30Q asks the important questions about the Kings all through September.
One could make the argument that an NBA team's general manager is the third or fourth most important employee of the franchise. After Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, after Phil Jackson it was Jerry Krause who had to fill in the gaps with reasonable talents. In L.A., isn't Mitch Kupchak -- who traded for Pau Gasol, who signed Ron Artest and Lamar Odom and had previously traded for Trevor Ariza -- pretty danged important?
Who's to blame for the Knicks' bad run? A GM. Who's to credit for San Antonio's long-term success? Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker, yes ... but also the front office team of Gregg Popovich and R.C. Buford. It's an incredibly important position, yet relatively little is made of it. At the poles (Isiah and, say, Jerry West) there's a lot of talk about personnel decision-making, and hardcore fans dig in as well.
But in the big, macro picture, fans really don't pay enough mind to the quality of GMing. Obviously, it's hard to measure objectively, the efficacy of a decision-maker. Still, very little effort goes into trying.
With all that said, as Geoff Petrie apparently enters a lame duck season, it's hard trying to sort out how to feel about the potential end of his Kings reign.
To be clear, there's no guarantee Petrie's time is done here. His contract expires at the end of this upcoming season. Last summer, sources told Ailene Voisin that Petrie had rejected a multi-year extension offer from the Maloofs on the grounds that he wasn't sure he'd still be up to the task of rebuilding. Since then, there have been rumors that ownership isn't so quick to give Petrie an unspoken lifetime committment. Both Petrie and the Maloofs were involved in the hiring of Jason Levien as assistant general manager, and given that Levien gave up a lot of cash to take the job it stands to reason that Levien expects a chance at the top job (here or elsewhere) at some point. There has been absolutely no news on Petrie's contract since last summer, when Voisin addressed it.
But the writing is on the wall: this is possible, that Petrie could leave, either under his own power or due to his contract not being renewed by the Maloofs. We can wait to cross that bridge when it arrives, although the heat of the moment and circumstances revolving around the potential exit might skew reality. (See: Rick Adelman. So many fans called for his head early in the 2005-06 season; when he [and Ron Artest] turned the season around, the process of Adelman's dismissal left most sour.)
My central questions in this matter: has the game passed Petrie by? Can the Kings do better? I think the success of Jason Thompson shows that Petrie still has that draft magic. Petrie's future may hinge on how immediately Tyreke Evans blows up (if at all), but really Thompson could be the final chapter of his legacy. It was a classic Petrie "ufck it" moment, reminiscent of Peja Stojakovic and Jason Williams. Thompson may not turn out to be a long-term starter, and most certainly not a franchise player. But picking JT out of nowhere at No. 12 was a flourish, a mark of a cocky artist. Picking Anthony Randolph would have been expected (like Spencer Hawes in 2007). Picking Thompson was performance art.
However, the team is seemingly falling behind its rivals on other matters. Like scouting. The team has no advanced stats guy -- not even one, as most high-level NBA teams now do. (A few teams have whole advanced stats staffs.) Player development has suffered. The team showed little understanding of how to best use the D-League until Donte Greene went down to Reno for five games last season. The use of Shareef Abdur-Rahim as a development coach is nice, but this is new territory for the Kings ... when other franchises have been doing it all decade. Every new basketball idea Petrie's front office has come up with has been done. We are not the vanguard.
Not that being the vanguard necessarily gets you anywhere, but it's still discouraging to a point. There are things this franchise could be doing to help win more games today and tomorrow, but the franchise is not doing them because the franchise is slow to change. That's a drawback of the Petrie era for me, I must say.
Still, he gave it all to us. Remember, the GM is one of the most important employees of an NBA franchise ... and this franchise did go from bottom to (near) top under Petrie. Putting together the Glory Era squad was deserving of every accolade you've got. Giving us Kevin Martin should mean a parade. Over the full term, Petrie has done great work. It's hard to separate those good times with the current lean situation in trying to assess it all.
So what do you think? Is Geoff Petrie the right GM to take us forward?