the #23 and #56 when some contested we could have had Trevor Booker, and since we're fantasizing, drafted Landry Fields to boot. While I don't think anyone here would dare call Ernie Grunfeld a chess master where his detractors could hear, I have the feeling that there is an enduring misconception that being a GM is like playing chess, to which I would say, only at its simplest level.
As many have noted, you get contracts based on what you’ve done, insofar as it projects what you’re going to do. In other words, especially with young players, you have no idea what’s going to happen when a player hits the proverbial back row and goes from a bishop to a queen (Russell Westbrook) or remains a pawn (Hilton Armstrong).
In short, today’s GM is a chess player cum soothsayer cum gambler who is watched by the fanbase closer than a radical English teacher in Beaumont, Texas. Knowing full well the volatile waters in which they swim, the GM realizes the full impact of a trade won’t be known until farther down the line, and anything short of a slam dunk could result in disaster. Know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em the song goes (I hate country), and judging by the results so far, I’d say our GM could end up being a cut above average. But will that be enough?
I defended Ernie when he traded for Kirk Hinrich, and when he swapped draft picks with the Timberwolves. Sure, I overestimated his impact as a mentor, but then again, he did provide John Wall with the benefits of his experience, even if it wasn't the master/apprentice relationship I naively imagined. The important thing, I felt, is that he was executing a plan without sacrificing our future flexibility. And while this could just as easily have turned out badly, it didn't. As King Charles said in Pippin: 'It's smarter to be lucky than it's lucky to be smart.' Except I'm also a big believer in the pithy truism that luck is preparation meeting opportunity. That's the difference between drafting Kevin Garnett and winning a championship with him.
Make no mistake, this draft and offseason will cement the core of the team with Wall at it's beating heart as we move towards the future. We're "done" stockpiling assets (unless the right deal comes along, I imagine), and while we have come through a difficult time, there's plenty more ahead. If you don't believe me, look at the Bucks. They built a team identity through gritty defense, but oh-oh, need firepower! GM John Hammond promptly condemned the team for years when he signed Drew Gooden, traded for Corey Maggette, and re-signed John Salmons. Almost enough to make you forget Detroit blowing their $100 million in cap space on Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon.
Those signings are laughable idiocy now, and by Charles Bronson's kneecaps, most of us were laughing then. But none of us are chuckling when we consider Andray Blatche's contract extension, and privately wondering just how much Nick Young will command post-CBA. The stakes are higher, but not only are we still in the game, we're holding plenty of chips. We've got good position, but just like Javale McGee, if we sacrifice it trying to hit a homerun, it could still come to nothing.
Three straight seasons deep in the lottery is one mother of a black mark, and not many GMs get the chance to rebuild their foundation. Has Ernie earned his? Do you trust him to build a contender around John Wall? No matter who ends up at the helm, I'm ready for the ride.