The NBA's All-Time (Supply Chain) Greats

Who are the all-time NBA greats when viewed through supply chain's prism?

Basketball - Olympics: Day 5
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Before the 2012-2013 NBA season, when the Lakers traded 4 first- and second-round draft picks for Steve Nash, they hoped they were getting THE old Steve Nash, instead of AN old Steve Nash. Injuries will cause Nash to miss the upcoming 2014-2015 NBA season and likely end his playing career.

That news got me to thinking about the NBA’s all-time greats. The Google tells us the:

--NBA’s leading scorer (Kareem)

--player with the most titles (Russell)

--logo (West)

--most promiscuous (Wilt)

--player Larry Legend called “God disguised as…” (MJ)

--player with Karl Malone’s physique, Magic’s court sense and Douglas MacArthur’s flair for returning (LeBron)

But who are the all-time greats when viewed through supply chain’s prism? I set out to answer that question, because, well, if not the Logistics/Supply Chain section – then who*?

On Time Delivery (OTD) – The NBA equivalent of this all-important supply chain metric is “getting the rock where it needs to be when it needs to be there.” There are two players who played in >900 games and averaged double-digit assists: Magic (11.2 assists per game/906 games played) & Stockton (10.5 APG/1,504 games). Magic and Stockton are the gold standard in OTD. The point guard who started this whole NBA-as-supply-chain conversation, Steve Nash, assuming he never plays another game, finishes at an upper echelon 8.5 APG in 1,217 games played.

(Even odds that Nash’s career ends with a token one-day Phoenix Suns contract, so that he can retire as a member of the team he won 2 MVP’s with.)

Inventory Optimization – “optimizing what you have on hand.” Hands down, the 2004 Detroit Pistons. That declaration is usually met with a collective, “Huh?” Hear me out.

Yes, Phil has something like 12 million NBA championships. And, yes, the Celtics have 17 banners hanging from their rafters. And MJ’s Bulls waltzed through their six championship seasons like they were coronations. But here’s what all those studs had that the 2004 Pistons did not – Hall of Famers. When the Pistons won their 2004 chip, they did it with Chauncey Billups, Ben Wallace, Rasheed Wallace, Mike James and Rip Hamilton. The Lakers’ starting five included four future Hall of Famers. Kobe, Shaq, Malone and Gary Payton. The Lakers had home court advantage! And the Pistons dismantled them 4-1. The Pistons exemplified “optimizing what you have on hand” that season. And they did it so profoundly that ten seconds after they collected their Larry O’Brien Trophy – Phil resigned, the Lakers traded Shaq and GP, and Malone drove away in his 18-wheeler, never to return. The Lakers failed to make the playoffs the following season, while the Pistons made it back to the Finals – losing in 7 games to some team from San Antonio that also does a pretty good job of optimizing what it has on hand.

Supplier Relationship Management (SRM) – In NBA terms, I’m going with customers = fans and supply chain managers = owners.

The owners need to deliver a product to meet the fans expectations. And who supplies that product? The players. Ergo, suppliers = players. And for the NBA equivalent of SRM, here’s why Mark Cuban walks away with the blue ribbon. Before Cuban bought the Dallas Mavericks in 2000, the team winning percent was .400. Since then, they’re nearly .700 and they won the NBA title in 2011. Cuban turned the culture around in Dallas and he did it with next level SRM. After Cuban purchased the team, visiting players starting noticing the tricked out amenities in the visitor’s locker room. Cuban put in gourmet buffets and flat screens, leaving visiting players to wonder how well he treated the Mavericks’ players. Many good ones found their way to Dallas. Cuban’s courtside antics made him a fan favorite (i.e. customer satisfaction) and his mastery of SRM has brought consistent glory to the once lowly franchise.

In supply chain, as in life, Cuban wins.

COGS – How much you pay for something versus what you end up getting for it. That’s pretty much the definition of both cost of goods sold and this advanced metric (that I might have invented): Wins Above Replacement (WAR) ÷ salary. WAR tells us how many games a player is personally responsible for winning. Salary is what you paid for said player. LeBron will make $20.6M in salary this season and his WAR is 19.9. Divide his WAR into his salary and you get his COGS metric = .966. Pretty darn good. In fact, LeBron leads the NBA in WAR and even if you factor in salary and use the COGS metric, he’s in the top 2. Look at the top 5 WAR players and then factor in salary to get their COGS metric: 5. Chris Paul - .721, 4. Kevin Durant - .884, 3. Andre ​Igoudala - .935, 2. LeBron - .966… and the overall leader of NBA COGS metric – Dirk Nowitzki – 1.78. The only player with a COGS metric of >1. His WAR is 14.1 and is salary is $7.9M. That’s like a supplier paying you to take a part that you then sell it. Again, Cuban wins.

ROSCO Honorary Supply Chain Manager – In case you’re not a supply chain pro but are considering joining our lofty ranks, consider this: No one’s going to chant a supply chain guy’s name at the next shareholder’s meeting.  To be a supply chain pro, that’s got to be totally cool with you.  The only time the supply chain phone rings is when something’s late or about to be late or showed up teal instead of lavender.  Let the head of sales get the crystal trophies and applause.  Let the CFO golf with the mayor.  Let Rachel in marketing get interviewed by CNET.  The supply chain pro is Gladys’ middle Pip.  The supply chain pro is the guy who’s been a part multiple NBA championships but will never get into the Hall of Fame. Russell has 11 chips, but he’s in the Hall. Cousy, ​Kareem and MJ all have 6 each and all are in the Hall. You know the two players that have 7 chips each but are not in and will never get in the Hall? Robert Horry and Jim Loscutoff. Horry and Loscy probably understood what a good supply chain pro does – which is help create organizations that excel. They missed their calling but through the magic of the blogosphere, they get to become honorary supply chain managers.  Congrats, guys.

*I’m pretty sure that should be “who” but it could be “whom” – either way, the answer to the question is “no one.”