Wednesday, December 9th, 2009 at 1:28 pm  |  69 responses

Decade’s Best: General Manager

There. That was easy. Or was it?

by Myles Brown

General Manager of the Decade. Hmm.

This seems to be a no brainer.

But let’s not just hand it to RC Buford or name the award after him just yet.

The San Antonio Spurs are the League’s model franchise because they’re the antithesis of the modern franchise. There’s no bickering, no scandal, no apathy, no nothing. There should be little doubt as to who the team of the decade is, the Spurs’ care free consistency was more appealing than the debilitating drama-and questionable resurgence-in Los Angeles.  But in acknowledging that, we are recognizing the collective efforts of Holt, Buford, Poppovich, Duncan, Ginobili and Parker, Ballers By Law. Which of course weakens each of their cases in claiming any individual awards, and that includes Buford.

As for the other 29 guys, managing a franchise in this crazy business is a job few have long enough to achieve any measure of success.  Only a handful of candidates can arise for an award that requires such tenure and Joe Dumars would seem to be the next logical choice.

The Detroit Pistons were his vision and his alone. As was Darko Milicic. Is there a category for ‘Worst Decision of the Decade’? Can a GM conceivably win both? It was the right call to break that team up, but to do so in hopes of signing a player you should have drafted in the first place? Only to spend it on Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva instead?

That reminds me of the time I divorced my wife during a rough patch in our marriage because I thought I had another chance with her younger sister. I never did take that chance though. I knocked up two girls from the local community college instead.

This of course, never happened. Yet had it, I wouldn’t be surprised if my ‘Husband and Father of the Decade’ Trophies were lost in the mail.

Am I exaggerating? Probably. But you fucked up, Joe. Big time.

Problem is, the rest of the candidates pale by comparison. Kupchak and Ainge? Shrewd drafting, but beneficiaries of the two ‘Biggest Insider Trades of the Decade’. Donnie Nelson? Not enough rings. Colangelo? Smith? Pritchard? Presti? Not enough time. It seems whoever wins this award is also receiving more credit than they deserve.

Can’t we just wait and give it to whoever signs LeBron?

Okay, now I’m stalling. There are only two worthy recipients and I still don’t know who to pick. I didn’t-and still don’t- want to be lazy or presumptuous in just giving the award to Buford, especially since he’s essentially a figurehead or the representative of a triumvirate at best. Can you really be GM of the Decade by continually reaping the benefits of two good decisions? Yes, Parker and GinoJoe Dumarsbili were absolute steals the two Biggest Draft Steals of the Decade, but that’s it? That’s all it takes? Yes, there’s something to be said for moves that weren’t made and for the seamless integration of complements, but again, all benefits of two good phenomenal decisions. Group decisions.

I’m sorry San Antonio, but you leave me no choice. You can’t give an individual award to a group. Until one of you is selfish enough to demand the credit, none of you can have it.

Winner by default, Joe Dumars is GM of the Decade.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to check the mail.


For more Decade Awards, check out the archive.

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  • http://dfinney0415@yahoo.com KR

    Eh…I’m from Detroit, and though I love Joe D, there is no excuse for his 2003 draft, firing Larry Brown after two straight Finals appearances, Nazr Mohammad, Kwame Brown, Michael Curry, thinking Rodney Stuckey deserves to start over Bynum, etc…


  • Clark

    I agree 100%. Joe Dumars made a HUGE mistake, but he still won a championship without Lebron, Melo, D-Wade, or Bosh (though I know he couldn’t have gotten Lebron). I will say, and I think he is underrated regarding this, Joe D is a beast drafting between 15-60. Tayshaun at 23, Stucky at 15, Jerebko at 39, Okur at 38, Maxi at 26, and I would even say Afflalo at 27 because I think he is going be great in Denver. Good article.

  • Clark

    PS, if you saw me post that (Joe D’s draft picks) in a thread yesterday, I did. It just relates even better to this one, so I reposted it.

  • http://slamonline.com/ niQ

    @Clark, you didn’t mention anything about Austin Daye…

  • tavoris

    Myles, the F-bomb was so strategically places, that I almost didn’t notice it. Great job.

  • tavoris


  • http://slamonline.com Adam Fleischer

    Ha. Great piece, Myles. Going for your wife’s sister would have been truly bold.

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    JOE DUMARS?! IS THIS SOME KIND OF JOKE? You mean the man who traded Chauncey Billups and then let Iverson walk for nothing? You mean the man who signed Michael Curry and let him annoy the two best players in AI and R. Hamilton? You mean the man who signed B. Gordon RIGHT AFTER Iverson left, with Stuckey, Hamilton, and WILL BYNUM on the team?! You mean the man who let McDyess and Sheed walk and signed Charlie Villaneuva instead–leaving NO interior defenders on the team?
    The best GM of the last decade is R.C. Buford OF THE SAN ANTONIO SPURS.

  • Elyse

    I think Mitch deserves a lot more credit for rebuilding a championship team after losing shaq. Plus, Jerry West didn’t even work for Memphis when they traded Gasol- he had already left the organization, so I think you have to give Mitch more credit for that also. I don’t know how a team that has won four of the championships from 2000-2009, and made the finals two other tmies besides that, isn’t considered a serious contender for GM of the decade.

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    Oh, I also forgot to mention the drafting of DARKO ahead of CARMELO ANTHONY, CHRIS BOSH, AND DWAYNE WADE!
    R.C. Buford is the best in the league, hands down. Myle’s argument against him stems from the fact that the Spurs have a great team and a great coach… but who put together that team? Buford spotted Ginobli in the second round–HE brought him to the team. He also scooped up Tony Parker when barely any other teams showed any interest. He has also consistently surrounded his star players–especially Tim Duncan–with a great supporting cast.
    R.C. Buford is the best General Manager of the decade, period. His record in comparison to Joe Dumars’ speaks for itself. More championships, more wins, and much better consistency in making good decisions.

  • http://www.mybleedingfingertips.blogspot.com/ Myles Brown

    Because he ‘rebuilt’ his team around the best player in the league and the most controversial/lopsided trade of the decade, if not ever. And who can say with any real confidence that it was R.C. Buford making those decisions on his own? Poppovich was the one who gave him the job, perhaps he was still calling the shots behind the scenes. I refuse to believe that he just goes along with whatever everyone else wants to do.

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    Myles Brown: So who was behind Dumars when he drafted Darko? Wait, it was all Joe, wasn’t it?
    Nice write-up, by the way. No complaints there, that was well done.

  • http://www.mybleedingfingertips.blogspot.com/ Myles Brown

    Trading Billups and letting Iverson go wasnt necessarily a bad move. The team was past its prime and Iversons expiring contract freed up cap space. Now wasting that money on who he did, was a bad move.

  • http://www.need4sheed.com Tarzan Cooper


  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    I liked Dumars more when the decade was still young.

  • http://www.mybleedingfingertips.blogspot.com/ Myles Brown

    That was my point though. In this case Id rather go with the guy who has to make decisions on his own-and admittedly has blown a few-than the guy with the almost spotless track record because he is on a team that makes decisions by committee. Gregg Poppovich was the GM before R.C. Buford and I believe he still is. He was the one who drafted Parker (and Duncan I believe, but I forget…) This is in addition to being an excellent coach. So like I said, Team of the decade? Sure. Biggest Draft Steals of the Decade? Hells yeah. But GM? Eh. He didnt have to do much and he didnt do it alone.

  • http://www.mybleedingfingertips.blogspot.com/ Myles Brown

    Thanks though.

  • http://www.twitter.com/Th3_R3al_Chris Th3_R3al_Chris

    @ Elyse: Because the Lakers biggest moves this decade were made LAST decade (signing Shaq trading for Kobe, signing Robert Horry, Rick Fox, Phil Jackson, and drafting Derek Fisher). That those moves were made by Mr. West takes away from Kupchak’s GM credentials. While he was able to re-sign Kobe, sign Phil once again, draft Bynum, trade for Odom and Gasol, and sign Artest over the course of this decade is nothing short of remarkable, but his main success came in a year where the Lakers were able to avoid playing any serious contenders on their way to a title (7 games against a Yao and McGrady-less Rockets, Orlando Magic in the Finals).

  • http://www.mybleedingfingertips.blogspot.com/ Myles Brown

    For real though, I almost gave it to Zeke. He improved more teams than anyone this decade. None of them were his team, but still…

  • http://www.twitter.com/Th3_R3al_Chris Th3_R3al_Chris

    Lakers look really strong this year, though.

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    You can’t have a GM of the decade, their jobs are too volatile… and joe dumars made a few great moves but not out of genius, out of desperation. he has literally not made a good GM decision in over 5 years

  • reef

    Pure slam B.S. – Joe D. has one ring to Buford’s four….and possibly the WORST draft selection of all time in DArko. Not to mention pitting the teams future on two castaways.

  • http://www.twitter.com/Th3_R3al_Chris Th3_R3al_Chris

    Myles, a more debatable conversation would have been “Decade’s Worst: GM.” You’d have Chris Wallace topping that list, both for his tenure with The Grizzlies as well as with the Celtics earlier this decade (still bitter over the Kenny Anderson for Vin Baker trade and the Joe Johnson for Rodney Rogers/Tony Delk). Kevin McHale is obvious, despite a good two-year run, as is Donald Sterling, and Isiah Thomas/Scott Layden.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Wayno

    Look at it this way…what did Joe Dumars have to work with at the beginning of the decade? He made some bold/shrewd/lucky moves from the second he took over. He also made some (*cough* DARKO! *cough* *cough*) big mistakes, but he still built a team that won a championship and dominated the Eastern Conference for the majority of the decade. He did all this without a superstar I might add which makes his job ALOT more difficult. He had to assemble all the right pieces without having the luxury of building a team around a Kobe, LeBron, Duncan, etc…

  • http://www.twitter.com/Th3_R3al_Chris Th3_R3al_Chris

    Spurs and Mavericks have been the two most consistent teams all decade, with year-in and year-out playoff appearances, regardless of injury or personnel. With Spurs winning three championships and Mavs only making a Finals appearance, Buford beats out Cuban.

  • reef

    also – what makes you think that Dumars makes decisions on his own?

  • http://www.mybleedingfingertips.blogspot.com/ Myles Brown

    Because if there was someone else to blame for Darko, he surely wouldve tried.

  • http://www.mybleedingfingertips.blogspot.com/ Myles Brown

    But yes, Worst Gm of the Decade would’ve been a better contest.

  • http://thankgodimfamous.com Sickamore

    I agree with @KR & @teddy-the-bear

    Give R.C. his props

  • Sarah

    Still think Buford is the best GM of the decade. No credit for realizing who he has around him and listening to them when making decisions? I think there’s something to be said for that. Joey D did an incredible job in bringing together the group that culminated in that ’04 championship and ’05 Finals appearance, but the last half of the decade has been real dismal for Detroit Basketball. Maybe not his fault… but still. RC and Pop and whoever else you want to include as the Spurs decision-makers have never allowed the Spurs to stagnate for consecutive years like that.

  • Clark

    @NiQ–I didn’t add Austin Daye because it’s still a little early to tell how good of a pick that was (not saying it was bad).

    @Myles Brown–I agree with everything you have said so far. Joe D is not perfect, and has made a few (obvious) mistakes, but overall, I think he wins solely for taking a pretty average ball club and making them elite for most of the decade, and doing it with pieces that other teams threw out…

    No one is going to forgive him for Darko, but I can’t help but think he made up for it by winning the title, and keeping us in title contention even after one of the worst draft decisions of all time.

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ TADOne

    Grant Hill, traded for Chucky Atkins and Ben Wallace in 2000.
    Jerome Williams, traded for Corliss Williamson in 2001.
    Mateen Cleaves, traded for Jon Barry in 2001.
    Jud Buechler, traded for Clifford Robinson in 2001.
    Jerry Stackhouse, traded for Richard Hamilton in 2002.
    Michael Curry, traded for Lindsey Hunter in 2003.

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ TADOne

    Ok, when my comments finally arrive show up, i’ll be happy.

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ TADOne

    YAY! Ok, now that I finally can post, above is a few of the moves Joe D made before 2004. Basically, Joe turned a lottery team losing the face of it’s franchise in Grant Hill and made some pretty decent moves. He also drafted Okur and Prince within that time.

  • Suhk Ma Nahds

    Don’t forget that almost every other GM besides Dumars in the league was sold on Darko. Almost EVERYBODY wanted him, and the Pistons needed somebody in the middle. They were already solid in all other positions…Why draft Wade when Hamilton fits the system? Why draft Melo when you have Prince…don’t forget, you are referring to a highly-regarded defensive team, while the two players people talk most about us drafting (Bosh and Melo) still have yet to successfully commit to defense. Joe D made the correct choice in selecting Darko, based on what was needed logically, and what was known about Darko at the time. It was a mistake, but in hindsight, it was the correct choice.

  • Suhk Ma Nahds

    One more thing: Don’t forget that Dumars has constantly focused building this team around pieces that would be missed if injured, but not completely destroyed. I could see Denver (now) winning some games without Melo, and Boston might win some games without KG (less wins without Pierce though), but most teams would be generally lost. Look at New Orleans without Paul. Try taking Kobe or Wade away for a period of time. Hell, what would Orlando do without Superman? Truthfully? Nothing. Pistons haven’t had a true team this year due to injury, but look where they stand. That is based on Joe Dumars puzzle.

  • http://slamonline.com/ niQ

    lol Clark, too early? You had no problem naming Jerebko. So far Daye has been quite the bust. He looked like the next T.Prince during the Summer but he is losing crazy minutes behind Jerebko. Maybe in 3 years he’ll be better but the fact that Hamilton and Prince both aren’t play and Daye can barely get enough time shows he’s sucking so far..

  • http://slamonline.com/ niQ

    Btw, I honestly thought the Pistons were going to draft Dejuan Blair. But ah wells, they have Ben Wallace…..

  • LA Huey

    I’ll take Kupchak over Dumars. Kupchak (as many noted) rebuilt a championship team while his star player was so unhappy, he was publicly announcing whom to trade and requesting his own trade out of town. Hell, he even brought back the coach who his star player hated.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Wayno

    @ niQ – It’s not that Daye has been terrible, he’s just been streaky. He went 5 for 5 with 11 pts against Washington. Remember that Tayshaun Prince really didn’t play much his first year until the playoffs. It’s way too early to label Daye a bust.

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ TADOne

    Daye is not a bust. Yes, WAY to early to say that. Jerebko was playing in a pro league for quite a few years before he came to the NBA. It is not surprising that he is contributing.

  • http://www.hibachi20.blogspot.com BETCATS

    Presti should have won. That man stockpiles draftpicks, expiring contracts, and knows how to use them.

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    Myles, the point of having the category of best GM is to pick the man who’s team has made the best decisions. Joe Dumars made a lot of good and bad decisions, but that he made them by HIMSELF doesn’t hide the bad.
    The Spurs as a team have had the best management this decade. It doesn’t matter if its Greg Popovich running the show (which I think I can agree with you there), but its the decision-making as a team. The GM reflects all the moves outside of coaching.
    It is your opinion though, so that’s fine. I just think Dumars has made too many poor decisions this decade that shouldn’t be ignored in a “Decade’s Best” list like this.

  • ben hunter


  • Teddy-the-Bear

    Okay, I see your point now Myles. Maybe Greg Popovich would be a better candidate for GM of the decade than Buford. I just want to somehow rep the Spurs somewhere for their fantastic management, you know? Regardless of who’s really pulling the strings (that being Greg Pop). But now that you’ve explained it, I see your point–maybe Buford hasn’t done as much as I initially thought by himself as the REAL GM.
    Although, its still questionable to rank Dumars best GM of the decade. To me at least. So I’m going to give Buford the benefit of the doubt.

  • MikeC.

    @BET – Presti has all the makings of a great GM, but he doesn’t have a long enough track record quite yet. Give him some time and he’ll blow a draft or sign Tim Thomas. Eventually even the greatest sip the juice and out-think themselves. As far as Joe D. as GM of the decade, I can’t find fault with Myles’ logic. The Spurs are the team of the decade. Hands down, or up, or side-to-side. The Pistons won it all once, went back to the Finals the next year, and were in the Eastern Finals for what seems like 47 straight years. Their core was done. Trading Billups wasn’t a bad move. Billups looked like an aging, slowing down PG in Detroit while surrounded by the rest of the Pistons. In Denver, he looks like a savvy leader who can take over in spots. He doesn’t have to do as much, so he can do more. Joe has made some poops, but that’s going to happen. As far as spending all of his tooth fairy money on Charlie V. and Ben G.? That seems like a terrible idea to me. We’ll see how that all turns out.

  • LeoneL

    I would have to agree because what GM thought of putting together a team with no legit superstar yet win a chip and compete for another one a season later?

  • J

    you know why not the coach eventually become the GM, of their respective team. they’re the one who knows what kind of system on O and D they would run right? so i think they would know better who’s players or drafts would fit or to be built around. they’re the ones who will handle those players right?

  • matt

    joe d didn’t simply ‘fire’ larry brown after the two finals appearances. it was a little more complex than that brown WANTED out of Detroit and was TALKING to other teams while the pistons were STILL IN THE PLAYOFFS.

    That is a big deal. he made the right move in buying out brown’s contract that summer flip did a great job.

  • http://www.hibachi20.blogspot.com Hursty

    Ok, you can bash the heck out of Myles and Joe Dumars. Fine, I can deal with that. But do you all realise that the Pistons never would have gotten RASHEED WALLACE half-way through that season, if they hadn’t picked DARKO.
    Adding Anthony would’ve clogged up the 3 spot – Prince was coming into his 2nd year. Wade made no sense as they had Billups at age like 26ish and Hamilton at around 25.
    The best pick would have been Bosh to fill the 4 spot need.
    But again, if Darko was never drafted, Dumars never would’ve gotten Rasheed Wallace who basically killed it the rest of the year and brought so many attributes that a rookie – even of Carmelo Anthony’s or Chris Bosh’s level – could not have brought to a championship contender.

  • http://www.hibachi20.blogspot.com Hursty

    Dumars fu*ked up. But he made up for it in a big way by getting Wallace a few months later. The Pistons arguably would never have won the ‘chip that year without him.
    Myles wrote a good piece and made a decision. As long as he sticks by that decision and argues his view – then he may be argued against, but you can’t just say “he’s wrong”.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Wayno

    good point Hursty. The Sheed Trade was deffinietly the reason they won, no question.

  • http://slamonline.com Jacob J

    I wonder if some of you guys realise that Detroit is not a place for big stars. (Example: Grant Hill, Bob McAdoo, Allen Iverson). So if he wouldve picked melo,wade, or bosh it wouldnt of helped the franchise (except maybe Bosh). Dumars is a very smart GM and he know what he is doing. You dont make the ECF 7 straight years,2 finals appearances, and a Championship without having a good team and GM. You guys need to see what happend with the AI and Chauncey trade I saw it all along Joe D wanted cap space for free agents this summer. It will pay off too it looks like its going in the same pattern as it did in the early 00′s.

  • Hussman25

    Im not even a lakers fan and I would have given it to Mitch K out in LA… This is def a default winner

  • roman

    Mitch Kupchak- deserved GM of the decade- How he pulled off the Pau Gasol trade is beyond me and I’m a Lakers fan. The Pistons have been declining since they won the title. Doesn’t the Pistons have Kwame Brown on their squad!!!!!!!!!!

  • dario

    love the article !

  • http://www.triplejunearthed.com/dacre Dacre

    Interesting reasoning. It’s almost a case of… ‘why DON’T they deserve it’?

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    Dacre, take your @ss back to the trailer and shut the f*ck up, racist piece of sh!t.

  • dmonz

    I have to disagree, It’s either the Spurs Gm or The Lakers Gm they have won the most titles this decade.
    Joe’s biggest mistake wasn’t Darko, (MJ made a bigger one with Kwame) it’s him firing Larry Brown right after they lost the finals to The Spurs in game 7 of very hard fought game (they even led 6 points in the 4th Q).. Larry could have guided Motown to a couple of more rings if Joe didn’t gave up on Larry right away..Big Ben would have never been benched and left.Flip was not half as good( check the Wizs now)and bad boys 2 never had a chance at the title again.. look at The Spurs and Lakers they didn’t give up on Pop and Jax.. and they’re the winningest teams this decade..

  • Sean

    This article is retarded.

  • http://slam shawn williams

    i dont know, he drafted darko! if he would have taken melo they might have 3 or 4 rings!

  • http://slam shawn williams

    i dont know, he drafted darko! if he would have taken melo they might have 3 or 4 rings!

  • MikeC.

    The Pistons as a franchise had to fire Larry Brown. Forget that he coached them to a championship, and all the players loved him. During the playoffs, against the Cavs, LB was consulting for the Cavs. Not only did he deserve to be fired, Joe D. should have challenged him to a dual. Give LB a little glove slap. Pistols at dawn and all that ish. You DO NOT fraternize with the competition. EVER!!! Joe D. gets and keeps my respect by firing the second best coach in the history of the franchise because he played footsie with the comp. Sports are a competition to decide who is the winner and who is the loser. Simple. You don’t get to fence-sit. If you try, you get fired.

  • J

    @roman: are you serious? and as far as i remember the lakers also had Kwame on their roster as a stating center a few years back.

  • J

    is it solely Dumars fault on Darko, or part of it is that Larry Brown didn’t gave him a chance? i think both. maybe, i said maybe, if Larry didn’t turn him into a human cigarette he could have been a decent back up center. cause that benching really sucks 90% of life out of him.

  • http://www.kb24.com The Seed

    To say that joe is best GM of this decade is just sad. One ring, the lakers have one, 2 finals apperances and maybe a 3 finals apperance. West beat joe at the beginning of this decade too. 3 rings 4 apperances.

  • Thom

    I don’t think picking Joe is unreasonable at all. As others have said, there was a clear top 3 in the 2003 draft, and Darko was typically seen as the 2nd best player available behind LeBron. Would it be nice to have Melo? Absolutely. But it made no sense at the time when Prince was starting to come into his own. We figured (correctly) that we had our SF of the future. Bosh and Wade were not seen as top 3 guys. In retrospect, they definitely were, but that’s revisionist history. Darko filled a need and was widely considered the best guy to take. That being said, Joe did what he could to salvage that pick. No one ever seems to mention the fact that when the Pistons traded Milicic and Carlos Arroyo to the Magic, they got back the Magic’s 2007 1st round pick along with Kelvin Cato’s expiring deal. Who’d we take with that pick? Rodney Stuckey, our current starting point guard averaging around 19/5/5. I know, I’d take Wade/Bosh/Melo over Stuckey 100% of the time, but it’s not like we got NOTHING out of our pick, and Joe was able to turn what could’ve been an abject failure into our current PG of the future.

  • Thom

    And to single out Dumars for that ONE THING as if it disqualifies him is incredibly stupid. Every GM makes mistakes. San Antonio doesn’t seem too happy being stuck with Richard Jefferson’s terrible contract right now. Kupchack almost immediately flipped the best player they got in the Shaq trade (Caron Butler) for Kwame Brown. Think Kobe couldn’t have used Tough Juice from 2004 on? Plus, the Pistons didn’t have a MASSIVE lull in the middle of the decade like Mitch’s Lakers did. Buford is the only guy that can match Dumars’ consistency, and it’d dubious how much control he’s actually had over the moves they’ve made.

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    Actually, I would pick Daryl Morey as best singular GM ni the game the last 10 years. Look at the team in Houston he has built–most players went second round or UNDRAFTED.