Saturday, April 1, 2023 Apr 1, 2023
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I Think I Could Be a Completely Average Basketball General Manager

As your GM, I will have my phone turned on and read scouting reports. Can you feel the excitement?
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Dear National Basketball Association Team Owner,

My name is Brian. I’m a professional food writer, but I follow basketball Twitter and watched two games of the NBA playoffs this year. I am confident that I could be a completely average general manager for your team.

Truthfully, I don’t know a lot about how basketball is played, although I did hit a three in PE class one time. I know it looks really cool when everyone runs around in circles passing the ball to each other all fast and stuff until one of them finally gets an open look and shoots, like the defense is a padlock and they have to spin all the numbers into place to open it. I know Ja Morant can dunk from almost the three-point line.

Maybe my cover letter does not sound great so far. But there are some real GMs who are worse! I have seven simple rules that will make me an average GM. If you just want to coast along with a half-decent squad that slips into the playoffs sometimes, I’m your guy. Here are my rules. They’re very sophisticated and beyond the reach of some of your current colleagues.

First rule: Scout players before drafting them

Before you draft a guy, you should scout him and do a report. This sounds pretty basic, except last week we learned that it is not, because the Minnesota Timberwolves just draft guys who are nice, and the Phoenix Suns have all but given up on the draft. The Suns didn’t bother picking this year, but in 2019, GM James Jones was presented with literally hundreds of scouting reports on draft players and decided not to read them.

Even after that article came out and Jones was asked to clarify his position, he doubled down: “You have all of those players, but you truly know there are about eight to 10 guys that you can say are truly Suns players that from day one will come in and not have very many issues getting accustomed to or getting integrated to what you do.”

As GM, I promise to read the scouting reports. Or at least browse some mock drafts the week before. I will also have my phone turned on.

I’ll probably also go watch some players, because it’s cool watching basketball. Ideally, I’d watch them in actual games, which brings me to …

Second rule: Don’t draft people who never play basketball

There’s this guy named Shaedon Sharpe. His whole thing is he voluntarily chose not to play a single basketball game for an entire year, but he still got drafted by the Portland Trail Blazers. Maybe I’m a buffoon, but should you really draft a guy who doesn’t play basketball? OK, yes, he’s tall and athletic and works out and stuff. But he was on a basketball team that whole time! And he chose not to play! How is everyone pretending that this is not completely insane? Maybe the Blazers are the team that measured players’ competitive streaks by challenging them to staring contests instead of watching them play ball.

You know who else is tall and athletic and works out and stuff, and was on a basketball team for a year, but didn’t play? Ben Simmons. As your GM, I promise not to intentionally acquire Ben Simmons.

Third rule: LeBron is not the GM, and he does not get to boss me around

I also promise not to intentionally acquire Russell Westbrook.

Fourth rule: Don’t have a whole bunch of centers

There are two kinds of center. One kind is a really tall, dorky dude who stands next to the basket, waiting for stuff to happen nearby. The other kind is a monster athlete with otherworldly gifts who makes the whole arena bend around him like some kind of gravitational anomaly. There are not many of the second kind of guy. There are a lot of the first kind of guy.

As your GM, I promise not to acquire a (literal) ton of centers in the desperate hope that one of them turns into Joel Embiid. You really only need one guy to stand around the rim looking dorky and waiting for stuff to happen in a sport where half of the action is dudes bricking ill-advised three-pointers.

Meanwhile, the Cleveland Cavaliers have three centers making a combined $30 million, and they just drafted a new center. I won’t do that.

Fifth rule: Most of the time, draft real, live human players

It’s nice to have lots of draft picks. It’s nice to trade to get more draft picks. When I have draft picks, I promise that most of the time, I will draft human people who play basketball instead of trading them to get other draft picks later. The only thing better than picks is players.

Obviously, some swapping is OK. The San Antonio Spurs had four picks last week. They drafted cool guys with the first three, and then they decided that three cool guys was enough, so they sent their second-round pick to Memphis in exchange for a future second-round pick. That makes sense.

This does not make sense:

I don’t understand any of that. Probably the Knicks don’t, either. Probably they woke up hungover the next morning asking, “Which year was that first-round pick? Did anybody write that down?”

Sixth rule: All the players will be vaccinated

If a player is too stupid to understand how getting a deadly disease can harm his ability to play basketball, that player is too stupid to be on my team. “But it’s his personal choice,” you say. No, it isn’t. This is a team sport. A team player has to pass the ball, he has to keep up with his vaccinations, and, worst of all, he has to play defense. If Kyrie Irving wants to play an individual sport, the Saudis are hiring golfers.

Seventh rule: Lie to Shams

There’s a Twitter guy named Shams Charania who gets lots of scoops and then phrases them so oddly that a rival outlet invented an award called the Shamsy for the most garbled tweet. For example, here is Shams trying to explain why Kyrie Irving won’t get vaccinated: “Those who know Irving understand he is not driven right now by money, nor cares for inheriting more, but rather the stand for larger issues in his mind that need his support.”

I would love to be a source for Shams. First, I would tell him confusing ungrammatical platitudes, such as that our team is actively monitoring the free agency market but motivated only to seek players who are considered by people within the organization to be fits not only within our culture and philosophy, but also to fit our current roster needs, and not force a fit merely to acquire a talent considered by others to be a high caliber of player. Shams will lap that shit up.

Then I’ll just start lying to him. You know, fun stuff. I’ll tell him we’re requiring everyone to grow a mustache. I’ll tell him we are going to do a permanent full-court press. I’ll tell him we’re trading for Zion Williamson. It’ll be great. We’ll all have a big laugh.

In conclusion, I would make a completely average NBA GM. I won’t acquire Russell Westbrook, I won’t try to play a bunch of centers at the same time, and I will actually read scouting reports. Also, I will bring my phone charger on draft night. This should make me an upgrade for at least four or five teams.

Thank you for your consideration. I eagerly look forward to writing the next article in this series, “Why I Politely Turned Down a Job Offer to Run the Sacramento Kings.”


Brian Reinhart

Brian Reinhart

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Brian Reinhart became D Magazine's dining critic in 2022 after six years of writing about restaurants for the Dallas Observer and the Dallas Morning News.

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