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The Importance of a Competent Front Office

This off-season has shown that the GM position may be the most important position on the team.

NBA: Playoffs-San Antonio Spurs at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Throughout this summer, there have been multiple stories about turmoil within front offices across the league. Attached to many of these stories is the negative discourse between the GM and Owner being on different pages of the future of the team.

For example, one major headline of this summer was David Griffin’s ousting as general manager of the Cleveland Cavaliers. As Griffin is regarded as one of the best front office minds in the NBA, this move sent shock waves around the league. After the fact, details have been leaked about the true division between Owner Dan Gilbert and Griffin. They had separate views for the future of their franchise which Gilbert could not see past.

Now, because of this unrest, rumors are swirling that Lebron James is considering leaving and moving to Los Angeles this summer. It all stems from the lack of trust that the front office gave the players long term. Even after going to the Finals three straight years, a disconnect in the front office sent quakes throughout the core of this franchise.

Another one of the biggest headlines of the summer was New York Knicks and their endless saga with ex-team executive Phil Jackson. As many know, Coach Phil Jackson is arguably the best coach in NBA history. With 11 NBA championships as a coach, the Knicks thought it would be a seamless transition for him to become team president. The problem with all of this is that as “president,” he took over most of the roles of GM and built the team to his liking regardless of the people below him.

As we know now, that plan didn’t work out so well, and the Knicks have been heading steadily downhill every year he has been in charge. The disconnect between owner James Dolan and Jackson came to a head this past season when Dolan started blaming things on him as president/GM.

These two examples are important in highlighting the mayhem an incompetent general manager and front office can bring a franchise. For Cleveland and New York, the off-season has been surrounded with negativity which is contagious for the following season.

Even teams such as Sacramento and Orlando have this problem. Their front offices have not been doing the franchise any favors. A constant state of rebuild. Solid lottery picks year after year with nothing to show. The city, fans, and players should expect and want more than the mediocrity they are getting each season.

Now, how does this all come back to Memphis?

The Grizzlies are in a special situation. As a small market team, they have performed at a very high level, consistently making the playoffs. They’ve had a consistent front office without much change since the hire of John Hollinger from ESPN in December of 2012. They’ve been a quiet story of consecutive playoff runs because of the lack of explosive stories coming out of their front office.

In an article from March, the Grizzlies ranked 13th in ESPN’s 2017 Management Rankings. These rankings took an algorithm they put together to rank coaches, President/GM, and Owners 1-30.

In the positive, the Memphis front office has done its job showing that a small market can still throw around the big money for free agents (even if some haven’t quite worked out just yet…). It has shown the team can compete for a playoff run each season while larger, traditional basketball cornerstones look to find their footing. If staying relevant is the goal, it’s an impressive overall job that should make Memphis fans feel grateful for what this front office has accomplished.

However, in the negative light, question marks can be raised about the team staying in the bottom half of playoff seeds. Yes, this is better than not making it at all, but the other side is that consistent one series and out is not something to feel ok about. Memphis can choose on which side they fall in this discussion.

Even with the questionable reign of Chris Wallace as GM, the relative competence of this front office can not be overlooked. As the team goes through massive changes to its roster and overall team mentality, the front office will have its hands full trying to continue the playoff success. If they can not rise to this occasion, maybe the questions will start to be asked.

However, at this point as a whole, the front office has done its job not creating major waves to upset the team’s core.