In the NBA we spend a lot of time focusing on coaching changes and the impact they are going to have on the team and therefore on how we bet the team. That makes sense – especially because coaching changes are so frequent in the league. When a General Manager is changed, though, not nearly as much thought is typically put into what it means for the team and for sports bettors. A GM can have a huge impact on the team in some circumstances, though, so if bettors aren’t considering what happened they can be missing out on a big opportunity. Here are 10 questions to consider when you are thinking about GM changes in the NBA:
Was he popular internally? – Some basketball GMs are liked and respected by the teams players and coaches. When a guy like that leaves it can be a big disruption for the team, and can lead the players and coaches to question the direction of the team and their role in it. If the GM was unpopular, though, then people aren’t going to be too broken up to see him gone, and they could even get a boost form his departure.
How long had he been there? – The longer a GM has been in his office the more widespread his impact has been, and the more his philosophy and outlook has shaped the team. The longer he has been around, then, the more potentially significant the change is going to be. A guy who gets fired after just a year or two hasn’t had the time to leave lasting impressions that will be hard to change or undo.
Were a lot of players – and the coaching staff – his? – This is an extension of the last question for the most part. If the majority of the personnel with the NBA team were acquired by the GM then they could have some loyalty to him. The new GM could also look to make more changes because what the GM was doing obviously wasn’t wildly successful or he wouldn’t have been fired.
Is the replacement internal or external? – An internal replacement – like an assistant GM moving over to the bigger office – can make the transition smoother because he knows the team and understands its strengths and weaknesses. An external candidate can have a steeper learning curve, and they are also more likely to make significant changes in an attempt to put their stamp on the basketball team.
Is he replaced quickly, or is it a drawn out process? – If a NBA GM is quickly replaced then the team won’t be without direction for long, and the players and coaches won’t get the sense that the team is without direction or focus. If it lingers for a long time, though, then internal confidence can suffer, and external momentum and preparation can also be badly impacted.
Was it a surprise or did everyone see it coming? – It can be harder for a team to deal with a change if it catches them off guard then if they have known it was inevitable for a long time. In fact, if the change has been lingering for a long time then there can be a big sense of relief when it is finally made.
Will it be a casual change or an aggressive one? – Sometimes the new GM comes in and only makes minor tweaks to try and get the parts that are in place to work more efficiently together. Other times a guy will be hired in order to totally and dramatically overhaul a NBA team from the ground up. The more aggressive the change is, the more disruptive it is likely to be.
When did it happen? – The impact of a change is obviously going to be far more significant if it happens in February when the pro basketball season is in full swing than it will be if it happens in July when the players are away from the team, relatively little is happening, and there is time for the new GM to get acclimated and settled in before things get going, so the transition will likely be reasonably smooth.
Was the team struggling or playing well? – If the change happens mid-season then the way the team is playing is a real consideration. If the team is struggling then they likely need a big shakeup, and a GM change would certainly qualify as that. If they are playing well, though, then the change could be far more disruptive – especially if the successful team is not particularly mentally tough.
What’s the front office structure? – Every NBA team defines the role of the GM differently. For some teams the buck stops with the GM – they make all of the key decisions and are solely responsible for shaping the direction of the team. In other organizations the GM is just part of a team that is jointly charged with decision making. Still other professional basketball teams see the President or another executive position exerting at least as much of a role as the GM – and often more. Before you can judge what the impact of the GM change is going to be and how it will affect your NBA handicapping you need to get a good sense of what the role of the GM is on the team.