Top 10 NBA front offices

So I was trying to think, who would the best NBA front offices be? First, I'll admit to not being a full expert on all of the other teams. I don't expect this list to be "correct", but I thought it was a great idea to try and figure it out anyway.

Tier #1: The elite front offices
1: San Antonio - They've had a great core in place for a long time, but their move to get Kawhi to reinvigorate the whole team was great, and they've always moved on from role players and replaced them with other great role players. They're an elite team year in and year out. They've won five titles with effectively three very different teams and three different finals MVPs and built a culture where guys would take less to stay.

2: Golden State - They built a title team through the draft without a pick higher than #7. They were smart in letting some guys who looked like great players and helped them earlier go (Ellis, Davis). They were bold in firing Jackson to bring in Kerr despite some pretty good seasons. They didn't trade Klay for Love despite many people thinking they should. Lots of bold moves and earned a title without any of the traditional luck most teams need to do so.

3: Miami - Pat Riley has found ways to create windows to build two different title teams, and though they're struggling now, he's been able to put together big plans and pull them off to bring 3 titles to Miami which is a damn impressive effort. He had some luck on his side to get Wade initially, but he's really made the most of it.

4: Dallas - Cuban has had them on a long sustained run of success and stuck with it long enough to win a title when virtually all fans felt he should rebuild. He's aggressive in what he tries to do and it doesn't always work, but he keeps working it. I'm interested to see how he approaches life without Dirk. Everything he's done so far has still been built around that one lucky strike early.

5: Boston - Ainge has been aggressive about everything he's done. When his team looked like one of the worst in the NBA, he found a way to add two superstars to it and get a title. Not that he's awful again, he's not hung on to assets too long and has given his team a ton of bullets to attempt to improve. It remains to be seen if he can hit in the draft with all these picks, so far the results are possibly better than expected (and possibly better than wanted keeping them out of the elite draft area this year).

Tier #2: The very good, but some gaps front offices
It don't mean a thing without that ring, and the front offices above all found a way to do it while the ones below haven't.

6: Chicago - The ranking this high gives them a lot of benefit of the doubt of where they could be without Rose's injury. They've built a team that should have been competing for the title for the past five seasons. They've done great drafting guys, but there are concerns about hanging on too long with some of them and overpaying at times, but they've found star talent in unexpected places.

7: OKC - They accumulated a ton of great players with their draft picks to build a potential elite team. They've got two potentially top five guys. That said, they traded Harden for crap, and choose Perkins/Ibaka over him. Presti's still made some great moves since then (picking up Kanter for pennies on the dollar), but injuries have derailed them overall and possibly kept them from winning a title they might otherwise have. I put them behind the Bulls because besides the injuries, they also traded away the player that might have gotten them a title (for crap) whereas the Bulls made no similarly stupid trade.

8: Atlanta - They got rid of the guy who deserves all the credit, but fleecing the Nets on Joe Johnson was absurdly good. Getting Paul Millsap in cheap was incredible. Lots of other great value signings panned out for them. They've also been a good team for a really long time without a true star to ever hang their hats on. I think they'll struggle with the next step, but this is a team that has been consistently despite having virtually nothing going for it to help it out in the luck department.

9: Houston - I'm less certain on these guys. Their ability to get Harden/Howard was incredible and deserves a lot of credit to bring in a big name FA and a big name player via trade. That said their handling of Parsons this year potentially cost them a title and makes you wonder WTF they were thinking. Morey strikes me as a guy who despite his "analytics" has really largely achieved success only on his big name players. If his analytics really paid off he should be building out tremendous role players out of nowhere and really isn't.

10: Memphis - A team that has become a consistently great team without a traditional superstar or players who are great in the new NBA style. Memphis has found a way to make it all work in a different mode, and I think that's been pretty impressive. They've been generally shrewd with their contracts, not overpaying, and keeping together a quality team in a non money rich market.

Teams I considered but ultimately left off (in no particular order, but would probably be my next tier):
Cleveland - They screwed up their moves the first time LeBron was there so badly that he left. They were gifted a ridiculous number of high draft picks and ultimately created enough upside for LeBron to return. That said, they don't seem like they picked the right coach and I think they're well on their road to screwing the whole thing up again.

Clippers - Doc Rivers has been a mad scientist, and it feels like all his small moves have made things worse. They're a really good team, but they're built upon two great moves which were both no brainers (trading for Paul and drafting Griffin) and outside of that, not much impressive has really been done here.

Washington - They've put together a really nice team here, but it's all been done via a pretty straight forward way. I'm not sure I've seen much creativity or great value from unexpected places. Their stars are guys drafted at the top of the draft whom most of us would have taken and expected to be stars.

Toronto - They've been a bit better in the standings lately, but have a long history of just treadmilling through mediocre players and haven't found special talents in the draft even when they've had good opportunities.

Portland - They've had tons of high draft picks and lots of times where people thought they'd be the next big thing. They've made some great trades (picking up Lillard through a traded pick is a great example) and good signings (Matthews), but they also took Oden over Durant and despite their good moves have never been able to get anywhere. It's tougher to give them the benefit of the doubt with injuries since they routinely drafted high guys with big injury red flags, but they're still definitely good.

General thoughts on difficult decisions:
Picking #2. I ultimately liked GS a bit more than Miami because their decisions were far less obvious and required more foresight. Riley pulled off the big coup twice, but I think GS had a much more difficult and narrow margin for error path to get where they got.

Whether Boston/Dallas should be in an a tier onto themselves or not. I eventually decided that in five years, there's a really good chance that what Miami and GS did will look similar to what Boston and Dallas did, so that they belong together.

Picking between Chicago and OKC. I ultimately put Chicago ahead of OKC because OKC seemed more directly responsible for its failures than Chicago by making a really awful trade, but they've also had more success in a tougher conference, so I could go the other way.

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  • Good list and good concept. That's why you are the king of local Bulls bloggery(said somewhat in jest, but also true).

    I agree with a lot of what you said. I really admire both S.A. and the Mavs. IMO Dallas and more specifically Dirk should without doubt have two not one championships. Getting Jason Terry was a sharp, sharp move IMO as was the Carlisle hire. Then there's Kidd and Chandler. Reality is reality though, and thus while I do not like Pat Riley as in really, really do not like him especially from the Knicks days, you do have to give him credit for orchestrating three championships in little old Miami(though we know they really should be 1-4.."haterade" ha, ha).

    As for GS while the tradition is to unquestionably laud the King, honestly IMO they beat a crippled "Finals" team. They've done a very, very good job with their picks Curry, Thompson, and Green, but in most years I don't view them necessarily as championship worthy regardless of 67 regular season wins which IMO don't mean what they used to(see Chicago Bulls).

    As for the Bulls of course I am biased as a fan. Myself I would separate what they've done into two different eras. The Gordon/Deng era personally I would regard as a fail simply because for most of those years the teams they fielded to me were offensive train wrecks as in grinders to the max that were not fun to watch IMO. I will say two of the B.G. years his prolific scoring was entertaining as was when Deng took down Miami.

    The Rose Era or for the cynic(The 1.9% Era) ha, ha.. While lucking into Rose they made some good moves to make the most of it especially in the draft. However, not finding a way to get a better back court mate for a budding superstar then oldsters in Rip Hamilton, Bogans etc. to me was a major fail. If the claim is there was no way to do better, go tell that to Dallas or the Spurs aka I'm not buying it.

    You also look at the Thibs era if we wish to frame it that way. To me he was an obvious choice post Celtics championship where his defensive genius showed through as they nearly one twice if not for Perkins' knee. I hate saying that as Perkins is a hole, and since declined mightily, but true nonetheless IMO. With the Bulls 'great win totals' still you could argue he did little to nothing in the post season, and thus despite the money/big market driven hype he was a mistake.

    More likely the structure should have included an associate head coach for the offense the way he was for the defense in Boston. If he wasn't willing to pull a Doc Rivers set up such as he himself benefitted from then he probably was a mistake. Or the resign was. Still where was the better alternative?

    In the here and now, if Mirotic blossoms and McDeezie becomes viable and starts to "do your job" and hit his threes then to me the grade goes up considerably for Gar/Pax. I certainly love the Portis pick up myself. My only other comment is that I think they held unto Noah way the hell too long, but I know I am in the minority on that. And the Hoiberg hire is a wait and see though I'm starting to like the move because you have him as offensive guru with an empowered defensive associate head coach in Jim Boyelen. Could be a win/win for everybody especially if the Fredster(sorry) can correct Niko and McD's three point shooting woes. Long ass post - imagine that..

  • In reply to RoadWarrior:

    Great analysis! I'm just wondering though, when would you have traded Noah? A year ago he was coming off two straight All Star games and Defensive Player of the year awards and 2015 was gearing up for a title run. You would have traded him then? Going back a few years the Bulls had a legitimate shot at a title in 2012 as Rose was reigning league MVP so couldn't trade him then. Then afterwards you had hope that Rose recovers for title shots in 2013 and 2014 both years in which Rose was out and Noah was arguably the heart and soul of the team and in peak form but I don't think there was much sentiment anywhere to trade him at that point.

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    Good list, although I would add Utah and Phoenix as having good front offices. They are smaller market franchises which has done very well over the yrs, and have stayed competitive in a strong Western Conference.

    Golden State would not be on this list. Yes, they won the championship but they are more of a one hit wonder. They are able to keep a strong fan base throughout their losing seasons. They haven't really had a contending team in 40 yrs tho.

    The Bulls wouldn't be on this list either. Paxson has had more feuds with head coaches, and if it wasn't for the luck of the ping pong balls his team would be a steady mediocre team. Even when they did luck up and get the #1 spot in 08 they almost blew it by drafting Michael Beasley instead of Rose. Then their was Paxson trading LaMarcus Aldridge for Tyrus Thomas, and last year trading two 1st rd draft picks and two 2nd rd draft picks in order to draft Doug McDermott. Yes, they can boast about landing quality draft picks in the late 1st rd, but that can be due to Head Coach Tom Thibodeau and him getting the most out of a bunch of offensively challenged talent vs what the FO did to make this team successful.
    Management chose James Johnson over Jeff Teague, then a couple of yrs late chose his little bro Marquis Teague over Draymond Green. It's the front office who is trying to convince Bulls Nation that Bobby Portis was a steal at #22 when that was the last position of need for the team, and time will reveal that RJ Hunter will be the better pro over the next 3 yrs and he was picked 6 spots later by the C's. And as much credit as the Bulls FO should get for landing Pau Gasol for basically minimum wage for a player of his talent, the should also take the credit for FO blunder of overpaying Carlos Boozer, and for failing to attract any top tier FA to play with Derrick Rose. Heck, the Bulls had to buyout Boozer's contract just to get Pau, and now they're over the luxury tax by overpaying their current core, which was just as close to a 1st rd exit in the playoffs than they were advancing to the Finals.

    If GSW, ATL and the Clippers get credit for having great FO's then the Milwaukee Bucks should be on this list too for what they have accomplished in one yr. imo

  • In reply to Michael Cunningham:

    You cite some solid facts but then pile on with conjecture and opinions in an effort to make a thin argument seem robust. It's a blog so you have every right to express your POV but so do I with an opposing POV:

    You make a good point about the strife with head coaches, though their overall track record with head coaches is fairly typical.

    You criticize certain draft choices correctly, but nobody's draft record is perfect and this Bulls FO's draft record on the whole is excellent -- nitpicking a few sub-optimal drafts is just nit-picking. You have to go back 7 years for the one big miss in Tyrus Thomas, and even then they flipped him for a first rounder. McDoug isn't looking good but it's too early to conclude anything. And you're including that RJ Hunter will be a better pro than Portis? Complete and total conjecture.

    Citing "luck of the ping pong balls" is just plain ignorant -- every "top" FO has benefited from some luck. Where would San Antonio be without the luck of David Robinson's injury coinciding with ping pong balls the year Tim Duncan was drafted? Oh but they're good, the Bulls are just lucky.

    Even the Boozer FA signing, while not optimal, improved the team and hardly set them back. "Failing to attract any top tier FA" is downright comical -- you'd be criticizing them now had they done this very thing with Dwight Howard or Melo or basically anyone besides LeBron.

    Then instead of crediting them for a good move in getting Gasol, you spin it into a criticism that they're over the luxury tax -- why do you care? Is it your money? You'd probably call them cheap if they didn't go over the tax.

    Sorry but this is just typical haterade, a one-sided argument with successes minimized and failures magnified because you feel that as a TV viewer you deserve a team that consistently beats LeBron, heck you even criticize Golden State for being a "one-hit wonder" so I'm not sure why I'm even arguing.

  • In reply to Roman F:

    Some statements prove beyond any doubt whatsoever that a person is just looking for a reason to rip on a front office, a coach, or a player.

    "Even when they did luck up and get the #1 spot in 08 they almost blew it by drafting Michael Beasley instead of Rose." is most certainly one blatant example.

    Then again, I'm quite sure that every team's fan base includes some truly delusional people, it's not unique to Bulls fans.

    But I'm happy about it, some comments are certainly good for some excellent comic relief.

  • Chicago doesn't really have a bad front office. I just think sometimes they let the pressure and expectations of winning a championship get to them and cloud their judgement. I also feel they have a tendency to fall in love with players and become emotionally attached to them. That's understandable in the human sense but sometimes it doesn't make good basketball sense. They just need to learn how to take their time, take a step back, and really analyze the situation before signing guys to long term contracts. They did that with Gasol but failed to do so with Boozer and Wallace.

  • The best FO in the NBA is whichever team LeBron James plays for. Joe Cowley summed up the state of the league very well on The Score last week. I don't care much for Cowley and in accordance with working for the S-T, he never misses an opportunity to rip Bulls management. But last week he took a day off the usual routine to state the plain truth:

    "The Bulls are operating like most of the teams are operating. The Cavs are operating with the ultimate recruiter in the NBA... ownership has to be scared of, that this guy has this much power... You're doing what everyone else is doing, you're going into free agency, begging guys to come, see if they say yes, see if they say no. The Cavs are operating on a whole different level because you have guys willing to take less money to play with LeBron. You have players undervaluing themselves to have a chance to go after a title... If you're the Bulls, you're kind of handcuffed like most of the league is, watching the best general manager in the game in LeBron James."

  • In reply to Roman F:

    That hasn't proven out really though. Who has gone to play with LeBron for so much less money?

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    Really it's only Wade and Bosh, but even then it was more like Lebron and Bosh taking less to play with Wade. By that logic Dwayne Wade is the best recruiter in the NBA.

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    Trade Korver for nothing: check
    Give Deng for tax: check
    Lose Asik for nothing: check
    Take Boozer and say this is player we need him, later cut him : check
    Draft PG who cannot play in NBA: check
    Trade 2 first and 2 sec for one pick: check
    Fire 2nd best coach in the league: check
    Hire Gar’s Iowa Friend as head coach: check
    Draft a LeBron James bandwagon fan: check
    Bring back the worst player in the NBA and give him 2,8M: check
    Offer the low qualifier to Butler, unnecessarily giving him the chance to leave after next season: check.
    Bulls FO ? CLOWNS

  • In reply to Stojko Mamut:

    Better be careful with that here. I'm starting to think Gar/Pax has an active defense force on this blog. Certain posters will hunt you down if you say anything that shines light on the front office's blunders. According to them they can do no wrong.

  • In reply to ajaychitown:

    Wow some people get so upset when their opinions are opposed that they make up labels and motivations for the people who oppose them. A lot easier than considering others as thinking, rational people. That requires thinking, which is work, so take the easy road and just label them as opposed to considering them.

  • We have a celebrity here, the dumbest poster in the history of the internet.

    How dumb? He/she believes the 2nd best coach in the NBA would play the worst player in the NBA 24.4 minutes per game in 66 games and START HIM in 22 games. And then play him 12.6 minutes per game in the playoffs.

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