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IC Cold Links: SB Nation GM Rankings Miss A Few Points On Bird

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I had to chuckle when I saw Mike Prada's GM rankings posted at SB Nation with Larry Bird listed as the worst GM in the NBA.

There are many members of this community who would agree, but I actually think Bird's has had a pretty solid offseason so far. The draft produced three players that have excited the fan base, betting on young talent after a couple of years of conservative drafts. Plus, the team hasn't made a panic move (at least yet) when several targeted point guard options had offers out of their price range. Maximizing the value of all of their expiring contracts is critical, so I appreciate the patience.

Part of the different feel to this summer can be attributed to some subtle but very meaningful changes in the front office. Ryan Carr took over the scouting department and respected quant, Kevin Pelton was brought in to consult with statistical analysis. So Bird and company have revamped their process for evaluating talent and making decisions and it shows.

The main problem with the analysis is that it falls prey to a common misconception that Bird has had the final say on all basketball matters since the 2003 offseason. Some of the contract extensions and two of the trades (Artest and Jackson/Harrington to GS) attributed to Bird were actually completed by Donnie Walsh, since Walsh assumed control of the basketball operations following the brawl. Plus, the Jermaine O'Neal trade remains a remarkable accomplishment for Bird even with the most slanted hindsight wishing J.O. wasn't dealt so his $23 million was off the books this summer. J.O. had to get out of that locker room, but that's another story entirely.

So this is really the second year that Bird has been in full control of the basketball decisions, an argument we've been over many, many times around here. How Bird completes this year and the state of the team after next summer will be the ultimate measure of his tenure with the Pacers.

The problem is everyone, including me, wants to point a finger of blame in one direction for the last few years of blah. A black and white answer is so much easier to digest. But from the brawl, to a few unsavory nightclub incidents, to coaching changes, draft misses, trades and bad contracts there are several shades of gray splattered on a large group of contributors to the overall mess.

This certainly includes Bird, but I just think it's unfair to pin the ills of the past six years on one person who wasn't actually in charge the whole time.

After the jump, a few links of interest with stories on Lance Stephenson signing, Team USA, free agent signings and an update on spreading Pacers' news in China.