Well, the Kings have finally hired a General Manager, and overall, it appears to be a pretty solid choice. Let’s go over Pete D’Alessandro’s track record and speculate on what his leadership might bring to the Sacramento Kings franchise.
The keys to small market success involve salary cap creativity, drafting well, and crafting a roster that fits well. Nick Collison’s deal in Oklahoma City is an excellent example of salary cap creativity. Sam Presti knew his team was 6.5 million under the cap, but he also knew that he would have to re-sign his star players soon, so he offered Collison a deal worth only 11 million for four years, but included a signing bonus of 6.5 million. That way, Collison had enough incentive to sign, but the team was able to maintain salary cap flexibility for the future. While Collison’s contract is unique, it represents the kind of creative thinking that enables small market teams to be successful. Another example of a smart contract was the two year 20 million dollar deal David West signed with the Indiana Pacers. Indiana offered a lot of money on a short deal, which gave West an incentive to sign while maintaining salary cap flexibility for the 2012-2013 offseason.
The San Antonio Spurs are an excellent example of drafting well. The Spurs were lucky to land Tim Duncan with the number one pick, but they have been able to consistently find useful players late in the draft (Tony Parker was the 28th pick, Manu Ginobili was the 57th pick, and George Hill, who was traded for Kawhi Leonard a year ago, was the 26th pick, to name just a few) that has helped them remain successful.
The 2004 Detroit Pistons are perhaps the best example of a team that didn’t have any superstars, yet fit so well together that they were able to win the NBA championship against the star-studded Los Angeles Lakers. Ben Wallace’s defense in the middle meshed perfectly with Rasheed Wallace’s inside and outside scoring ability. Tayshaun Prince’s length at small forward, Richard Hamilton’s quickness and hustle, and Chauncey Billups’ clutch shooting rounded out a perfectly structured roster.
Let’s look at D’alessandro’s track record in Golden State and Denver and see how he measures up in these three categories: Salary Cap Creativity, Drafting Well, and Crafting a Roster.
D’alessandro worked in the Warriors front office during an era that included some of the most exciting moments in team history, as well as some major head-scratchers. During his last two seasons with the team, the Warriors made the playoffs as an 8th seed and upset the top-seeded Dallas Mavericks in the first round. It was one of the most exciting series in NBA history and the Warriors looked like a team on the rise. However, the team decided not to retain Baron Davis, who went to the Clippers, and the following year they missed the playoffs despite winning 48 games.
Salary Cap Creativity
D’alessandro was an assistant to GM Chris Mullin, so we can’t know for sure exactly what influence he had on the Warriors decision-making process. Apparently, Mullin wanted to extend Davis but team president Robert Rowell stepped in and overruled that decision. We can assume that D’alessandro was on board with extending Davis, which makes sense given the fact that Davis was absolutely brilliant when he played for the Warriors, but in retrospect, giving Davis another contract would have been a terrible mistake, as his production fell off sharply after his last year in Golden State.
The Mullin-D’alessandro front office gave out a number of large contracts to undeserving players, including Mike Dunleavy Jr., Troy Murphy, Adonal Foyle, Jason Richardson and Andris Biedrins. This is worrisome to me for several reasons. In a small market like Sacramento, it is very important to be conservative about which players you shell out the big bucks for, as a bad contract or two can hamstring a franchise for years. It can also be hard to attract free agents to a place like Sacramento without overpaying, and when teams do overpay, they end up much like the Warriors were from 2004-2008, playing for the 8th seed and often falling short.
Unfortunately, D’alessandro’s record with Golden State doesn’t measure up very well in terms of salary cap creativity, but I am willing to put most of the blame for those contracts on Chris Mullin. Hopefully, D’allesandro was the mind behind the smart trades that got the Warriors out of most of those contracts.
The Warriors draft history during D’alessandro’s time is a mixed bag. There is the tremendous success of drafting Monta Ellis with the 40th pick in 2005, but then there is also the tragedy of drafting Patrick O’Bryant at 9 in 2006. O’Bryant is no longer in the league. Marco Bellinelli at 18 in 2007 was a pretty good choice, but nothing spectacular. Ike Diogu, picked at number 9 in 2005 never really lived up to his potential.
I would say that, based on his time with the Warriors, D’allesandro is decent when it comes to the draft but not necessarily a major improvement over Geoff Petrie.
Crafting a Roster
The 2007 “We Believe” Warriors were a small but well-constructed team. They had three players average 20 points or more. The most important thing about the roster was that it was constructed to match head coach Don Nelson’s style. Nelson was famous for his small-ball lineups, and for running a lot. D’allesandro and Mullin crafted a roster of young, fast, athletic players that ended up pulling off one of the most exciting upsets ever.
While the Warriors were pretty terrible during D’alessandro’s first two years working in their front office, it’s important to remember that building a team takes time. I would say that filling a roster to fit with a coach, and finding players that will form strong chemistry and play well together is D’alessandro’s biggest strength. Hopefully, he will be able to bring players who will buy into Mike Malone’s system.
Denver Nuggets, 2010-2013
Pete D’alessandro worked under last year’s Executive of the Year Masai Ujiri in Denvor from 2010 until now. The Nuggets have been very successful during that time, despite the awkwardness of the Carmelo Anthony situation. The Nuggets managed to rebuild on the fly better than any other team in recent memory. When Carmelo Anthony was demanding a trade and it seemed like the Nuggets were backed into a corner, their front office somehow convinced the Knicks to completely gut their roster for one player. Ultimately, the trade worked out for both teams, as both have been more successful since the trade than they were prior. The Nuggets have made several other moves since the Carmelo trade, most of which seem to have worked out well. However, when D’alessandro joined the Nuggets, they already had Carmelo Anthony and weren’t exactly starting from the bottom, the way the Kings are. Let’s look at D’alessandro’s record under Ujiri in Denver and see how he measures up against the keys to small market success.
Salary Cap Creativity
Oddly enough, the Nuggets haven’t made a lot of major free agent signings in the past few years; most of their moves were trades. However, they did re-sign some of their own players, including Wilson Chandler, Nene and Arron Afflalo. Nothing against Arron Afflalo, but five years and 43 million seems like a lot to offer for a player that averaged only 8.8 points a game in his first year with the team. The Nene deal was for 67 million and five years, which isn’t horrible, especially when you consider how inflated his price was due to the limited options on the free agent market during the 2011 offseason. Wilson Chandler at 37 million for five years isn’t a bad deal either, but there isn’t anything particularly creative that stands out.
Basically, Masai Ujiri and Pete D’alessandro made several really good trades and then re-signed those players, or else re-signed players and then flipped them in trades shortly thereafter. Last summer’s trade of Arron Afflalo and Al Harrington for Andre Iguodala was brilliant. The trade of Nene for Javale McGee still seems questionable to me, but the Nuggets don’t seem to have suffered too much as a result. Overall, his time with the Nuggets shows that D’alessandro has a lot of experience working out trades and most of them have worked out well. As far as free agent signings, there is nothing really cringe-worthy, but nothing too exciting either.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a very large sample size of draft picks for Masai Ujiri and Pete D’alessandro. D’alessandro joined Ujiri’s staff in October of 2010, and since then the Nuggets have picked Kenneth Faried and Evan Fournier in the first round. The Faried pick worked out very well, which is positive, and it’s really just too soon to tell whether Fournier was a good pick or not. In 11.3 minutes per game last season, Fournier averaged 5.3 points and shot 40% from downtown. He only appeared in 38 games.
The Kenneth Faried pick alone makes D’alessandro’s draft record in Denver is a little better than his record in Golden State, but the small sample size makes it hard to judge.
Crafting a Roster
Again, this is clearly D’alessandro’s strong point. The Nuggets of the last few years have had amazing on-court chemistry, and the pieces fit together extremely well. Not only have they brought in talented players, each move the Nuggets have made has brought in players that have specific roles that fit with what the team is trying to accomplish. They have a young quick point guard in Ty Lawson, and a veteran mentor in Andre Miller. They have three wings, each with their own specialty. Andre Iguodala is an ace defender, Danillo Galinari is a sharp-shooting small forward, and then there’s the versatile Wilson Chandler to fill in the gaps. They have two athletic, tenacious rebounders on the front line in Javale McGee and Kenneth Faried, and the consistent if underwhelming Kosta Koufos to soak up minutes in the middle.
The roster is so well crafted that the team was able to win 57 games with 6 players averaging double figures. George Karl should get a lot of credit for that success, but so should Ujiri and D’alessandro.
In conclusion, Pete D’alessandro seems like a solid hire. He has experience working as a scout, which bodes well for the draft. Despite his uneven draft record in Golden State, one can imagine that if he is calling the shots instead of Chris Mullin, the results will be better. His record on trades is superb. Hopefully, he can oversee a major roster overhaul in Sacramento and make the team competitive in the Western Conference soon!