Breaking the mold in creative ways

Updated: October 27, 2004, 12:29 PM ET
By Chad Ford | NBA Insider
Think outside of the box. That's what John Weisbrod, Danny Ainge, Ernie Grunfeld, Billy Knight and Bernie Bickerstaff have to do if they are going to turn alsoran franchises into contenders.

Each GM has an enormously different task in front of him.

Weisbrod, who was sick of the soft, prima donna culture in Orlando, has brought in 10 new players.

Ainge believed the Celtics needed more athletes and over the course of the past 12 months has almost completely gutted a team that, two years ago, competed in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Grunfeld inherited the team that Michael Jordan built and ultimately destroyed by returning to the court and stifling the development of his young players. With a new, hotshot coach and a smorgasbord of young, inexperienced talent, Grunfeld's hoping that the new roots will start to take hold.

Knight is following Denver GM Kiki Vandweghe's lead, trading away high-priced players for cap room in an effort to build the team from the ground up. Only three players remain from last year's squad, and only six players have contracts that extend beyond this season.

Bickerstaff has had the most difficult (or easiest, depending on who you ask) task of all. He started with a blank slate and $30 million in cap space this summer. The team he put together is the youngest, most inexperienced unit the league has seen in recent memory. They're going to lose more games than anyone in the league this year, but their future couldn't look brighter.'s Marc Stein says that Suns' Steve Nash could turn the Suns from lottery fodder into a playoff contender. Here's Insider's season preview of five other teams in the process of redefining themselves.

Chad Ford

ESPN Senior Writer