Building a NBA Team:
Part 1 (Cleaning Up): Before starting a rebuild, teams should hire a new general manager/executive and a new coach. Three candidates I would try bringing in for the general manager/executive position are Sam Hinkie, Sam Presti, and Mike Zarren. In this position, teams should be looking for someone who has been under another executive who has made good trades, has drafted well, and uses analytics. My first head coaching choice would be Kenny Atkinson because of his success with the Nets. Other candidates I would consider would be Jay Wright and Jamahl Mosley.
Part 2 (Rebuilding): This is the hardest part of building a NBA team (financially). The NBA is a business, and teams need to make money, but the ultimate goal should be to win a championship. Teams struggle to rebuild, and two examples are the Pistons signing Jerami Grant and Mason Plumlee, and the Knicks adding Julius Randle, Wayne Ellington, and Taj Gibson in 2019. Rebuilding is properly done by acquiring young players and picks, salary dumps, trading veteran players, and playing young players.
This offseason, the Pelicans decided to trade Jrue Holiday. The Pelicans have a young core consisting of players such as Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Jaxon Hayes, and Kira Lewis. Ingram and Ball — the two oldest players on that list — are both 23, and Holiday is 30. So, the Pelicans made the logical decision to trade Holiday.
Instead of trading for young assets and high quality picks, however, they acquired Eric Bledsoe, Steven Adams, and late first round picks. We don’t know what was offered to the Pelicans besides the actual trade, but I think they could’ve received assets such as Donte DiVincenzo and additional picks.
Eric Bledsoe is not helping the Pelicans. While Bledsoe is a decent player, he takes away minutes from younger guys. The prime goal of rebuilding is to give younger players minutes, and not let veteran players lead you to extra wins when you aren’t competing for a championship.
Trading back and trading up in the draft are both appealing options. Trading back is a good option when you don’t see value drafting a prospect projected to go as high as your current pick, and believe you can get a better player or fit for your team later in the draft. Trading up is a good decision when you see a player you really want, and are willing to give up assets/other picks to draft him. At the end of the year, if the Hornets finish in the middle of the lottery, trading up for Evan Mobley would be a good option. If the Thunder don’t find anyone they think highly of in the first picks, they can acquire more assets/picks later in the draft or in future years.
Part 3 (Drafting): While cleaning up and rebuilding is rather easy, (not considering financials), drafting is not. The NBA Draft requires a lot of time, preparation, and strategy to have a plan you’re confident in. Teams often draft for “position,” but this is not a good decision. Although drafting the best player available is usually a good bet, sometimes you have to draft for fit with the coach. Different offenses and defenses require different skills for each position. A basic example is Bam Adebayo and Rudy Gobert. Some teams would rather have Adebayo who can switch on multiple positions, or Gobert who is a traditional defensive anchor. Another underrated drafting tip is to sign undrafted players and give them a chance, as it doesn’t hurt to see if they blossom and perform much better than expected.
Part 4 (Free Agency): During the first few years of a team’s rebuild, they should not be signing veteran free agents. The one example that doesn’t follow the rule is pure shooters. Besides young players, the Knicks should be putting sharpshooters around Barrett and Robinson. Once a team can consistently make the playoffs, and a certain player would push them into contention, then a trade or a free agency move may be worth it.
A team’s championship window is short and teams should be going all out during their short window. When a team’s window is over, they should restart the process.
Photo Credit: The Hoop Doctors