Danny Ferry agreed to be the general manager of the Atlanta Hawks on Monday. The deal is reportedly for six years, which is longer than most people think the actual position will be held by Ferry. The truth of the matter is that Danny Ferry is unable to escape his tenure in Cleveland. His past failures shadow him wherever he goes. By many, Danny Ferry is considered a bad first overall pick, a bad 10 year contract and an even worse GM. The reason being is because the Cavs failed to even win a single finals game in LeBron James' tenure in Cleveland despite having an excess of cap space and a once in a generation player on the roster.
Casual Cavs fans and outsiders look at the team's 40-108 (a 27% winning percentage) since James left Cleveland for the Heat and are quick to blame Danny Ferry for not constructing a roster worthy of James' talents. With James, the Cavs won 60.8% of their games.
What most people ignore is that Danny Ferry practically inherited a disaster. He was hired on June 27th, 2005, which was twenty five days after Mike Brown was officially employed by the Cavs. He came into a situation with a lot of cap space and a superstar with an impending free agency who was eager to make the playoffs. Starting Ira Newble at shooting guard was not an option and Ferry had to put that cap space to good use. As I outlined previously, Danny Ferry and the Cavs were destined to lose because of mistakes that previous ownership groups and general managers made.
The LeBron James era in Cleveland is seen as a complete failure by most people who did not follow the team closely. Pundits and fans mock Mo Williams and Anderson Varejao. Unfavorable comparisons are made to Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Never mind that the Cavs could never outright sign a player of Wade's caliber like Pat Riley did. That doesn't matter to the black and white world of 140 characters or less. What matters is that Danny Ferry failed to bring a championship to Cleveland, was a failure to LeBron James and the Cavs deserve their destiny for failing to build a team around him.
Between 2008 and 2010, the Cavs won 77.4% of their games. The last team to have a two year run like that was the Boston Celtics from 2007 through 2009. Before that, it was the Dallas Mavericks from 2005 through 2007. Previous to the Mavericks was the Chicago Bulls, who did it in 1996-1998. All three of these teams have won championships in addition to a lot of regular season games. The fact that the Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal led Lakers never won 167 games in a two year span shows how difficult of a regular season accomplishment it is.
In 2008-2009, the Cavs boasted a 4th best offense and a 3rd best defense in the league. No matter how much the Chris Broussards of the world want you to believe it, no one player can play 1-5 on offense and defense and accomplish an elite defense and offense. In addition, the 2008-2009 Cavs had a ridiculous 8.9 PPG differential. In other words, on average, they beat their opponents by almost 9 points per game. Those Cavs teams were legitimately good despite never getting over the hump.
With the way people discuss the Cavs teams, you would think that every single person in the world expected them to fail and that they were horrible. This is a classic case of people using hindsight to affect their opinion of a team and pushing an agenda that so happens to be infuriating to Cavs fans who understand how good some of those teams actually were. For example, ESPN had a poll during the 2009 playoffs asking its viewers who they thought would win the finals. With over 150,000 votes, the overwhelming majority picked the Cleveland Cavaliers.
In September of 2009, it was not uncommon to read season previews such as this one. The Cavs were favored to represent the Eastern Conference in the finals and it was the trendy pick to select them to do so in the preseason. Of the ESPN preseason panel, over 60% of the experts expected Cleveland to make the finals for the second time. The reasoning given on the "Summer Forecast" was not only LeBron James, but his improved supporting cast.
The pundits and analysts who believed that the Cavs had a strong supporting cast for LeBron James are nowhere to be found anymore. Bloggers like Yahoo! Sports' Kelly Dwyer once touted the team around James. Is it a "solid supporting cast" or a "dodgy supporting crew"? The narrative about Cleveland's ability to build a team pulled a complete 180 before LeBron James even finished uttering "South Beach" on that Thursday night in early July of 2010.
Danny Ferry did a solid job of building a team considering the limitations he had. He was lacking multiple first round draft picks and watched a player who eventually became a 20 and 12 guy walk away due to the incompetence of the previous ownership group and GM. Ferry inherited a disaster and he did the best with what he had. All of his decisions were not perfect, but there is not a single GM in the league who can boast that distinction. He built a team that won a lot of games, defended and scored efficiently. Unfortunately for him, the proof is in the rings and he did not secure any of those for the franchise.
I trust Danny Ferry to do well in Atlanta. His six year contract offers him security to make long-term decisions. The roster is capped out and not a championship contender, but Danny Ferry will have almost all of the time in the world to make the necessary changes.