It’s been nearly three weeks since the off-season bonanza began and it has already become the most exciting off-seasons in over a decade. There have been a mass of big trades trades, surprising signings and players getting extremely overpaid. The Los Angeles Lakers surprisingly continues to get stronger like usual while other teams are still chasing them.
The top headlines this off-season have been the re-emergence of the Miami Heat when they signed two-time MVP LeBron James and Chris Bosh to tag-team with Dwyane Wade, to Corey Maggette being traded to the Milwaukee Bucks, to the Boston Celtics keeping their “older Big Three” intact.
The people that are the most pressure in making the difficult decisions for the franchise during the off-season are the general managers. They never get that much credit until their team starts winning, which could take time. When the teams win, the GM’s are brilliant. When the teams lose, fans are asking for the GM’s head or a resignation. Some GM’s have succeeded while many have failed.
The reason why this off-season has been so incredible is because of the aggressiveness of the general managers. They make moves that are best for the franchise and make them an instant contender for next season. These general managers have to win now or its their jobs. Here are the five best general managers so far this off-season, and yes, Mitch Kupchak is obviously in that list.
1) Pat Riley, Heat: We know it’s been sickening of how much the NBA experts talk about the “South Beach Big Three” with James, Bosh and Wade, but to you know you are good at your job when you can lure in players with the calibers of James and Bosh and make it a team that is an instant championship contender. They also have done a tremendous job in giving the stars solid complimentary players like Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Mike Miller. They also retained the services of Udonis Haslem and Joel Anthony. Trading Michael Beasley was a must and it was done on draft day. He was too raw, too young and too immature to help Wade lead a team into contention. Once the Heat fill out their roster, watch out.
2) John Paxson, Chicago Bulls: Easily had the darkest outlook among any of the playoff teams going into the off-season. His team was a mess. The chemistry between head coach Vinny Del Negro and the front office was extremely dysfunctional and they didn’t have any talent other than Rose, Joakim Noah and Luol Deng. Boy has Paxson responded. After the season, Paxson’s fired Del Negro and then hired former Celtics assistant coach/defensive specialist, Tom Thibodeau as head coach. They signed Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer to multi-year contracts and finally traded the erratic and overpaid Kirk Hinrich. It is a good start for the Bulls and they seem like they are not finished yet.
3) Mitch Kupchak, Lakers: Has this guy ever made a bad move? It seems like he hasn’t yet. Even though the champs haven’t made a significant move as of yet, they signed their top two players Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol to long-term contracts during last season, which keeps them in good shape for a while. Their biggest move is signing of Steve Blake, a major upgrade over Jordan Farmar and they also brought back Derek Fisher, even though it took them too long to do so. The Lakers are still a stacked team and are still the crown jewels of the NBA. Barring a Kobe or a Gasol season-ending injury next year, the Lakers will be the favorites until there is a new champion.
4) Danny Ainge, Celtics: After their frustrating defeat against the Lakers just last month, the future did not look so promising for the boys of Beantown. Head coach Doc Rivers appeared to be on his way out and the question remained on whether they will rebuild or stay competitive. That answer came quickly when Rivers decided to come back, leading up to the re-signings of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Nate Robinson. With Kendrick Perkins tearing his ACL, MCL and PCL and will be out until at least January of next season and Rasheed Wallace retiring, the Celtics got creative and signed Jermaine O’Neal. With the “older Big Three” together for at least another year and rising superstar Rajon Rondo continuing to run the show, the Celtics will make a run for everyone’s money for maybe one last time.
5) John Hammond, Bucks:The reigning NBA executive of the year is continuing to show the league why the Bucks are serious about contending next year. With their offense being their Achilles heel last season, the Bucks made an adjustment by trading for scoring extraordinaire Corey Maggette from the Golden State Warriors. They also rewarded John Salmons to a long-term contract and signed Drew Gooden also to a long-term contract and even traded for Chris Douglas-Roberts on draft day. With Brandon Jennings being the franchise cornerstone, Hammond has guided the Bucks in the right direction to being a championship contender. Now if only they can get rid of Michael Redd’s contract.
There is plenty of time left for all NBA teams making decisions of who to dump and who to keep. The Lakers don’t need to worry about that because they are the two-time defending champions and they always try to get even better. They just don’t go away.