I recently sat down with Mark Cuban. He is one of the savviest deal makers, Shark Tank investors, and NBA team owners in the country. He knows how to evaluate star talent, as he shared with me during a recent podcast interview.
Why then are so many experts now questioning the logic behind the Dallas Mavericks (owned by Cuban) - recent acquisition of NBA superstar, Kyrie Irving? Isn't it a slam dunk that gets the Mavericks even closer to its goal of winning another NBA championship?
To be sure, Irving is an all-star - one of the most talented basketball players on Earth with an undeniable pedigree. At Duke University he learned key skills under the tutelage of Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski, and in the NBA he is an 8-time All Star, and he has already won a World Championship alongside LeBron James.
But there are risks.
Any organization - from a professional sports team to a Fortune 500 company - should proceed with caution when hiring an external superstar - a savior with a red cape - who is expected to fly in and reinvigorate a struggling organization looking to regain past glory. Often, these splashy hires don't work, mostly because the new addition simply doesn't fit the culture and DNA of the hiring organization.
Here are a few of the most salient issues and risk factors I suspect Cuban and the Mavericks assessed before trading for Irving.
1. The best 'ability' is availability. It's an obvious point, but so often glossed over. Kyrie Irving, for example, was on the bench during key games in both college and the NBA, with a seemingly unending barrage of doctors' notes over the years excusing him from game-time action for injuries- and this is no joke - to his shoulder, finger, toes, biceps, knees, hamstring, quad, thigh, ankle, back and hip! Before you bet the farm on a splashy new hire, make sure they're actually available to play.
2. The star may disrupt team culture. For their entire lives - from middle school to the professional arena - individual superstars are accustomed to being the center of attention. Most players can put their team first - and recognize collective goals, subjugating their egos for the greater good.
But some players let the constant attention, press, and accolades get to their heads. They think they're indestructible and omnipotent, and put themselves ahead of the team, and their actions show it. They have little emotional control or self-regulation, which can disturb player chemistry. Coaches may have a tough time giving feedback and constructive criticism to the star. Team culture, unsurprisingly, is disrupted. Players start resenting the superstar, the team ceases to be a cohesive unit, and losses start to mount.
Organizations should carefully define their core values - what they deeply believe and the behaviors they endorse - get buy-in from all the players on the current roster - and then, only recruit external talent whose core values are clearly aligned with the organization's underlying culture.
Before hiring an external superstar interview former teammates, coaches, family members, trainers, and even psychologists who know the prospective hire. Ask tough questions, paying particular attention to how the player handled adversity. If you skip this step the risk of organ rejection dramatically increases.
Undoubtedly Cuban and the Mavericks assessed these risks and decided it was worth it. Personally speaking, I think Irving is a generational talent. But the question remains - will be fit in? If yes, the Mavericks should be an instant contender. If not, there may be long-term harm to team chemistry, culture, brand, and even the economic value of the franchise.