Recruiting role players

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Published: August 9, 2010

When it comes to recruiting players, many basketball fans just don’t get how things work out. Often it seems that team representatives don’t get it either. Of course, it is always possible that a player messes up or gets injured, but there are so many players out there who could fill a certain role for team, that it’s just unbelievable how many ill-advised decisions are made. Now, lets get into the process: To build up a successful team, you have to get some kind of superstar talent on your roster. I don’t like that rule at all, but it’s how things work out in the NBA! That’s the toughest task to make your team playoff-ready, but it’s still possible and the draft is designed to get it done for teams in re-building mode. Then, after establishing a coaching staff and a system, which fits the superstar and some proven players on the roster (the core), you have to recruit the right role players for your intended style of play.

Pursuing players from teams playing a whole different system than your team is one of the mistakes GM’s are regularly committing. They pay a player for his effort on his old team, that he is just unable to perform on his new team. Age, skill and the opportunity to play are only few of the things that have to be considered, when it comes to the expected performance of your signing. Example is given by the James Posey signing of the Hornets, who got the midlevel exception (four amazingly long years) despite his easy to foresee decline because of age and his shortcomings as a supplement to Chris Paul and the teams’ style of play, which is completely different in comparison to that slow-pace offense Posey exceled in with Boston or Miami. The main result of that signing is called a bad contract, that is almost impossible to move right now. To me, another example is the Blazers’ signing of Wesley Matthews for the MLE this offseason. I really liked him in a Jazz uniform last season and the age criterion is no problem here, but coming out of nowhere and playing solid in Jerry Sloans particular system are reasons to belive that the Blazers just signed yet another bad contract. We will see how this will work out soon.

Sometimes, players surprise everybody with their play, although nobody really thought they would even get playing time. That’s the other side of the coin. Marcus Thornton played reasonable well in college and got the opportunity to play in the NBA with a team and system that desperately needed a shot taking and high scoring guard like him. His mind set, his attitude, his skills and his experience on the college level were more important to become a solid role player, than being drafted in the lottery or being identified as a great talent by NBA scouts or fans. Those players often own the too-good-to-be-true contracts and those are pretty rare in the NBA, compared to the amount of bad contracts. Especially when it comes to non-rookie contracts. Because of that point, it almost seems that GM’s are only able to find those guys, when they are unable to mess up by design (the CBA).

You have to be smart when it comes to filling up your roster spots with role players. You can’t afford to have too many bad contract on your books. Therefor it is necessary to get yourself players for moderate conditions, even in free agency. With the financial constraints of the NBA and the owners’ change given, a front office just can’t be so foolish and overpay roleplayers. And fans can’t just bitch about an Aaron Gray signing, just because he is not the hyped talent that you usually get your team in the NBA2K association mode. You have to find the right pieces and stick them together. Let’s take a look at George Hill of San Antonio. If he had been drafted by the Timberwolves in the second round back in 2008 (it was a great surprise when the Spurs picked him at 26), he probably wouldn’t be considered any better than a Rashad McCants type of player, who seems to be out of the league right now.

With my points above, it’s easy to see that the Posey and Mo Pete signings were stupid. They could have signed two or even three serviceable players instead, without losing all flexibility. It’s ironic that the Hornets reportedly pursued Shannon Brown this offseason, because I already thought in 2008 that he could be a nice addition. At that time nobody essentially wanted to sign him.

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