Monday, March 22, 2010

Assessing MJ as Charlotte's Head Guy

Last week I assessed Michael Jordan's job performance as head of basketball operations for the Washington Wizards from 2000-2003. My co-bloggers, away from this forum, have granted that he muffed his DC assignment, but yet have entered in a spirited colloquy as to the quality of Jordan's job performance since becoming head of basketball operations for the Charlotte Bobcats in June 2006. Let us assess his record with respect to three categories: draft picks, player transactions, and building a coaching/management team.


Jordan has helmed the Bobcats for four drafts now, starting in 2006. For each first-round draft pick, I will list the player chosen by Jordan, along with the five players chosen immediately afterwards in sequence.

2006: Adam Morrison
Next selected candidates: Tyrus Thomas, Shelden Williams, Randy Foye, Brandon Roy, Rudy Gay
Verdict: This was a horrible pick. Thomas, Williams, and Foye have disappointed in the pros, but at least they have played better than Morrison. Roy has made three All-Star teams, and Gay has played at a near-All-Star level.

2007: Brandan Wright (Wright was immediately traded to GSW for Jason Richardson.)
Next: Joakim Noah, Spencer Hawes, Acie Law, Thaddeus Young, Julian Wright
Verdict: Brandan Wright has been injured for much of his three-year NBA tenure, so this choice is hard to judge. We do know that Noah, Hawes, and Young have revealed themselves to be legitimate NBA starters, and Noah has performed at a near-All-Star level for Chicago.

2008: D.J. Augustin
Next: Brook Lopez, Jerryd Bayless, Jason Thompson, Brandon Rush, Anthony Randolph
Verdict: Lopez looks like a quality starting center and potential All-Star for the next decade. The other four players have shown great promise as well. Augustin had a nice rookie year, but has seen his minutes, percentages, and general production decline across the board in 2009-10. Not a good pick.

2008: Alexis Ajinca
Next: Ryan Anderson, Courtney Lee, Kosta Koufos, Serge Ibaka, Nicolas Batum
Verdict: Lee started on a Finals team. Batum has started almost all his games for Portland, a serious playoff team, in his first two seasons. Anderson contributes to a title contender in Orlando, and Ibaka recently acquired the moniker "Dr. Nasty" for his work in Oklahoma. Meanwhile, who is Alexis Ajinca? Apparently he has only played in 6 games this entire season.

2009: Gerald Henderson
Next: Tyler Hansbrough, Earl Clark, Austin Daye, James Johnson, Jrue Holiday
Verdict:All these players save Holiday have seen middling results in their rookie seasons. 65 games is probably too soon to assess the long-term wisdom of a draft selection. But still, Henderson averages 8 minutes and 2 points per game, disappointing for a lottery pick.

I give Jordan a D grade as a drafter.


  • Summer 2006: Signed Othella Harrington, Jake Voskuhl, Walter Herrmann as free agents

  • June 2007: Traded lottery pick Brandan Wright to GSW for Jason Richardson

  • December 2007: Traded Walter Herrmann and Primoz Brezec to Detroit for Nazr Mohammed

  • January 2008: Signed Earl Boykins as a free agent

  • August 2008: Signed Shannon Brown as a free agent

  • December 2008: Traded Jason Richardson and Jared Dudley to Phoenix for Raja Bell, Boris Diaw, and Sean Singletary

  • January 2009: Traded Matt Carroll and Ryan Hollins to Dallas for Desagana Diop

  • February 2009: Traded Adam Morrison and Shannon Brown to Los Angeles for Vladimir Radmanovic

  • July 2009: Traded Emeka Okafor to New Orleans for Tyson Chandler

  • September 2009: Signed Stephen Graham as free agent

  • November 2009: Traded Raja Bell and Radmanovic to Golden State for Stephen Jackson and Acie Law

  • February 2010: Traded Flip Murray and Acie Law to Chicago for Tyrus Thomas

  • February 2010: Traded a second-round draft pick for Theo Ratliff

  • March 2010: signed Larry Hughes

  • Verdict: Most of these transactions were fairly inconsequential. The trade of Jason Richardson was presumably necessary because new coach Larry Brown was not fond of J-Rich's defense-free ways.

    The best transaction above was the acquisition of Stephen Jackson at the beginning of this season. Despite his complaining out in Oakland, Jackson's defensive fire and emotional leadership, filling a need on a team formerly led by the laconic Gerald Wallace, have helped to propel Charlotte into a playoff spot for the first time in the team's six years.

    The worst transaction on this list has to be the Okafor-Chandler trade. In nine NBA campaigns, Chandler has averaged double figures in points only once, and double figures in rebounds only twice: all when he played with PG extraordinaire Chris Paul. He also has missed nearly 70 games to foot injury during the past two seasons, including 31 this season. Prior to that trade, Oklahoma City almost traded for Chandler in February 2009, but rescinded the deal when Chandler's former surgeon looked at his medical records and pronounced him a walking suture. Meanwhile, Okafor averaged a double-double in each of his first five seasons, and is only 0.8 RPG shy of a double-double for 2009-10. After missing time in his second and third seasons, he has been quite durable in 2007-08, 2008-09, and 2009-10, playing in 235 of 235 possible games. It is true that Chandler's contract expires in June 2011, while Okafor is extended through 2014, so perhaps the extra financial flexibility is a plus for Charlotte. Still, on the court this had terrible results.

    I give Jordan a B grade as a roster steward.


    Upon joining the Bobcats in 2006, Jordan wisely opted to retain coach Bernie Bickerstaff, who had piloted a young and raw squad through its first two seasons together. By mutual agreement, Jordan and BB decided at the end of 2006-07 (a 33-49 campaign) that the team needed a fresh voice.

    In May 2007, Jordan named Sam Vincent, a former Chicago teammate of Jordan, as the Bobs' new head coach. This was probably a poor decision, as Vincent had only one season of prior NBA assistant experience on his résumé. The Bobcats regressed, winning 32 games (one fewer than the previous season) in 2007-08.

    Around the same time he hired Vincent, Jordan began searching for a new general manager, an underling of sorts to Jordan's role as head of basketball operations. Jordan hired Rod Higgins, who had played with Jordan in Chicago during MJ's rookie season, 1984-85. This penchant for choosing old cronies (detailed in my prior post, wherein I described Jordan's hiring of Charles Oakley and Bryon Russell) likely does not result in the selection of the most outstanding candidates.

    In April 2008, Jordan fired Vincent as head coach and hired Larry Brown, who had not been seriously employed since leaving the Knicks' head coaching job in a bitter split two years prior. Brown, a fellow UNC alum, represented a sizable risk, as his average tenure in his eight previous NBA coaching jobs was 3 years per stop. Brown tends to get "itchy" after seeing a few autumns and springs go by in the same place. Who can blame him, really? If I had the chance to get paid millions and experience life in multiple world-class cities, I would surely take it. Still, Brown has done a good job with Charlotte, improving from 32 wins in 2007-08 to 35 wins in 2008-09 and, based on current projections, 44 wins this year. Making the playoffs is difficult without a slam-dunk All-Star player on your roster, so Brown deserves great credit. Thus far, this was a good decision by Jordan.

    Unfortunately, the roster seems to be "maxed out"; without any major stars, the team cannot ascend to a championship level, and Brown's championship experience will be for naught. Jordan faces major challenges in determining how to improve the roster without destroying it first.

    I give Jordan a B-minus grade for his management team decisions.

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