Ripple Effect

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on July 31, 2013 under Commentary, Interviews | Be the First to Comment


Many expected the time during the Las Vegas Summer League to mainly just be centered on the prospects as they were looking to show the Mavs made the right decision in making a commitment to them. It would also be geared towards the ones that were trying to prove they deserve an opportunity to go to training camp.

Instead, the time saw those games being played with major shifts in the main roster being made. Probably the biggest shakeup saw the Mavs bring a new person into their front office mix. The team agreed in principle with Houston Rockets vice president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas to become the franchise’s new general manager.

Rosas, 35, began his nine-year tenure with the Rockets as a video coordinator and scout, and rising to executive vice president of basketball operations. With Rosas as general manager of Houston’s D-League affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, the team won two championships and reached a third league finals.

One thing is certain: if you want to make it through the ranks as a front office type in the NBA, you probably need to start as a video coordinator. Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra’s claim to fame was the fact he started as the video coordinator for the Heat and emerged as now one of the best coach’s in the league.

The move really raised some eyebrows. What did this mean for president Donnie Nelson? He was essentially the de factor general manager since 2005, when his father, Don, left the franchise. Was there going to be a shift in the collective balance of power within the organization? Owner Mark Cuban joined Galloway and Company on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM last week and communicated about the move in more details.

It’s time to decode what he was actually saying.

Why Rosas?

Cuban said: I went to Donnie (Nelson) and said, ‘look, Donnie, we need to get smarter as an organization. We need to really expand what we’re doing.’ We try to take pride in being one of the most technologically advanced teams out in all of professional sports, not just in the NBA and to keep on pushing the envelope into new directions that I wanted to go. We wanted to add not just brainpower but organizational, management and process power. I asked Donnie to go out there and find out who we thought would be the person to do that. He came up with Gersson’s name. We’ve been talking to him for, I don’t know, maybe a month or so. We decided to go for it.

Gersson is General Manager because we thought that was the appropriate title, but he’ll report to Donnie. He’ll work closely with me. He’ll work closely with Casey Smith, Don Kalkstein. He’ll really just give us one more smart person to interact with and to help us make smarter decisions.

My take: It certainly sounds like the Mavs, as an organization, are trying to pursue new avenues to help the organization get better. That certainly means more time is needed to make that happen. With Cuban and Nelson being the main pieces to the puzzle, they would be stretched very, very thin in order to try to achieve these goals. In order to accomplish this, they needed help. If you’re going to get help, you might as well try to poach from an organization that has shown they can establish a successful organization.

What does this have to do with analytics?

Cuban said: What it was, we really expanded our analytics. We’re developing and expanding what I’m calling bio-analytics and we’re expanding into other areas. If we want to keep pushing the envelope in new technology areas to try to give us an edge, you’ve got to have somebody who has experience in managing those things.

My strength is pushing the envelope. Donnie’s strength is in talent evaluation and pushing the international envelope. We really needed somebody with stronger organizational and management skills to pull these pieces together. As we continue to add new pieces, we just needed that strength. When we found somebody with that process and management skill like Gersson and also someone who has had experience working with an analytics group, working with a D-League team, working in talent evaluation, that was just an added plus that made him the perfect candidate.

My take: There are a lot of buzzwords in there and trying to present new information. It’s up to you if you think the bio-analytics are hooey, but this is something that the organization wants to pursue in order to “push the envelope.” It mainly just continues to show validation for why Rosas is the right man to help them in their pursuit of new avenues of success.

What more do you need to learn in this field?

Cuban said: Traditional analytics we’ve been doing a long time and we think we’re pretty good at. You always want new viewpoints and Gersson will definitely bring that. The things he’s done with Daryl (Morey) in Houston, Daryl is really smart in analytics. I don’t expect a whole lot of new stuff there, but whatever we learn is great. We’re really starting to push the envelope in everything from genetic testing to blood analysis to performance technology.

We got rid of our strength and conditioning coach (10-year assistant Robert Hackett), not because he wasn’t a great strength and conditioning coach, but we felt like we needed someone who was more of an expert in performance technology science. When you start pushing the envelope in all of these new technical areas, which I think are going to change the face of how teams do business and we start looking in ways where we can better pick players based on so many different scientific areas and also try to extend their careers, you’ve got to have somebody who has extensive experience in managing a lot of diverse types of performance analytics. It’s hard to explain. You’ve got to have someone with good management skills to help organize and have all of these pieces talk to each other.

I’m not a strong hands-on manager. I think Donnie’s strength is in managing the day-to-day process and evaluation. I think that’s important when you add new departments and groups, particularly technical groups. We felt like Gersson, his ability to manage and improve processes and to integrate traditional NBA elements like scouting, the D-League team, like traditional analytics into some of the new directions that I’ll be pushing and Donnie will be pushing us into. We needed someone with his skill set.

My take: A lot of people hate the baseball-inization of basketball, but it’s just a way that the game is looked at now. Numbers help generate more information. The more data you have, the better conclusion you can make.

It was interesting to hear about “Hack” and him losing his position within the organization. For those who are curious, he bounced back quickly and is with the Milwaukee Bucks in the same capacity. He was present with the Bucks in Vegas during the summer league.

How does this alter the process of making transactions/trades with other teams?

Cuban said: Typically, the way we worked is whoever has the best relationship takes or makes the call. There’s lot of times where agents will call me because I know the agent better. More often than not, the GMs will call Donnie.

There’s all kinds of, I don’t want to call mafias, but consortia that happen around the NBA where people with San Antonio pedigree have a great relationship, people who have worked with us or have had a long term relationship and moved between teams. Really, a lot of time doing deals and having conversations comes to which person has the best relationship with that general manager, president, owner or whoever does the talking for the other team. So, this just expands our ability. When it comes to finally making a decision, it’s always a group effort.

It’s never just, this is what we’re doing and everybody else just has to deal with it. It’s always a conversation and discussion where we try to make an informed decision. We really push people to offer their insights and opinions and we come to a consensus. It’s always more arts and science, so you want as many smart brains as you can that can contribute to the decision.

My take: He’s right on the nose when he says this expands their ability in trades. Adding someone into the mix who has a great relationship with other front office members or potentially agents is always a good thing.

One thing to note with Rosas (an assignment that would be good to look at later), Daryl Morey was clearly the driver of the bus in Houston. He’ll have his fingerprints over everything in terms of transactions that are made. That’s the case, but he’s likely not going to be able to scout draft or international prospects. He’s not going to be able to do that for the draft or smaller deals or minor parts of big deals that are made. That is where Rosas comes into play. What is his “hit rate” on those smaller deals? That might shed some light on the kind of thought process Rosas brings to the table.

The team’s collective body of work can speak for itself. That said, no one is perfect and there is always room for self-assessment and trying to improve. They have an asset in the Texas Legends, their development league team. If he has a lot of experience in that field, he can work alongside Donnie and help in that realm. It’s likely they will have players such as Shane Larkin, Gal Mekel and Ricky Ledo spending a quality amount of time in that area. If they can make sure they truly develop there, they will help with the big boy club.

Would the roster of today probably be a little different if Rosas was hired earlier in the summer? We’ll never know, but it’s relatively safe to assume there would have been some slight tweaks. Does this mean Rosas is in a situation where he has to create something with “flawed” pieces? The Rockets have shown the ability to move pieces swiftly and rebuild on the fly. If there aren’t ideal pieces in his opinion, the team should be able to adjust on the fly. Reloading and not rebuilding is something that Cuban has wanted to do.

Going forward, there is going to be a new voice in the discussion. It might lead to different results. Is this a threat to the system? The Mavs certainly wouldn’t have done that if they felt that was going to happen. When there is an opportunity to bring another smart opinion to the equation, that is going to be considered a good thing.

Bryan Gutierrez writes about sportsmen. He also attended Ball So Hard University. Bryan channels his inner-Clark Kent on a day-to-day basis. You can follow him on Twitter @BallinWithBryan.