"The days of being able to strategically plan four and five years out are over," a general manager says. "Everyone has [cap] room, so everyone is in the mix."
When half the teams in the league have big money to spend, multiple bidders emerge for marginal players, and that's when things get loopy. That loopiness is compounded by those shorter contracts, because even if a team spends itself into oblivion, the hurt will be over before they know it.
"Teams' behavior has changed," another general manager says. "The rollover free-agency dollars is impacting supply and demand." More simply put by an exec sitting alongside him: ""There's a lot of cap space and people are using it."
This brings us to a counterpoint that directly contradicts the aforementioned idea that it's impossible to plan under the current CBA:
"All of the sudden, contracts are more manageable," said one general manager. "You can have an eye toward the future."
In other words, the train is moving faster than it ever has before -- it's just nobody knows where it's going.
Ask two exces about the offseason misfortunes of the Daryl Morey and the Rockets and you'll get three opinions. Morey has always been a polarizing figure in basketball, a case study in the benefits and hazards of disruption. And for those who find his methodology suspect and his public persona off-putting, July has been a cause for glee.
"Daryl wants everyone to think he's the smartest person in the room -- and he is smart, no doubt," says one front-office executive. "But let your influence speak for itself. Stop taking victory laps."
In the eyes of his critics, Houston's offseason amounts to dealing Chandler Parsons, Omer Asik, Jeremy Lin, a first-round draft pick and a second-round draft pick for Trevor Ariza, a first-round pick and a trade exception.
But Morey also has his admirers around the league, and while they might not regard him as a prophet, they see the Rockets' summer as, in the parlance of the analytics movement Morey has helped popularized, a case where a well-drawn process just didn't yield the intended results.
"He took a risk and you can't fault him for that," a team exec says. "Sometimes the best-laid plans don't work out. But they still landed two max players and kept cap room."
Another general manager characterized much of the criticism as sheer jealousy, but added that there's a growing perception around the league that Morey treats his players as assets in a game of arbitrage, something that's alienating players and their representatives.
It's rare to sit with a team strategist or scout without a reference to the San Antonio Spurs as the model, which has been the case each of the past three summers. So let's set them aside, because this is the closest subjective opinion to empirical fact.
More than a couple insiders cited the Phoenix Suns as a managerial success. "They keep acquiring high-value assets," said one general manger, "But the big thing is that they're putting a great product on the floor while they do it. A lot of people in our business forget that part of the job."