John Gabriel, a former N.B.A. executive of the year with the Orlando Magic, has joined the Knicks’ revamped front office and will assume a major role in rebuilding the roster after seven straight losing seasons.
Donnie Walsh, the team president, appointed Gabriel as the director of pro scouting and free agency, a newly created position. Gabriel’s primary duty will be evaluating current N.B.A. players, with an eye toward future trades and free-agent signings.
Gabriel is well versed in the art of rebuilding. He was the Magic’s general manager from 1996 to 2004, a period in which the franchise lost Shaquille O’Neal to free agency and traded Penny Hardaway, but restocked by obtaining Grant Hill and Tracy McGrady.
Gabriel was named executive of the year in 1999-2000 after orchestrating 37 transactions that netted nine first-round draft picks and created the salary-cap space to sign Hill and McGrady.
After being fired in March 2004, Gabriel joined the front office of the Portland Trail Blazers, who have undergone a transformation that the Knicks surely hope to emulate. Once saddled with a bloated payroll and a roster of bad actors, the Blazers are now one of the most promising young teams in the league.
Also joining the Knicks’ front office is Misho Ostarcevic, who will be the director of player personnel. Ostarcevic was Walsh’s international scout with the Pacers.
Gabriel and Ostarcevic were hired earlier this month, although the team did not announce the moves. Walsh was not available for comment Wednesday.
You can see John Gabriel’s transactions as the Orlando GM at Hoopshype. Looking at his record, he seems to be average. His first two drafts were busts (Brian Evans 27th and Johnny Taylor 17th). But he grabbed arguably the best player in the 2000 draft (Mike Miller) and found Zaza Pachulia in the 2nd round in 2002. The trio of firsts in 1998 didn’t fare well (Michael Doleac, Keon Clark, and Matt Harpring) but there wasn’t much else in that draft (Rasho Nesterovic and Al Harrington would have been better choices as were Rashard Lewis & Cuttino Mobley however the latter two were taken in the second round).
Gabriel was keen enough to trade for Ben Wallace, but Wallace was shipped to Detroit in the Grant Hill trade. Hard to argue with that without putting on your hindsight glasses. Gabriel best move was grabbing Tracy McGrady from the Raptors for a first round pick. Looking through his transactions it seems Gabriel weakness was finding a stable center. He drafted Michael Doleac, Curtis Borchardt, Keon Clark, and Steven Hunter in the first round, but none were good enough to become starters. The Magic used veteran defensive minded journeymen bigs like Bo Outlaw, John Amaechi, and Horace Grant in the post-Shaq era.
After leaving Orlando, Gabriel did work with the Portland Trailblazers. This is a good sign not only because Portland has done a good job in building a strong roster, but their GM Kevin Pritchard is said to be statistical minded. It’s hard to gauge whether or not Gabriel has an understanding of statistical analysis. He did trade for Ben Wallace, but that may have been luck (considering he traded Wallace a year later). Gabriel did also acquire Hill and McGrady, two players who score highly by statistical measures, although both were known superstars at the time.