Good GM, Bad GM: Late Bloomers and Draft Prowess

I don’t expect to receive an answer to this question since I know there only three of you out there reading my blog, but I’m going to ask it anyway.

Let’s say you’re evaluating an NBA GM’s drafting/scouting ability. Should he get credit for picks who ultimately turned into solid players, but did so only after leaving the team that drafted them? Take, for example, Kris Humphries. I know you think he’s overpaid, but don’t forget that after his two seasons with the Jazz, everyone believed he was a total bust. He notched just 0.1 total Win Shares during his first two seasons in the NBA. But fast forward a few seasons and Humphries has tallied a totally respectable 10.7 Win Shares while averaging a double-double over his past two seasons with the Nets. So should Kevin O’Connor get credit for drafting Humphries, a serviceable NBA starter, even though the Utah Jazz never benefited directly from that pick?

This is vaguely similar to questions digital marketers face around multi-touch attribution. If a user arrives at your site by clicking a paid search link in Google but does not purchase, and then a month later arrives at your site by typing your address into his browser and this time he does purchase, should that original paid search click-through get credit? If so, how much? It’s a little different because most NBA players would have been drafted eventually anyway; if Kevin O’Connor hadn’t picked Humphries, someone else would have, and we’d be wondering whether that person deserves credit.

I can see arguments both ways. A GM who picks a player who only pans out later in his career might have correctly read the player’s potential, and we should reward that GM for his vision. But a GM’s job is to deliver concrete wins to his team via the draft, and a late bloomer does not help his cause. In case anyone is out there reading, leave me a comment: what do you think?

5 comments

  1. Richard says:

    Ben,

    Very interesting post and great questions. In my opinion, part of the GM’s job is draft players that can help them. While a player might be a late bloomer and the GM might have recognized the potential, then team did not cultivate the potential to help the team win. The player, in most cases, would have ended up getting to the NBA some way. The team that helps bring out the player’s potential should get the credit. So, in the case of Kris Humphries I would say the last team should get the credit.

  2. Tony says:

    Interesting comparison. I feel like your analogy breaks down a bit and I DO think the original click-through (I have no idea what that really is) deserves credit because eventually the ad did bring value back to the business even if it was not during the initial ad/website transfer. That is a difference between what happened with Humphries and your internet example. The Jazz got nothing (as far as I remember) though while Humphries has turned into a serviceable NBA big man, the Jazz got nothing from him- no value on the court and nothing in trade. I think he should get SOME credit for having a good eye for talent, but then he should lose credit for not having a plan for that player’s development or giving up too quickly. The Celtics drafted Chauncey Billups and Joe Johnson. They gave up on those guys so quickly. I do not give their GM (Pitino? Carr?) any credit because while he did make good choices about who to draft he was an idiot and gave up too quickly on them. Picking HUmphries should net OConnor a little more cred than drafting the previously mentioned Celtics as he was a lesser player and required more foresight. I also think what is frustrating is there are factors at play which muck up a GM’s plan. Let’s say the Jazz draft Humphries and the plan on being patient and developing him. But then Boozer, Paul Millsap, and Al Jefferson fall into your lap (I have NO idea when all of these players came and went for the Jazz) which you felt you had to pounce on, making your Humphries project worthless. That makes it hard to punish OConnor if that is what happened. Not being a Jazz fan, I don’t have a solid recollection of how those events transpired.

  3. Dan says:

    In most cases, it is not the scout’s job to have a plan for the player’s development. That is the player development department within the organization. I think it’s the same thing with an ad. If you have a marketing department and a web site department in an organization, marketing’s job is to get people to the web site. If the web site is designed poorly so someone doesn’t purchase, is that marketing’s fault or is it the web department’s fault? On the other hand, if marketing doesn’t relay the benefits of the product correctly or lies to the customer to get them to go to the web site, that is marketing’s fault. In your example, the person eventually purchased so maybe it wasn’t anyone’s fault. The customer just wasn’t ready to purchase yet.

    Back to Humphries, the scout did his job in determining that Humphries would be a good player. But you need to look at the entire draft board to see who was left when Humphries was picked. Did someone else picked after him do better? Could the Jazz have used that person within their lineup or would that other player have sat on the bench because he still wasn’t as good as other players at his position?

    Great post! Very thought-provoking.

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