TrueMemphis: Grinding it out
A season that began in the afterglow of a first-ever conference finals appearance and the perhaps even headier September designation from ESPN The Magazine as -- wait, what? -- "the best franchise in sports" is in danger of ending with a return to the draft lottery.
You might think that would reflect poorly on an ownership and front office in its first full season on the job in Memphis (and among those still stinging from the messing-with-success decision to part ways with Lionel Hollins, it probably does). But there's more to this story.
When controlling owner Robert Pera and CEO Jason Levien took charge of the Grizzlies at the beginning of the 2012-13 season, they were fortunate enough to inherit Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, Mike Conley and Tony Allen -- the best Memphis quartet since Booker T. & the MG's. But they were also passed some oddly persistent problems with the rest of the roster, a bunch of small deficiencies that added up to a big multiseason drag on the team's contending core.
Grizzlies Continue Playoff Push
How to wreck a franchise
Just one year ago, the Denver Nuggets were locked in a tight battle for the third seed in the West, which they eventually took with a franchise-record 57 wins. They ranked fifth in offensive efficiency, 11th on defense and fifth in overall net margin per possession. Denver's Hall of Fame coach, George Karl, was on his way to winning coach of the year. The team's core of Ty Lawson, Danilo Gallinari and Kenneth Faried was composed of players age 25 or younger. The general manager, Masai Ujiri, just 42, had forged a reputation as one of the brightest executives in the game.
So what the heck happened this season? Instead of watching their team embark on a new golden age of Nuggets basketball, the fans in Denver have watched an injury-riddled squad fall into the lottery, while uncertainty over the team's finances, direction and first-year coach Brian Shaw has mounted.
How can a team veer so far off course so fast? Here's a look at what's led to Denver's downfall.
How did NBA coaches stack up?
What's a coach worth?
It's one of sports' great mysteries.
Advanced stats gurus have wrestled with coaching analytics for years, but there's still virtually no objective measure to rate the guys who draw up the plays and manage the egos, apart from titles and rings.
Our ESPN Forecast panel took a stab at the exercise and collectively ranked all 30 NBA head coaches.
Best, worst drafting GMs
As our week-long look at front offices around the league wraps up and NBA prospects showcase their skills in the Final Four, it's time we focused our attention on the general manager.
Who are the best GMs on draft day?
Four years ago, we tackled that question in the debut of the DRAFT Initiative, our empirical study of every draft since 1989 (the first year of the two-round format). Evaluating draft choices is a tricky task, but our methodology set out to determine an expected value for each draft slot using John Hollinger's Estimated Wins Added metric.
Simply put, the higher the draft pick, the more you should get out of it. Using that historical baseline of draft-slot value, we then graded GMs based on how their draft pick actually produced in the NBA compared to what was expected at the pick. For example, selecting Dirk Nowitzki at No. 9 is far more impressive than getting him at No. 1 overall. And reaching for Kwame Brown at No. 1 hurts more than if he were picked at No. 21 overall. In other words, how many wins did you squeeze out of your opportunities?