The Future of the NBA

16 Jul 2009

Experts have debated whether or not the NBA is entering another golden age with NBA leaders like LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Dwayne Wade and Dwight Howard all under the age of 30. Looking ahead to the next ten years, the question is which players, executives and coaches will have the biggest impact on the league besides the already established stars? Here is a look at those who will help change the landscape of the NBA.

10. Adam Silver: Deputy Commissioner

David Stern won’t be commissioner forever and once he steps down Adam Silver will be the one announcing the first round draft picks. David Stern has demonstrated how a commissioner can change the landscape of the entire league, nothing more groundbreaking than his decision to no longer allow high school players to jump straight to the NBA.

Currently Mr. Silver oversees the production of all televised WNBA and NBA games, which are shown in 251 countries and in 42 languages.  Under his direction as Deputy commissioner the NBA launched their 24-7 channel NBATV and revamped the network, which includes over 60 affiliate sites including, and  During his tenure, the NBA Entertainment’s Global Merchandising Group has seen record growth and Silver was/is integral in the development of NBA China, which is in charge of the league’s business in greater China, and currently sits on the board of directors.

If Silver’s work as Deputy is any indication of his goals as commissioner, then he will be focused on ushering the NBA into the new digital media age and increasing the impact of the NBA global brand.

9. Kevin Pritchard and Sam Presti

What made RC Buford the best GM in the league? He built the Spurs dynasty primarily through the draft. Most impressively Buford didn’t build his team only through lottery picks. Tony Parker was a late first round draft pick and Manu Ginoboli was a late second round pick. Both became integral parts of the Spurs dynasty. Kevin Pritchard and Sam Presti are positioning themselves into RC Buford status.

Kevin Pritchard created one of the best young teams in the NBA in just three years primarily through the draft. In his first draft as Assistant GM he turned Sebastian Telfair and Theo Ratliff into the #7 pick. He then flipped the #7 pick (Randy Foye) to the Minnesota Timberwolves for future All-Star Brandon Roy. During the same draft Pritchard helped orchestrate a deal that sent Tyrus Thomas and Victor Khrypa for yet another future All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge. Lastly he bought Sergio Rodriguez from the Suns for cash. In 2007 he was promoted to GM and besides drafting Greg Oden with the first pick in the draft, he traded Zach Randolph, Fred Jones and Dan Dickau to NY for Channing Frye, Steve Francis (whom they bought out) and a trade exception. The trade exception allowed Pritchard to acquire James Jones and Rudy Fernandez from the Suns for cash. By the 2008-2009 season Kevin Pritchard built a team that made it to the NBA playoffs and is widely considered the best young team in the NBA.

In 2007 Sam Presti was named General Manager of the then Seattle Super Sonics. Prior to being hired by Seattle he was the Assistant General Manager of the Spurs, where he is credited with encouraging the Spurs to draft Tony Parker. When he took over the Sonics he drafted Kevin Durant and traded Ray Allen to the Boston Celtics for the rights to the 5th pick in the draft, Jeff Green. Both of his draft picks were named to the NBA All-Rookie team. However, Presti wasn’t done making moves and later signed and traded Rashard Lewis to the Orlando Magic for a 2nd round draft pick and a trade exception, which allowed Presti to acquire two unconditional first round draft picks and Kurt Thomas from the Phoenix Suns for cash. He used his 2008 draft pick to select Russell Westbrook with the 4th pick in what many people thought was a reach. However. Westbrook was later named to the NBA All-Rookie team. After drafting James Harden in the 2009 draft, Presti has created one of the most complete young teams in the NBA. Though the Thunder haven’t turned the corner, experts agree that the Thunder are the young team to watch out for in the future.

With Presti and Pritchard at the helm, the Trailblazers and Thunder are on the rise. Both General Managers are building their teams while maintaining financial flexibility to ensure their ability to keep their core together. Within the next ten years both Portland and Oklahoma City will be the class of the West, thanks to the two best young General Managers in the league.

8. Mike D’Antoni

D’Antoni has taken the idea of run-and-gun to a brand new level. LeBron James as a full-time power forward? Mike D’Antoni said he could envision “The King” playing the 4 in his offense.  24-second shot clock? That’s 16 seconds too long for Mike D’Antoni. His 8 seconds or less offensive philosophy turned Steve Nash into a two time league MVP. Granted, Steve Nash was an All-Star before D’Antoni, but his system turned Chris Duhon from a borderline NBA starter to a Point Guard who was top 10 in the league in assists.

Mike D’Antoni’s system brings excitement to the league. Over the past six years Mike D’Antoni coached teams averaging 106.4 points per game. Three times over the past six years his teams have averaged over 110 points. His teams don’t worry about defense but they know how to put points on the scoreboard. Putting points on the scoreboard sells tickets and boosts ratings.

Most importantly, players want to play for D’Antoni. Just about every player in the NBA wants the opportunity to run and get their shots. Even LeBron James expressed praise for Mike D’Antoni to the NY Post.

“He gave me a lot of freedom, it was great to be out there. I watched that system all those years in Phoenix; how they got so many shots and easy baskets. To be a part of that chemistry, be part of the offensive mastermind that Coach D’Antoni is, that was great.” ( Nov 26, 2008)

Mike D’Antoni is a true players coach and with the Knicks positioning themselves for a big 2010 free agency, Mike D’Antoni will be able to win many games in the Mecca of Basketball.

7. Blake Griffin

After the 2007 college basketball season, Blake Griffin shocked experts by declaring he was returning to school. He was guaranteed to be a top 3 draft pick and would have challenged Derrick Rose and Michael Beasley for the top spot in the draft. When asked why he returned to school Blake simply said he didn’t think he was ready for the NBA. In an age when every talented young college basketball player looks jump to the NBA as quickly as possible, Blake Griffin returned to Oklahoma University. His sophomore year, Blake Griffin dominated the NCAA and won National Player of the Year. He improved every aspect of his game and coming into the NBA draft there was no question that he would be the number 1 pick.

Blake Griffin processes freak athleticism, excellent strength and has the drive to be great. When he worked out with the Clippers he not only completed the drills for the forwards but also did the drills for the guards. It was reported that he handled the ball better than everyone present at the workout including combo guard, Anthony Goods. Griffin came into the summer league with the eyes of the world on him. Everyone wondered how Griffin would fair. Griffin didn’t disappoint and scored 27 points in his debut game, including hitting two threes. He showed a complete game that is only complimented by his superior athleticism.

What puts Griffin on this list isn’t just his basketball prowess, but also his personality. Blake has the personality to become the superstar of LA’s other team. Elton Brand was an all-star as a Clipper but never had the personality to be a true NBA superstar. Blake won’t have that problem and has already said he one day wants to be on Saturday Night Live.

I won’t put Blake Griffin into the hall of fame based on a few summer league games and amazing workouts. He will, however, one day be the NBA dunk champion (he did hit his head on the backboard during a college game) and he gives the second team in LA what they desperately need, a franchise personality.

Tomorrow I will dive deeper into the top ten and reveal picks six through three.