The NBA has seen a fair share of one-sided trades, to the point when some of them have been considered controversial, and have shaken the whole league up.
It’s hard to assume what happens behind closed doors of NBA front offices and how deals come about. We know that there is a lot of work being put into it. A lot of long-run in advance work, from financial analytics to roster breakdowns – anticipating potential fits and financial match of potential trade partners.
What people don’t take into account is an even deeper layer to it. The behind behind-the-scenes stuff if you will. Stuff you won’t see in a formal job description. It’s about personal relationships and benefits behind certain moves that emanate from being a part of a particular network.
Let’s not get it twisted; this isn’t some conspiracy theory about a small group of influential NBA execs playing a mob role, sipping whiskey in New York City’s penthouse, pulling strings on every NBA move possible. It’s more about the advantages certain NBA execs have over the other. Fairly or unfairly, it’s on you to decide.
You will never hear anyone publicly admitting to it, but the fact of the matter is that relationships play a big part in moving assets in the NBA. Not saying that someone would purposely harm his team solely based on acquaintance, but it isn’t crazy to assume that in a situation where different offers have nearly the same value to them, having your friend on the opposite side of the deal can make a difference.
Take, for instance, KG‘s move to Boston Celtics. The C’s have traded Ryan Gomes, Gerald Green, Al Jefferson, Theo Ratliff, Sebastian Telfair, and two 2009 first-round picks to land The Big Ticket. It was evident that the Timberwolves won’t get the same value for KG. Teams never do, when it’s publicly known that the player wants to get out of town. But they decided to go with the Celtics.
The package centered around young promising Al Jefferson wasn’t a bad stake for the future at the time. But the feeling around the league was that it was more about the guys behind the whole agreement – former Celtics teammates Danny Ainge and Kevin McHale. The two have never publicly admitted to it, but Danny Ainge did thank McHale for “gift-wrapping him the prime Kevin Garnet.”
Another example is Pau Gasol‘s move to the Lakers. This was the move that was highly controversial at the time. NBA personas publicly criticized the move, basically saying it was illegally one-sided. Gregg Popovich went so far that he talked about forming a trade committee that would be able to prevent deals like that from happening.
And who was behind it? You had Mitch Kupchak on one side, and former Lakers legend Jerry West over in Tennessee. The trade came out of the blue, and it was so heavily leaning towards the Lakers’ side that people immediately linked it to West-LA connection. West denied being a man behind the curtain on the deal, but it’s hard to imagine that the Grizzlies couldn’t acquire something better than Kwame Brown-centered trade package.
“It happens in the NBA. It’s like the James Harden trade. Harden gets traded from OKC to the Rockets, and I’m like, damn, why didn’t we even get that offered to us? We weren’t in the mix. Nobody was. It was one phone call, and the Rockets said yes. The Porzingis trade was our one phone call.”Mark Cuban, WFAN
That’s what GM-s always do; they call, acquire about a certain player, negotiate. It’s in their job description. It’s also in their job description to develop relationships with people around the league. And they should do it. It’s inevitable and proven to be beneficial.
Being networked is required when hiring a GM. It can result in historically great steals that are hardly acceptable by the rest of the league. Because at the end of the day, NBA execs use their connections to their advantage. They will never publicly admit to it, but there is more than enough evidence of it.