Lots of kids want to grow up to be professional athletes.
But I think the coolest job in sports is being general
manager of a pro team. The GM usually is the person who
hires the coach, picks the players and makes the trades
that hopefully will bring the team a championship.
The National Basketball Association draft is next week,
so it's a fun time to imagine that you are the GM of an NBA team. The Orlando Magic has the first pick of all the players
(college, high school and foreign) eligible for this year's draft.
So let's say the Magic's pick was up to you. What would you do?
Pick a college star? Emeka Okafor, the center from the University of Connecticut, was probably the best college player in the country last season. He is a proven defensive stopper who blocked 441 shots during his three-year college career. Okafor also improved steadily on offense, hitting 59 percent of his shots for the Huskies.
So what's not to like? Well, Okafor is only 6 feet 9. That's huge for a regular person, but not for an NBA center. He may not be able to dominate the middle in the pros like he did in college.
Still, Okafor is super-smart. He was an "A" student who got his diploma in three years. He should be able to figure out a way to help his team win.
Pick a high school hotshot? Dwight Howard is an 18-year-old power forward from Southwest Christian High School in Atlanta, Georgia. He is supposed to be this year's teen phenom, like LeBron James was last year.
But players such as James, who can pass, rebound and score 20 points a game right out of high school, don't come along very often. Three high school players were among the top four picks in the 2001 NBA draft. Here's how many points, rebounds and assists those three -- Kwame Brown, Tyson Chandler and Eddie Curry -- averaged per game in their third season in the pros.
Pts.Reb.Ast.Brown10.97.41.5Chandler18.104.22.168Curry22.214.171.124Not exactly superstar numbers. So picking a high school player is a gamble. The kid may be the next Kevin Garnett or you may end up paying him big bucks while he learns how to play ball with the big boys.
Trade the pick? If you don't think any of the players out there is the next Shaquille O'Neal, Tim Duncan or Allen Iverson (all first picks in their draft year), maybe you should trade the pick for a proven NBA player. But the other GMs in the league are not dumb. If you don't think the players in the draft are so hot, chances are you won't get a great player in a trade either.
So what are you going to do? Pick Okafor? Take a gamble on Howard? Or make a trade?
I'd take Okafor. But it's tough being the GM and having to make decisions like this. Sometimes, picking the players can be harder than playing the game.
Fred Bowen writes KidsPost's Friday sports column and is the author of sports novels for kids.