There's been a lot of discussion of Ernie Grunfeld, and whether his contract should be renewed. Many of us Wizards fans intuitively feel that EG is somehow responsible for this mess, and they would be right. Yet when you start looking at his transactions one by one, in the context of what we knew at the time, it's difficult to argue that he's been a bad GM. I'm not going to pore through his transactions, some of which were great and some were stinkers. I don't think that's what the real problem with him is. But I will highlight some of the stinkers and point out some worrying themes common to all of them.
My problem with EG is not so much the transactions he makes or doesn't make. What worries me is his tendency to let stronger personalities badger him into bad decisions.
At some point he had to choose between EJ and Thibodeau -- he apparently knew Thibodeau was the better coach, but he caved and let EJ chase him out of town.
He allowed EJ to create an undisciplined, fractious atmosphere in the locker room.
He had to choose between keeping the #5 pick or frittering it away on two one year rentals. He MUST have known that the trade was a bad long term decision but he let Abe talk him into it.
He had to choose between extending AJ at Gilbert's request. I think extending AJ was a mistake. EG's a smart guy - he could have figured out a way to turn AJ into a player with a little less offense and a little more defense. But he let Gilbert pressure him into a bad decision.
I sense a pattern here. Here's a guy who's competent at the technical part of his job -- talent evaluation, making transactions -- but when it comes time for big decisions to be made he takes a back seat. He does not effectively communicate his knowledge of talent to his superiors effectively enough to talk them out of bad decisions. He does not have a strong enough personality to take a stand and fire a bad coach -- a coach who blatantly ignored the defensive side of the game, and who encouraged (or failed to discourage, however you want to put it) a circus atmosphere in the locker room. He's just not a good leader.
EG's job is to be the leader as it relates to decisions related to talent. He can't let powerful but uninformed personalities push him around. I think that's what's responsible for his biggest failures. There's evidence that he's an excellent talent evaluator, so the head scratching decisions -- like trading away the #5 pick -- must be part of the other theme that emerges when you look at, say, the EJ vs. Thibodeau debacle, or the more general "trying to get EJ to take defense seriously" issue. EG's inability to assert himself in the face of ignorant stubbornness is his biggest failure. He should have just fired EJ, and hired Thibs. He should have somehow convinced Abe that the current roster can't win a championship because it can't play defense, so mortgaging the future for a playoff run would be a mistake. His failure to do these two things are the most important indicators to me of his lack of leadership/assertiveness/spine/whatever.