Danny Ainge, General Manager and President of Basketball Operations for the Boston Celtics, is considered to be one of the top executives in the business. He’s made thrifty trades (Kyrie Irving for Isaiah Thomas, the Brooklyn heist), drafted future All-Stars like Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, signed Gordon Hayward and maybe most importantly hired a coach in Brad Stevens who is committed to building a winning system for decades. Players like Al Horford, Terry Rozier and Marcus Smart work hard for Stevens, play defense and commit to winning for each other. As an executive, Ainge has one championship, ten years ago in 2008.
Ainge and Brad Stevens are in the “best of” conversation because they’ve built a system that gives the Celtics a chance to win multiple championships in the next decade.
The other two teams in the entire NBA that have built sustained title contenders are the San Antonio Spurs and the current iteration of the Warriors.
Gregg Popovich is in the twilight of one of the NBA’s most-distinguished careers. While Spurs executive R.C. Buford and Popovich have collected an astonishing five NBA championships in their tenure in San Antonio, their championship days might be behind them.
So what does that make Bob Myers right now?
Myers, the Warriors President of Basketball Operations and general manager, is the most valuable executive in the NBA. He’s constructed three NBA championship teams in four years, and the Warriors better start buying more confetti because this run isn’t ending any time soon.
Myers is considered a great GM for many of the same reasons as Ainge. What makes him “the best” are the championships and his ability to foster buy in from star players—without stars, there are no dynasties in the modern NBA.
Signing DeMarcus Cousins for just over $5 million is a perfect Bob Myers story. Cousins, considered a head case by many in the NBA, called Myers in the wee hours in the morning to ask about an opportunity with the Warriors. Rather than shy away and worry about how Cousins would fit in with the Warriors’ culture, Myers went for Cousins because, with Golden State’s team culture, anyone should be able fit with the Warriors. And if they don’t, they can leave.
If DeMarcus Cousins, Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala all chose to retire tomorrow, I would still have faith in Myers and his ability to a build a player-centered basketball organization that leverages style, substance and playoff wins while empowering players and coaches to make decisions on the court.
Player-centered teams can only work with strong leaders at the top—leaders who listen, leaders who are ambitious. Steve Kerr is the leader who listens, with an understanding that trusting relationships are the root of his job. Joe Lacob and Peter Gruber are the ambitious, eccentric moneymen at the top, Their concerns must be quelled and their goals better be met.
This odd foursome works because of Myers. His past work as an agent, experience playing competitive basketball and trust in others despite their baggage, whether they be Sami Gelfand (we’ll miss you), Draymond Green or Ron Adams makes this work.
DeMarcus Cousins might not work out. That would be fine. However, five of the fifteen best players in the NBA could be starting for the Warriors in the next year’s NBA Finals.
The Warriors are on the same salary cap restrictions as any other team. Don’t hate them for their talent; appreciate Bob Myers for acquiring it. Some people are just better at their job than others. And that’s okay.