The G.O.A.T., His Airness, MJ, Superman…Michael Jordan has gone by many nicknames but it is undisputable that he’s the greatest basketball player who has ever lived. Jordan redefined the record books and defined his era with his scintillating play, clutch shots and worldwide appeal. On the court as a player and off the court as a pitchman, Jordan laid down the blueprint for which every successive NBA player has tried to follow.
Jordan’s reputation as a basketball player and as a marketer are unequaled. However, he hasn’t had the same success in his basketball executive career which dates back to the Washington Wizards. In 2000, Jordan became a part-owner and the Director of Basketball Operations for the Wizards and would “unofficially” hold those titles even as a player with the team. He would remain with the Wizards until 2003 and then would join the Bobcats front office in 2006. With his hometown team, Jordan was initially a minority owner and the Managing Member of Basketball Operations. Four years later he became the majority owner of the Bobcats who are now known as the Charlotte Hornets.
In both Washington and Charlotte, Jordan has had his ups and downs which makes these tenures very different than his one-sided playing career. We will revisit the “downs” of MJ’s executive career as we look back at some of the moves he wishes he could have a mulligan on. Hey, maybe we will even include a move or two that did not involve Washington or Charlotte but still had Jordan’s fingerprints all over it. Here are the 15 worst management decisions made by Michael Jordan.
15. Refused To Let Isiah Thomas Join The Dream Team
Jordan didn’t start calling the shots when he took over the Wizards as MJ had some control over who made the Dream Team roster in 1992. Jordan and Isiah Thomas had feuded for years as the Bulls and Pistons met in the playoffs every year from 1988 to 1991. Thomas was the ringleader behind the infamous walkout that the Pistons executed when the Bulls finally toppled Detroit in the 1991 playoffs. Thomas had also organized a freeze-out of Jordan in the All-Star game years earlier. There was bad blood between the two and when the Dream Team was being assembled in 1991, Jordan said he wouldn’t join the team unless Thomas was NOT on the team.
As a result, John Stockton ended up nabbing the backup point guard spot behind Magic Johnson even though Thomas was likely the fourth most famous basketball player in the world at that time behind Jordan, Magic and Bird. Stockton is a HOFer himself, but this would be like if there was an all-time team created with today’s players and Chris Paul was left out for…Tony Parker. Both great, both Hall of Famers, but no one would pick Stockton and Parker over Thomas and Paul, respectively.
14. Traded Away Rip Hamilton For Jerry Stackhouse
Jordan’s UNC bias came into play with this trade which altered the course of Detroit Pistons history. Rip Hamilton had just averaged 20 PPG as a 23-year-old when he was shipped from DC to Detroit for Jerry Stackhouse who averaged 21 PPG but was 28 years old. Stackhouse would play just two seasons for the Wizards and he averaged 15 PPG just one more time in his entire NBA career. Hamilton would average 15 PPG seven more times in his NBA career and become an NBA champion with the Pistons. As for how the Wizards fared after the trade: Washington went 37-45 with the Hamilton-Jordan wing combination and 37-45 with the Stackhouse-Jordan wing combination. At least Washington had one of the toughest guys in the NBA in its locker room.
13. Drafted Cody Zeller Fourth Overall In 2013
The Hornets were in need of some size as they approached the 2013 draft and were looking for the eventual replacement for Al Jefferson. There were plenty of available big men in that draft but Jordan decided to go with someone with a high-floor, low-ceiling type of potential in Zeller. Yes, Cody Zeller is clearly the best of the Zellers but there were many better options available. Steven Adams went eight spots later and Rudy Gobert went at the end of the first round. Even Gorgui Dieng, who was picked 21st overall, has proven to be a better NBA player than Zeller. Big Handsome isn’t a bust, but he also wasn’t worthy of a top-four pick. At least Jordan didn’t succumb to his UNC bias and throw a bunch of money at Cody’s brother, Tyler Zeller, when he became a free agent.
12. Signed Lance Stephenson As A Free Agent
After leading the NBA in triple-doubles in 2013-14, Lance Stephenson became a free agent and signed a three-year, $27 million contract with the Hornets in 2014. Stephenson’s toxic presence made him a locker room cancer and the Hornets posted 10 fewer wins with Stephenson than they did the year before. Born Ready was bad for the locker room and just as bad on the court as he was benched just 25 games into the season. He didn’t post a single triple-double in his lone season with Charlotte and had just two double-doubles. Stephenson was one-and-done in Charlotte and was shipped to the Clippers after the season for Spencer Hawes who also didn’t contribute much on the court, but also didn’t wreck chemistry off the court.
11. Traded For Dwight Howard
This doesn’t has as much to do with Howard’s performance on the floor (which is diminishing each year), but rather his reputation and contract. He called out his coach in Orlando, nearly fought with Kobe in LA, alienated teammates in Houston, and irritated his Hawks teammates so much that they celebrated in jubilation when he was traded away.
Yeah, I wanna play with that guy.
Howard is the oldest guy with the Hornets which, theoretically, means he’s supposed to be a team leader. Yet, in his 14 NBA seasons the only thing Howard has led in is fart decibels. Howard is also owed over $47 million over the next two seasons which all but eliminates Charlotte from making any moves in 2018 free agency. Any chance of Charlotte landing DeMarcus Cousins, DeAndre Jordan or even Carolina native, Chris Paul, are unfeasible with Howard’s contract on the books.
10. Drafted Jared Jeffries 11th Overall In 2002
I promise you, at one point Jared Jeffries was a good basketball player. It just happened to be in college as he was the Big Ten Player of the Year and led Indiana to the NCAA Title Game. MJ put too much stock into Jeffries’ college performance as he proved to be a serviceable-at-best NBA player. Perhaps Jeffries just came along too soon and would have fit in better with today’s game which relies less on physicality than it did 15 years ago. Jeffries never found a true position and never developed into anything more than a defensive specialist. The 2002 NBA Draft wasn’t dripping with talent as it had just four All-Star players but there were still better players that Jordan could have drafted. Carlos Boozer, Tayshaun Prince and even Matt Barnes turned out to be better NBA players.
9. Let Bobby Simmons Walk In Free Agency
Simmons is a Chicago native who grew up during the Jordan era. In 2001, he was drafted by Seattle by Jordan and the Wizards then traded for him. He never became a star but was named the Most Improved Player, played 10 NBA seasons and made over $50 million in salary
Unfortunately, most of that came with other teams besides the Wizards as Simmons wasn’t retained as a free agent after the 2003 season. What makes this even stranger is that Washington actually traded Simmons away a year earlier, but he was then waived by Detroit, only to then re-sign with the Wizards. Thus, he clearly liked playing in Washington but the Wizards apparently didn’t see much potential in his game. His potential was reached with the Clippers who he won the MIP award for. Simmons is now a counselor for the NBA Players Association.
8. Traded Away Tyson Chandler In 2010
This entry is more of bad luck than anything else as Chandler could never stay healthy during his lone season in Charlotte. He was a double-double machine before in New Orleans and was a world champion and DPOY afterwards in Dallas and New York; but he couldn’t stay on the court in between in Charlotte. He played in just 51 games and started just 27 of those as he shared time with dinosaurs Theo Ratliff and Nazr Mohammed. From the 2004-05 season until now, Chandler has averaged at least 8.7 rebounds in 12 of 13 seasons. The one season he didn’t was his one season in Charlotte where he averaged just 6.3 rebounds per game. As a result, Charlotte got pennies on the dollar when they traded him to Dallas for three players who would start a combined three games for Charlotte.
7. Turned Down The Celtics’ “Herschel Walker Trade Offer”
One of the great “What Ifs” in recent memory is, “What if the Hornets had accepted the Celtics’ offer of six draft picks (including 4 first-rounders) for the No. 9 pick in the 2015 draft?” Charlotte ended up taking Frank Kaminsky with that pick but had they accepted Boston’s offer, then the entire landscape of the NBA would have changed. Instead of Boston hoarding all of these draft picks, it could have been Charlotte. Could Kyrie Irving have ended up in Charlotte instead of Boston? We’ll never know but we do know that Big Frank ended up in Charlotte where he’s been…meh. Kaminsky hasn’t adjusted to the NBA three-point line and his 3P% in his last year at Wisconsin is actually higher than his overall FG% in the NBA.
Three years into his NBA career, Kaminsky has yet to emerge as a starter and is looking like a career backup big man. Chances are that at least one of those six draft picks would have developed into a better player than Kaminsky.
6. Hired Sam Vincent As Head Coach
Vincent played seven seasons in the NBA and spent one-and-a-half years as a teammate of Jordan with the Bulls. After retiring, he became a coach for various foreign teams and minor-league teams. He didn’t even land an assistant coaching job in the NBA until 2006 and just one year later, he was Charlotte’s head coach. Patrick Ewing spent a decade as an NBA assistant coach, was a far better player than Vincent, and still couldn’t land an NBA head coaching gig; but Vincent got one after just one season as an NBA assistant? You can imagine how the season with Vincent at the helm went. Charlotte went 32-50 in Vincent’s lone season as they won more games both the year before and the year after Vincent was coach. After being fired in 2008, Vincent resumed coaching in the minor leagues.
5. Drafted Gerald Henderson Over Danny Green In 2009
Picking a Blue Devil over a Tar Heel? Granted, nearly everyone passed over Danny Green as he lasted until the 46th pick, but you would have thought the UNC connection would have tipped the scales in Green’s favor. Henderson was selected 12th overall as the team looked to replace the aging Stephen Jackson at shooting guard. Henderson was a good, but not great player in the ACC which is what you could also say about Green. However, Green has proven to be the better NBA player and is the perfect “three-and-D” in today’s game.
Henderson may not be a better player than his father was and was just a part-time starter in his eight NBA seasons. He had hip surgery this summer and is currently a free agent. He is expected to miss all of the 2017-18 season and it’s unknown if he will ever play again.
4. Drafted Michael Kidd-Gilchrist Second Overall In 2012
MKG has the kind of competitiveness which rivals that of Michael Jordan himself. However, Kidd-Gilchrist’s offensive game is closer to Baby Jordan (Harold Miner) than Michael Jordan. It’s hard to be an effective perimeter player in the NBA when you can’t shoot and Kidd-Gilchrist has gone through more shooting motions than Cal Ripken Jr. went through batting stances. Through his first five NBA seasons. MKG made all of seven three-pointers which would have been a low number for a small forward in 1987. MKG always brings it defensively which is why he’s a starter, but you need a two-way player with the second overall pick. It’s actually kind of shocking that Jordan didn’t go with former Tar Heel Harrison Barnes with this pick as he was still on the board. Barnes isn’t a star, but he’s also not invisible on both ends of the court and is a better all-around player than Kidd-Gilchrist.
3. Signed Larry Hughes
Hughes was one of those players whose potential always exceeded his performance. After not living up to expectations in Philadelphia and with the Warriors, Hughes signed with the Wizards in 2002. There was just one problem: Hughes was a natural two-guard, as was Jordan who was playing with the Wizards and as was Jerry Stackhouse who was just acquired in a trade. Hughes was forced to play the point guard position which was a poor fit from the start. He averaged just 3.1 assists per game on the season which was the lowest amount for any starting point guard. Perhaps just as bad, Hughes was forced to guard opposing point guards and was ill-equipped to do so.
Once Jordan retired, Hughes moved to his natural two-guard position and produced better instantly. His average increased by six points in the 2003-04 season and the next year he averaged a career high 22 PPG and led the NBA in steals.
2. Selected Adam Morrison 3rd Overall In 2006
Jordan’s infatuation with college performance, rather than NBA potential, peaked in 2006 when Adam Morrison became the third overall draft pick.
I’m sorry…that’s two-time NBA champion, Adam Morrison.
Morrison was Jordan’s first-ever draft pick and is undoubtedly one of the biggest busts in NBA history. He started only 28 games during his three year NBA career and was drafted ahead of Kyle Lowry, Paul Millsap, Rajon Rondo, and Brandon Roy….But he still has two more rings than Barkley, Ewing, Stockton and Malone combined. Perhaps Morrison’s NBA legacy won’t be with him being a bust, but with the fact that the man never showered:
Jared Dudley said Adam Morrison never used to take showers, at one point Gerald Wallace had to force him to shower. (SI)
— NBA RETWEET (@RTNBA) September 29, 2015
1. Drafted Kwame Brown First Overall In 2001
The G.O.A.M. (Greatest of all mistakes) for the G.O.A.T. is drafting Kwame Brown in 2001. After a dominant high school career in Georgia, Brown told then-coach Doug Collins, “If you draft me, you’ll never regret it.”
That’s not quite on the Peyton Manning-level for pre-draft guarantees, but it’s close.
Brown would go on to become perhaps the biggest NBA bust until Anthony Bennett came around. That is, despite, playing 12 seasons and making nearly $64 million in his career. Brown struggled with maturity and lacked the work ethic needed to succeed. He thought he could just show up and dominate like he did in high school but didn’t realize he had a target on his back for being the top overall pick. One spot after Brown was drafted, another high schooler named Tyson Chandler was drafted and he’s still playing today.
Other players drafted after Brown include Pau Gasol, Zach Randolph, Joe Johnson and Tony Parker. Perhaps the only redeeming quality for Jordan selecting Brown is that Brown was a bust with every team he played for. He didn’t leave Jordan and the Wizards and suddenly blossom into a star so it’s likely whomever would have drafted him would have gotten a subpar player.
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