July 27, 2008
Success is ultimately measured by the number of garish, diamond-encrusted NBA championship rings one triumphantly slips onto their finger(s). Finishing above .500 is a good thing, making the playoffs is even better, and winning a series or three once you get there is solid recognition that you’re doing something right.
Until you win that elusive title, however, all those big regular-season wins and all those personnel coups a NBA general manager pulled off to help make those big wins happen are just window-dressing. Tasty starters soon forgotten after the main course arrives. But boy, Portland Trail Blazers GM Kevin Pritchard sure has done a great job of cooking up one of the most alluring PuPu platters in the Western Conference, hasn’t he?
Kevin Pritchard Photo Credit: Icon SMI
They’ve yet to make the playoffs since the Jail Blazers of old were eradicated, but that should soon change under the direction of Pritchard, who’s latest moment of front-office clarity seems to have manifested itself in the recent draft-day trade that netted the Blazers their point guard of the present and future, 6-3 rookie and Las Vegas Summer League MVP Jerryd Bayless.
We’ve all learned not to put a great amount of stock into Summer League performances, but there’s no denying Bayless’ dominance. In four games, the soon-to-be 20 year old averaged 29.8 points, 4.8 boards, 1.3 assists, 1.2 steals, and 48% FG in 34 minutes/per. Next season he’ll join one of the most promising up-and-coming lineups in the league, one that includes 2007 NBA Rookie of the Year Brandon Roy, 2007 first-overall pick Greg Oden, LaMarcus Aldridge, Travis Outlaw, Martell Webster, and fellow rookie Rudy Fernandez, amongst others.
Blake Murphy over at Hoops Addict recently penned an excellent profile of GM Kevin Pritchard, the man responsible for bringing this talented young core together:
It should come as no surprise that Kevin Pritchard has revealed himself as one of the smartest general managers in basketball over the past few years. Since the 2006 offseason, Pritchard has made it no secret that he has a plan as he has traded aggressively, worked the draft masterfully, and changed the entire culture of a struggling franchise.
Some of the credit is owed to previous general managers John Nash and Steve Patterson, who set the wheels in motion for the culture change by listening to Pritchard and shedding a few poor character players. Pritchard, though, is largely to credit with the light-speed turnaround of the franchise.
Murphy also points out that Pritchard’s rebuilding process in Portland is far from finished, too. Raef Lafrentz’s $12 million and Steve Francis’ $17 million expiring contracts come off the books next summer, and the team still owns the rights to promising (overseas) prospects Petteri Koponen, Nicolas Batum, and Joel Freeland. The Darius Miles situation is still unresolved–that story is another post in itself.
Will this core bear championship fruit? Time will certainly tell, and until then the ultimate success of Pritchard’s past and future moves cannot be fully judged. One thing is for certain though: everything sure seems to be coming up Blazers these days.