For an inspired afternoon last Wednesday, the Nets’ Spencer Dinwiddie decided to have a go at the Bulls. This is only tangetially connected to the Raptors because it was revealed recently that Chicago was interested in snagging Toronto’s GM Bobby Webster — but Dinwiddie doesn’t get into that. What he does decide to get into is more fun.
On Twitter yesterday, he annointed himself the GM of the Bulls and went about remaking the roster. Now, was part of this inspired by the fact that Dinwiddie was dumped by the Bulls (in 2016) despite proving himself to be a talented NBA player? I’ll let you decide by perusing the tweet thread below.
To bring this back around to, who else, the Raptors, it got me thinking about which players on the team would make for good general managers when they decide to retire for the game. (Or, as Dinwiddie mentions, if the league allows for player-GMs in the future.) This requires a slightly different metric of consideration from the player-coach transition, because while GMs have to be skilled at interpersonal communication, they also must be more cold-blooded. Through that lens, we arrive at some answers regarding this current Raptors squad.
With that in mind, let’s start at the bottom and work our way to the top.
The Unproven Guys
Patrick McCaw, Paul Watson, Oshae Brissett, Dewan Hernandez
At first blush, it feels a touch unfair to put McCaw, a three-time champion, in this group with a bunch of rookie players. (No offense to Watson, Brissett, and Hernandez, but they’re not running any teams any time soon!) Surely McCaw deserves more consideration than that, right?
In thinking about it, however, there are still a lot of questions about McCaw’s consistency. His uncertainty of play could very well translate to the boardroom, where sharp decision making is of the utmost importance. And if we’re being honest, that whole weird contract snafu of his from a couple years ago, where he escaped the Warriors ended up on the Cavaliers, and somehow got jettisoned to Toronto for less money (for a time anyway), is a black mark in his management book. As it stands, McCaw remains an unproven commodity.
The Nice Guys
Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol, Stanley Johnson, Matt Thomas, Malcolm Miller
Now this bunch of players offers a compelling mix of skillsets and temperaments — but only to a point. The commonality here: all these guys radiate a certain niceness that will ultimately undo them as GMs. To start with, Johnson, Thomas, and Miller all strike me as guys who can get along with anyone. A rival GM would happily take their calls to shoot the shit. But they also would far too unwilling to get into the devious gamesmanship required to win the deal of the day.
As for Siakam and Gasol, we have to acknowledge that talent on the court doesn’t always translate to talent off of it. At this time, Siakam is one of the nicest guys in the league; yes, he’s competitive — as every player at this level has to be — but there’s a happy-go-luckiness to his persona that would undo him in a negotiation. Gasol, meanwhile, has the experience at every level of basketball to know what a team lacks or needs, but he is still perhaps just a bit too nice (unless you’re a coach getting in his way). Gasol would be the kind of GM who would talk himself into things — because he’d want to make it work and not hurt any feelings — rather than making the necessary moves to improve. As with the rest of the players in this group, this makes Gasol a great teammate, but thins his resume as an executive.
The Confident Guys
Norman Powell, Serge Ibaka, Chris Boucher, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Terence Davis
Go figure that this group, teeming with confidence, would be the largest on the Raptors. If we went through every NBA team, the number of extremely confident players would be huge; you just have to have that level of bullishness regarding your own ability to make it in the league. The trick, of course, is being confident while also accepting where you are as a player and a person. In other words, confidence can tip into delusion — which is dangerous. In this we have to acknowledge that some of the most confident guys on the Raptors could maybe be NBA GMs, but they might also turn out to be bad ones.
This is where we find Powell, Boucher, Rondae, and Davis in particular. In their best moments, their confidence translates to brilliance; at the worst of times, it opens a window into absolute calamity. To run down the list, we can admit that lately Norm has rounded a corner into sharp-eyed consistency, but we have a broader body of work to point that suggests more work needs to be done. Boucher and Davis meanwhile still have a lot to prove, even if they insist otherwise beyond all measure of their actual on-court production. And Hollis-Jefferson strikes me as a GM who would wheel-and-deal with all sorts of abandon, come what may. Like his every trip to the rim, it’s a risky venture.
Ibaka does make a case for himself though, I think we can agree on that. Serge is confident and personable. He has a heady veteran presence, in his way, and more worldly experience than many actual GMs. What’s more, lately he’s revealed himself to be adaptable, willing to learn and grow as the game demands. His temper gets in the way though, and while sometimes that anger is just a joke — we’ve seen him throw enough punches to be a tad concerned. Cooler heads tend to prevail in upper management.
The Ruthless Guys
OG Anunoby, Fred VanVleet, Kyle Lowry
It is perhaps not surprising that the Raptors’ two point guards, VanVleet and Lowry, would be at the type of this particular heap. Both have shown again and again how they are indeed the smartest players around in Toronto. More importantly, they’re intuitive, knowing which way to go in various situations depending on what’s called for in the moment. That’s leadership, but it’s also shrewd.
Now sure, Lowry can be manic at times, but that’s sometimes done for effect. He knows when to pick up the pace or when to slow it down, when to get angry or when to play the part of the stone-cold killer. Likewise, sometimes VanVleet can seem a touch passive, but that too is part of his canny ability of knowing just when to attack. Both carry themselves in such a way to keep opponents on their toes at all times. Nevertheless, on top of all these considerations, VanVleet and (especially) Lowry are well-liked in the league, which will open doors for them down the line. It’s not hard at all to imagine a future scenario where one of these two is given the keys to a franchise.
As for Anunoby, consider this: yes, he’s technically a bit unproven, and maybe a bit nice. But he’s also extremely confident and with a streak of silent ruthlessness that puts others to shame. To put it another way: can you imagine trying to negotiate with OG? It’d be like trying to cut a deal with the Terminator. To that, all I can add is: good luck.