Understanding Roster Moves: Operational, Tactical, or Strategic

Everyone seems to understand that the NBA is a business. Yet few seem to apply basic business management principles to their thinking when discussing or proposing different roster moves. Since not every fan has a business background, some explanation is warranted.

Signing Terrence Williams to a 10 day contract is an operational move. Is he part of the teams long range plans going forward? Probably not, although he may turn out to be a pleasant surprise. Due to the injuries though, you still need immediate help to get through the season while maintaining some hope of executing the original plan, a championship this year.

A tactical move in business typically means one for about a year out. In the case of the NBA, you could realistically stretch this to include through the end of the next season. Bringing KG back for two (guaranteed) years which coincides with the end of the Truth's contract is a prime example of a tactical move. Trading either one for a big name talent is not a particularly wise move. If you think of every player's career as a bell curve, a big name talent is usually at the peak of the curve. They are already starting or on the verge of starting their downhill slide. So you close the chance of winning this season while maybe increasing the chances of winning it all in the next two.

What then is a strategic move. Again, in business these are moves that set you up five years or more out in the future. A strategic trade would be one that would make the team competitive for years to come while at the time of the trade would be the most gut wrenching. They would also likely give the appearance of being horrible and stupid. A strategic trade is also highly risky because it would be based on reading a crystal ball and projecting the value of an unproven player into the future. Then again, who knew for sure 15 years ago that Pierce would be a Hall of Fame player?

All this brings us back to and ties in with the trade rumors flying around. Should KG and/ or PP be traded? If it is for an operational type of deal, then the answer is absolutely not! It should not even be thought about for longer than the time it takes to say no. You might consider something along the lines of Courtney Lee to the Grizzlies for Ed Davis (a big) and Pondexter (a player similar to Lee). But KG and PP are definitely out of consideration.

What about a tactical trade? If it means trading KG or PP then the answer is probably not. Most of these type of trades amount to lateral moves or rearranging the deck chairs. Unless the tactical trade is one that qualifies as part of a strategic plan. For example, let's say that you are convinced that Harrison Barnes is the next PP and if we can only get him, we will be set at SF for the next 10-15 years. The problem is, maybe Golden State has no interest in Pierce but would give up Barnes for Josh Smith. So you would have to consider the tactical trade, PP for JS to get HB.

Finally we come to strategic trades. These are the most difficult because not only does your scouting reports and projections have to be right, but the new CBA requires salary matching (within limits) to get it done. So here is the example. We know that KG's career is coming to a close and we will need a replacement for him. In my opinion, Larry Sanders, at least defensively is the most KG like player out there. To trade straight up for his roughly $2M salary you could probably get him for Bradley. The problem is you have (hopefully) solved a problem at center by creating one at shooting guard. But let's say you agree to take Monta Ellis off their hands for PP if and only if they include Sanders. Then this becomes a deal you would have to strongly consider because Sanders is the guy you were trying to pry loose to begin with, without giving up your defensive specialist for the future in Bradley. Ellis is the "filler" in this deal to make it work and becomes an asset or trade chip to go after another target.

The worst of all worlds would be if your projections are wrong. Using Sanders again, he has not done much in his prior two years in the league. You have to think long and hard then "Is this his breakout year or is it a fluke, just a flash in the pan?" Guess right and you are a genius who has made the franchise stronger for years to come. Guess wrong, you are a goat and are probably out of a job.

The sad part is, for one or more strategic trades to work, KG and PP become the most valuable pieces in a deal. They have the most value to a team in a "win now!" mode. Teams that are not worried about winning this year are not likely to part with young talent for either.

I feel sorry for Danny as he is in a lose - lose box. If he trades either or both, he will alienate a good portion of the fan base. If he doesn't make a deal and gets trapped into mediocrity after they retire, he will alienate a separate but probably equal size part of the fan base. I am glad I am not him.

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