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Ranking the Best and Worst GM's in Maximizing Their Draft Position

As the 2018 draft approaches, there are a couple more posts in our review of a 14-year history of the NBA draft and how each team has performed. Part one consisted of redrafting all 14 drafts and evaluating which draft positions produce the best players. Part two is an evaluation of the franchises and general managers. Yesterday, I ranked the top franchises for acquiring talent though the NBA draft. Today, I will rank the general managers who primarily had the final say.

Which GM's are consistently perform the best and worst at drafting and get the most or least out of their draft position from 2004 to 2017? To determine this, I compiled every draft pick that each GM made while they were employed between 2004 to 2017 and computed the difference between the original pick position and our redraft position. Most GM's were not employed during this entire time, so some GM's have made more picks than others.

Recap on how the differential between the actual pick and redraft pick is calculated: For example, Kawhi Leonard was drafted with the 15th pick in 2011, but went 1st in our redraft. That's a difference of +15. Another example is found in 2010, when the Spurs drafted James Anderson with the 20th pick, but he drops to 26th in our redraft, a difference of -6.

Also, to avoid over-rewarding and over-penalizing teams, we treated all original and redraft 2nd round picks as pick #31. For example, in 2011, the Celtics chose E'Twaun Moore at pick 55 and he moved up to 20th in our redraft, that's a difference of +11 (31 - 20 = 11). Similarly, the Celtics chose Fab Melo with the 22nd pick in 2012 and he drops out of the first round in our redraft, a difference of -9 (22 - 31 = -9).

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Ranking 38 Current and Former NBA GM's

In order to rank the GM's I decided to use the average change per draft pick during their tenure plus the number of stars drafted. Being able to maximize your draft position is very important, but landing a star is vital. First, the sum of the difference scores were divided by the number of picks. Second, the first calculation was added to the number of stars drafted.

[Sum of the Difference Scores / Number of Draft Picks] + Stars Drafted

Average Change per Draft Pick (AC/DP) + Stars Drafted

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Hennigan made a series of poor draft decisions, and then made it worse when he traded his best pick, Oladipo, and the 11th pick in 2016, Domantas Sabonis, to Oklahoma City for Serge Ibaka

Tier IV: The Incompetent GM’s

38. Rob Hennigan, Orlando 2012 - 2016: -7.0 AC/DP

37. David Griffin, Cleveland 2013 - 2017: -6.4 AC/DP

36. Rich Cho, Charlotte 2011 - 2017: -6.2 AC/DP

35. Vlade Divac, Sacramento 2014 - : -4.9 AC/DP

34. Ryan McDonough, Phoenix 2013 - : -3.5 AC/DP

33. Donnie Nelson, Dallas 2004 - : -3.1 AC/DP

32. Chris Wallace, Memphis 2007 - : -2.8 AC/DP

31. Ernie Grunfeld, Washington 2004 - : -2.5 AC/DP

30. Donnie Walsh, New York 2008 - 2011: -2.4 AC/DP

29. Tom Thibodeau, Minnesota 2015 - : -2.0 AC/DP

28. Stan Van Gundy, Detroit 2014 - 2017: -1.8 AC/DP

27. Geoff Petrie 2004 - 2013: -1.2 AC/DP

26. Dell Demps, New Orleans 2010 - : -1.0 AC/DP

25. Mike Budenholzer, Atlanta 2012 - 2017: -0.4 AC/DP

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Hinkie and Colangelo both played a role in transforming Philadelphia, but there were also a number of missed opportunities in between landing two stars

Tier III: GM’s with Mixed Results

24. Dennis Lindsey, Utah from 2012 - : +0.0 AC/DP

23. Bryan Colangelo, Toronto from 2006 - 2012 and Philadelphia from 2016 - 2017: +0.2 AC/DP

22. Sam Hinkie, Philadelphia from 2013 - 2015: +0.3 AC/DP

21. Doc Rivers, L.A. Clippers from 2013 - 2017: +0.4 AC/DP

20. Kevin O’Connor, Utah from 2005 - 2011: +0.5 AC/DP

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Ujiri has been able to maximize his draft position with almost every pick he has chosen

Tier II: Successful GM’s

19. Larry Riley, Golden State from 2009 - 2011: -1.0 AC/DP

18. Sam Presti, Oklahoma City from 2007 - : -0.1 AC/DP

17. John Hammond, Milwaukee 2007 - 2016: +1.2 AC/DP

16. Larry Bird, Indiana 2004 - 2016: +1.5 AC/DP

15. Arturas Karnisovas, Denver 2012 - : +2.5 AC/DP

14. Gar Forman, Chicago 2009 - : +3.3 AC/DP

13. Danny Ainge, Boston 2004 - : +3.4 AC/DP

12. Pat Riley, Miami 2004 - : +3.5 AC/DP

11. Phil Jackson, New York 2014 - 2017: +3.7 AC/DP

10. Neil Olshey, Portland 2012 - : +3.8 AC/DP

9. Daryl Morey, Houston 2007 - : +3.9 AC/DP

8. Masai Ujiri, Toronto 2013 - : +4.3 AC/DP

7. Joe Dumars, Detroit 2004 - 2013: +4.5 AC/DP

6. Billy King, Brooklyn 2011 - 2015: +5.0 AC/DP

5. Rob Pelinka, L.A. Lakers from 2016 - : +6.8 AC/DP

4. Sean Marks, Brooklyn from 2016 - : +7.0 AC/DP

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Before Myers, Larry Riley drafted Steph and Klay, but Myers has been able to build a strong roster around them with late round picks

Tier I: The Best of the Best Active GM's

3. Mitch Kupchak, L.A. Lakers from 2004 - 2015: +5.0 AC/DP

2. Greg Popovich and R.C. Buford, San Antonio from 2004 - : +6.0 AC/DP

1. Bob Myers, Golden State from 2012 - : +8.0 AC/DP

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Trending Up

Sean Marks, since taking over the last two drafts, Brooklyn has a +7.0 differential

Rob Pelinka, since taking over the last two drafts, Los Angeles has a +6.8 differential

Trending Down

Vlade Divac, since taking over in 2014, Sacramento has a -4.9 differential

Ryan McDonough, since taking over in 2013, Phoenix has a -3.5 differential

Donnie Nelson, since 2004, Dallas has a -3.1 differential

Chris Wallace, since taking over in 2007, Memphis has a -2.8 differential

Tom Thibodeau, since taking over in 2015, Minnesota has a -2.0 differential

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Remember, this is not a ranking of the best overall GM's: This post is only about maximizing draft position and evaluating talent in the draft and does not take into account other important aspects of running a team, including creating great organizational culture, managing free agency and the salary cap, or success and failure in trading players.

Let me know what you think of the GM rankings. Are there any GM's that are great or horrible at the draft just as you expected them to be? Did you expect Rob Pelinka, Bob Myers, and Sean Marks at the top with Greg Popovich and R.C. Buford. Are you surprised to see Phil Jackson, Billy King, or Mitch Kupchak toward the top?