After reading this over at Top Ten Chicago Sports today, I realized that there is a common misconception about John Paxson. The fact that he is a shitty GM is not in question, but WHY he is a bad GM seems to be something people don't fully grasp.
Being a GM involves 4 basic tasks: (1) Acquiring players through the draft; (2) Acquiring players through free agency and trades; (3) Cap management; and (4) Hiring a competent coaching staff. With everyone furious at Paxson over the Bulls recent run of problems, people are just making sweeping generalizations that Pax sucks at all 4 of these things. I beg to differ.
Lets look at each factor that goes into being a GM and assess Paxson's success and/or failure. First is acquiring players through the draft. This is where the sticking point is. There is a sense that Paxson is a terrible drafter based on his most recent drafts. While Tyrus and Joakim have not lived up to expectation, overall Paxson has done a relatively good job. The mistake fans make in assessing drafts is just assessing how good the player is, and not the value he brought from whatever pick he was drafted at. For instance, Aaron Gray sucks. I mean he is at best a good back-up center in this league. He was a second rounder though! How many guys even get minutes in the NBA from the second round. You can count them on one hand. Gordon, Deng and Thabo were all very good picks. He isn't Kevin Pritchard by any means, but Pax has done well with the picks he had. Also he made the correct decision on Derrick Rose. Beasely doesn't suck, but Rose is better.
Acquiring players through free agency and trades is where Pax went all wrong, and this leaks into the third factor, cap management. The Bulls have made 2 notable trades since Pax came on board. Tyson Chandler for PJ Brown, and Ben Wallace for Larry Hughes and Drew Gooden. The Chandler move was bad, the Wallace move was good (I mean we basically traded one team cancer for another, but got Gooden out of it). The big mistake here is not the trades he made, but the ones he didn't. All the rumors aside about Garnett, Kobe, Pau, etc. coming to Chicago, Paxson's trigger-shy attitude has been costly. The one big free agent signing he did make was a complete disaster, Ben Wallace. It also pushed us up right up against the cap until 2010.
The last factor, coaching, is another area where Paxson did not do bad. Wait, hear me out. Skiles was able to take a young, raw, unmotivated team and turn them into winners. When the time came to take the next step, the players started tuning him out, so Pax got rid of him and tried to hire someone who could take the Bulls to that next level. He tried to hire Mike D'Antoni. But Reinsdorf didn't want to shell out the money so Pax was forced to settle for the much cheaper, and shittier, Vinny Del Negro. Vinny sucks, but that is not Pax's fault.
Anyways, the point of all this is to say that Pax is a decent GM when it comes to drafting and even selecting coaches. His faults lie in actually dealing with free agents and other GMs to bring in good talent and manage cap space. If you take anything from this post, let it be that Paxson is a shitty GM. If you want to look a little deeper though, don't be one of those people who says he doesn't know how to draft, because that is not the problem. You have until February 19th Pax, make something happen.