Best, worst drafting GMs

DRAFT Initiative looks at how general managers have fared since 1989

Updated: April 4, 2014, 3:17 PM ET
By Tom Haberstroh | ESPN Insider

Isiah Thomas and Steve MillsREUTERS/Mike SegarAs GM of the Knicks, Isiah Thomas at least drafted well.

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?

For more on the methodology, give this a read.

Let's update those numbers to reflect the last five drafts. To qualify for this particular list, the GM would need at least 10 picks on his resume. Luckily for former Cleveland GM Chris Grant, he does not appear on this list since he made just eight picks over his four-year tenure. On the other hand, GM Gregg Popovich would have easily ranked as the top drafter (i.e. Manu Ginobili at No. 57 and Tony Parker at No. 28), but he didn't qualify with just nine picks. He'll console himself with four championship rings.

So, what do we find?