Are The Warriors Right? They Believe Their GM Is Smarter Than Yours

Bob Myers vs. Larry Riley vs. Yogi Bear

Is Bob Myers any good? Joe Lacob, owner of the Golden State Warriors, demoted Larry Riley and promoted Myers to General Manager a little over a week ago. As Lacob told me by email recently: “Trust us. We will get to the promised land. I promise.” His premise is simple: Myers’ job is to fulfill his promise to win a championship for Oakland.

Joe Lacob doesn’t know the Warriors’ fate, but he sure has expectations for it. Can we peer into the future alongside Lacob and reasonably expect to see what he sees?

The Future for Joe Lacob and Bob Myers

We already know the Warriors’ next few years will be just like their recent few years. Good teams beget great teams and the bad get worse. Lacob intuitively knows this dark vision of the future too, which is why he was anxious to hire Myers to change it.

As Business Week points out, there will be one dominant measure of Myers’ success: winning games. How many?

  1. Win more than Larry Riley.
  2. Win enough to make the playoffs… eventually.

Riley oversaw a team for three years that won only 37% of its games. Ouch! Lacob handpicked Myers, groomed him for this job, loves his hustle and handed him the reigns after about one year. (Lacob really loves him saying, “Bob Myers is 24/7. He would text me all during the course of the year night, day, call me 11 o’clock at night. I mean, the guy is always thinking about the Warriors and how can we improve this team.”)

Great! Myers has job security, a long rope to hang himself by, and a very low bar to step over. Unfortunately, it looks like he may be doomed to fail.

Is Myers Smarter Than the Average GM?

Joe Schmoe Hiring Yogi Bear

Why would Lacob have hired the guy if he wasn’t the best GM for the job, right? Except when you stop and think about it, every owner thinks that about every GM they hire. How many are right? Not many (if any).

Can we tell Myers apart from the average GM? Fortunately we know a lot about average GMs from their decision-making detailed on this blog. Let’s look at what Myers has said and done to see how he plans to give the Warriors an edge over the competition.

MINDSET #1

“The question is health, and we’re addressing that this week.”

Unless Myers plans to trade for three new ankles to outfit Curry and Bogut, it’s not clear how he’s addressing this. More likely his comment that “a healthy ballclub [would be] a team to be reckoned with next year” is a passive caveat emptor to season ticket-holders.Will hope differentiate the Warriors? Ouch, no. Injuries damage player’s productivity, but average GMs tend to gloss over this in favor of rosie projections based on pre-injury glories.

Is this a good tactic anyway? No. Even with the wonders of modern sports medicine, NBA competition is so steep that ‘losing a step’ can knock you down to rec ball status quick. (This creates opportunity to invest in younger, healthier, low-cost talent instead.)

Bob Believes Physical Therapy Will Help

MINDSET #2

We are satisfied with our scorers.

Myers said, “We have players at the major positions that matter now.” He’s talking about Curry, Thompson, Wright, Lee and Bogut. What do they all have in common? They’re all double-digit PPG scorers.Will scorers differentiate the Warriors? No. Readers of this blog will recognize this as the Yay Points! fallacy all GMs suffer from.

Is this a good tactic? No. Inefficient scorers can actually hurt your team and lose you games, in spite of their high PPG totals. (This creates opportunity to target efficient scorers who are undervalued by other GMs.)

Warriors were down 191-93 to the Thunder at one point this season

MINDSET #3

“We realize we need depth… It’s more about shoring up depth.”

Flowing from his satisfaction with their scorer-starters, Myers wants backups to his starting five, which likely means targeting what are called “role players.”Will depth differentiate the Warriors? Not really. During the regular season, depth helps (in part due to replacing productive starters who can get injured). This benefit tails off during the playoffs when rotations tighten up. This is a generic tactic other GMs employ, however.

Is this a good tactic? Not really. It over-values existing assets and gets trapped striving for ‘structural symmetry’ in the roster. (There is far better opportunity in a far simpler tactic: always acquire better players no matter what position, role, or roster spot they can fill.) (Editor’s note: depth does not win titles. Quality at the top does)

We need to get James Cameron deeper

MINDSET #4

“We need to get a little bigger.”

Myers pegs a ‘front-line big guy who can rebound and defend’ as the key to making the playoffs and competing for a championship. He also backpedals to say he’ll “always be on the look-out” for such a player. He’d feel lucky to get such a player, which hints that he’d also overpay to get him.Will this tactic differentiate the Warriors? No. This bit of conventional wisdom is partly right–height helps win basketball games to a point–but is exactly what other GMs also highly value.

Is this a good tactic? Sort of. Very tall people who can play basketball are exceedingly rare. Therefore, keep ‘em if you got ‘em. However, acquiring them usually means overpaying. (A better tactic is to get great players who happen to be slightly shorter than average GMs expect: see Rodman or now McCollum.)

We need to get bigger

MINDSET #5

“Adding a veteran would be great.”

This old chesnut sounds perfectly reasonable. A GM acquires a “proven” name that fans easily feel good about. He’s typically a high PPG scorer they already know.Will veterans differentiate the Warriors? No. Every average GM thinks this. Competition here drives up price for veteran talent and leads to settling for 2nd or 3rd options (see Kwame Brown, Richard Jefferson).

Is this a good tactic anyway? No. It leads to overpaying for inefficient scorers on the decline of their career. Remember, players age like milk after 25.

Myers dreams of veteran help

The deeper you go beyond these first five, the worse it gets. Myers seems to think Andrew Bogut is still the #1 pick even though he was drafted seven years ago and only won 43% of his games in Milwaukee. Draft status is apparently evergreen for Bob.

Myers also fell in love with Klay Thompson based on his PPG output in college (19.6 and 21.6 his last two years), even though Thompson is an average shooter and terrible at netting possessions. People who don’t understand the importance of net possessions don’t understand basketball. If Myers did, he would’ve draft Kenneth Faried or Kawhi Leonard instead and been 7 to 9 wins richer this year alone.

Sadly, Bob Myers Won’t Help At All

Bob Myers equals Yogi Bear

Myers mindset pegs him as an average GM trapped in conventional wisdom. That kind of leadership in personnel and payroll decision-making will get the Warriors nowhere, leaving their fate to chance alone. As a die hard Warrior fan, that sucks so much I can’t take it. I’m turning to this rant.

For the past 20 years the Warriors have served as losing yang to the Spurs, Lakers and others’ winning yin. For somebody to win, somebody else has to lose. That is the way of the game. But it doesn’t have to be the way of the Warriors.

“You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going, because you might not get there.” – Yogi Berra

Joe Lacob needs a real plan. Right now he is overconfident about his own expertise, his GM’s ability to hustle, and the future. His strategy is no different and no better-informed than any other owner, nor are his tactics. I only wish he’d turn to his more experienced neighbor just across the way and ask…

Joe Lacob asks his neighbor Billy Beane for advice

Otherwise when Bob Myers calls him up at the eleventh hour with a deal, Lacob will have to ask: Should I pick up the phone or just flip a coin?

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