A Basketball Life

Los Angeles Lakers legend Jerry West continues to make his mark on the NBA through his front office involvement with various teams.

When we analyze sports, they usually consist of the good, the bad and the mediocre. One challenge that franchises face is trying to decide what direction their team should go in. Oftentimes, we find teams intentionally putting together bad performances in order to have a good draft pick for the following year. Sports teams struggle to find that healthy balance between rebuilding and staying competitive for the postseason.

In years past we saw the Philadelphia 76ers receive top draft pick after top draft pick, only to have years of embarrassment lead to a recent postseason surge. Is this something to be proud of? Why should teams be rewarded for lackluster effort?

For years, the NBA has been looking for ways to eliminate tanking: losing intentionally to land high draft picks. I don’t know if there is a way to get rid of tanking all together, but there’s one team that has defied the tanking norm. They have found that uncommon balance of building your team for the future while simultaneously being a competitive team. This team is the Los Angeles Clippers.

The Los Angeles Clippers are currently 37-29 in the seventh seed in the Western Conference. This is remarkable considering they have traded or not resigned some of their perceived best players in the last two years. These players include DeAndre Jordan, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and Tobias Harris. In return for these players, the Clippers received much needed draft picks and freed up salary cap space for future players.

At the same time, the Clippers are acquiring players from these trades who have potential futures in the NBA, like Landry Shamet and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. What makes these trades significant is that they have freed up capital room for them to sign two maximum contract players for next year. Next year's free agent class consists of Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Kyrie Irving. These top players should be looking at Los Angeles as a possible destination due to the leadership and managerial skills within the front office. You may ask, who is the protagonist of this remarkable rebuild? None other than the man whose silhouette is used for the NBA logo: Jerry West.

Jerry West is arguably the best front office executive in sports. Every franchise this man goes to turns to gold. West, over the course of his career, has won five NBA championships as an executive. These championships were with the Golden State Warriors and the Los Angeles Lakers. He has an uncharacteristic amount of leverage in attracting free agents and transcending franchises. My question is: Why wouldn’t you sign for the Clippers as a big-name free agent? This guy has all the tools to turn this so-called "rebuilding" team into a consistent NBA championship contender.

A good front office executive is key to sustained success in the NBA. Any executive can just spend a lot of money in free agency and hope that something works out. Just take a look at the current state of the Los Angeles Lakers.

West has clearly figured out how to build a team, and other front office executives should take a page out of his book if they want to achieve success.

Contact Benjamin Polikoff at bpolikoff@colgate.edu.

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