Over the weekend, rumors surfaced suggesting Trail Blazers GM Kevin Pritchard‘s days with the team are numbered. This would have seemed crazy not too long ago, when Pritchard was treated like a rock star in Portland and credited with building one of the League’s hottest up-and-coming young contenders. So what’s the problem now? Two Dime writers debate just how important (or expendable) Pritchard is to the Blazers:
KEEP KEVIN PRITCHARD (by Daniel Marks)
If the Blazers are seriously considering axing Kevin Pritchard — and all indications are that he may very well be on his way out — then Paul Allen is absolutely insane.
Pritchard is the mastermind behind the team’s transformation from the “Jail Blazers” into a team that has recaptured the adoration of the city of Portland. He has built a team with a great young core, has locked up those young stars, and is one of the best in the game at making shrewd, subtle moves to improve his team. He shouldn’t go anywhere.
Pritchard joined the Blazers in 2003 as director of player personnel at the height of the “Jail Blazer” era, when the team was full of malcontents like Rasheed Wallace, Ruben Patterson, Bonzi Wells and Qyntel Woods. While the players had talent on the floor, there was no chemistry, and the loyal fan base had been effectively alienated. Pritchard helped the Blazers dispose of Darius Miles, Wells and Wallace in 2004, and while the team continued in a downward spiral, Pritchard was named assistant GM in 2006, where he could officially begin to work his magic.
As assistant GM he was responsible for the brilliant 2006 offseason that finally helped the Blazers close the books on the “Jail Blazers” era. First he traded a troubled Sebastian Telfair and Theo Ratliff to the Celtics for the No. 7 pick in the ’06 draft. He traded the rights to Randy Foye (7th pick) and cash to Minnesota for the rights to Brandon Roy, this deal coming after he traded the rights to Tyrus Thomas and Viktor Khyrapa to the Bulls for the rights to LaMarcus Aldridge. The following year he traded away Zach Randolph, one of the last remnants of the Blazers’ troubled past, to the Knicks for Channing Frye, a trade exception, and spare parts. While Frye was far from a great player in Portland, Randolph needed to go for the team to move forward, and the trade exception netted the Blazers sharpshooting forward James Jones and the 24th pick that year (Rudy Fernandez) from Phoenix. The following year Pritchard was up to his magic again, as the Blazers acquired the rights to Nicolas Batum, who has proven to be a dead-eye shooter and solid defender, for the rights to Darrell Arthur and Joey Dorsey, who have yet to prove themselves in the NBA. He also acquired Marcus Camby from the Clippers this year in a move that re-energized the Blazers. He has turned a troubled and unsuccessful club into one of the most exciting young teams in the league and restored faith in the franchise in Portland.
Not only should Pritchard keep his job because of his track record, but also because there is nobody better available. While Sam Presti, the whiz-kid in charge of the Thunder’s miraculous turnaround, is mentioned, he won’t leave OKC. He has put too much time and too much effort into that team not to see it through. Also, it is not as if Presti would be stepping into a more desirable situation in Portland, but one equally or even less desirable than in OKC. Recently fired GMs from the past few years like Danny Ferry, Billy King, Kiki Vandeweghe and Kevin McHale could be options, but none of them have nearly the impressive track record that Pritchard does. While the Blazers could hire a rising assistant GM from a team like San Antonio or OKC, there is no need, as they already have one of the top GMs in the game. Firing Kevin Pritchard would be a massive mistake motivated not by basketball reasons but personal ones, and while Paul Allen may be personally satisfied if Pritchard is gone, the Blazers won’t be better off for it.
SET HIM FREE (by Adam Flomenbaum)
Of all the GM’s in the league, Kevin Pritchard is one of the most competent. But how much is this truly saying? According to a poll consisting of myself and Coach Newman, 62% of NBA GM’s are incompetent so Pritchard is in relatively good standing. I am not saying Pritchard deserves to be fired, but with reports that his Portland house is on the market and the fact that he has had months of struggle with Blazers’ ownership, it is time for him to leave, and more importantly, Blazers fans should not be in too much distress.
Pritchard has certainly made great moves in stockpiling young talent, but how many more years can Blazers fans use this as an excuse for being a mediocre playoff team? At what point is Pritchard going to be held responsible for this regrettable reality? Blazers fans cannot keep hanging their hopes on Greg Oden’s uneven legs and broken kneecap. The fact is, he will never become the center they drafted #1 overall, and though nearly all GM’s would have taken him #1, Pritchard knew about his injury history and he knew that Kevin Durant existed (Bowie-Jordan?)
What about the 3-year, $21 million contract given to Andre Miller? Even last year, Pritchard desperately tried to get Hedo Turkoglu to sign at an even more exorbitant price that the Raptors paid. Now Bryan Colangelo is taking the heat. Portland even tried to give Paul Millsap too much, but the Jazz matched the offer sheet. Each would have made the Blazers a better team, but all these recent moves have been made in a Ferry-esque manner: playing catch-up. Pritchard’s best recent move may have been in acquiring Camby, but even this move was made in desperation.
Again, Pritchard had widely been regarded as a good GM, but if the Blazers part ways with him it is not the biggest loss. He has shown a talent for acquiring players with great potential but has similarly shown that this is not enough to advance deep into the playoffs, especially in the West. One potential candidate that the Blazers should look at is Sam Presti’s Assistant GM in Oklahoma City, Rich Cho. He is close with Pritchard and has been the salary cap and negotiating expert for the Sonics/Thunder for 11 seasons. Don’t be surprised if Cho’s name comes up a lot to fill the potential vacancy. Frankly, at this point, he may be the better option.