To many Wizards fans, they feel that this job is undesirable. After all, there are major salary cap hurdles for the next several years. They think team owner Ted Leonsis “only cares about the Capitals.”
But ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said that’s not the case. Though there are other GM openings with the Lakers and Suns, the Wizards job is very desirable. Perhaps there is great job security. But the bottom line is that Leonsis is a forward-thinking owner who is willing to invest in technology and is someone people “want to work for.” Here’s the video below:
So the grass may not always be greener on the other side. Maybe this job is a greater opportunity. Who could be the Wizards’ next GM? Here is a list of people who are in the running or could make a case to get the role.
The Front Runner
Tommy Sheppard, Wizards Senior VP of Basketball Operations — So far, Sheppard is the only person who is publicly in consideration for the job. He has made some minor moves already and is interviewing for other jobs including the Pelicans’ vacancy.
The downside is that Sheppard was with the Wizards since 2003 when Grunfeld started. That said, Jake Whitacre doesn’t want you to write him off. Also, multiple NBA teams and USA Basketball have given him praise. Hell, NBA folks like Ernie Grunfeld more than Wizards fans do.
Other Monumental Candidates
There’s a pun there. And there isn’t because Monumental Sports & Entertainment owns the Wizards. But these two basketball minds are in the organization and it’s worth talking about them.
Mike Thibault, Mystics General Manager and Head Coach — He has done a spectacular job rebuilding the Mystics from the WNBA’s worst franchise to a legitimate contender. His son Eric is now the Associate Head Coach and could be his successor. Since Thibault has been an NBA scout and assistant coach for many years, this job isn’t something he can’t do. But what happens to the Mystics’ front office if Thibault becomes the Wizards’ GM? Also, he’s part of Grunfeld’s network, so that’s not encouraging to those of you who believe that’s a deal-breaker.
Pops Mensah-Bonsu, Go-Go General Manager — Mensah-Bonsu is coming off his first year as the GM for the Wizards’ G-League affiliate where they finished 25-25, which is very good for an expansion team. However, it’s just his first year and there are many experienced people who would want this job.
Candidates whom the press mentioned as candidates
Here are two candidates whom have been linked to the job.
Mike Zarren, Boston Celtics Assistant GM — Zarren has been with the Celtics for well over a decade where he’s been involved with analytics and salary cap management. You may also know him for being a regular speaker at the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference which MIT’s Business School hosts annually. He is a graduate of Harvard Law School and also serves as the team’s in-house counsel. Zarren is Danny Ainge’s successor-in-waiting, so getting him is a tough sell.
Tim Connelly, Nuggets President of Basketball Operations — Connelly has been Denver’s top basketball executive since 2013 and the team is coming off a 54-28 regular season in 2018-19. He’s also from Baltimore and even worked for the Wizards for 10 years. He’s also addressed rumors of his interest in the Wizards’ top job by not denying anything...
Others with NBA team GM experience
If the Wizards decide to take a “retread,” here are some options. None of these candidates have been publicly linked to the job.
Masai Ujiri, Raptors President of Basketball Operations — Ujiri has led Toronto’s basketball operations since 2013 where the team won five of the last six Atlantic Division titles. They also had four consecutive 50-win seasons. Before his time in Toronto, Ujiri was in Denver from 2010 to 2013 when he had similar duties. Ujiri is very happy where he’s at with the Raptors where the NBA’s only non-American team is also among the league’s best. So it’ll be hard to pry him away.
Sam Hinkie, former 76ers GM — Hinkie is an analytics consultant for the NFL’s Denver Broncos, but he became famous for being the Sixers’ GM from 2013-16 through an ambitious “gut-it-all” rebuild known as “The Process.” Though he was never able to see the results of it, Philadelphia is coming off consecutive 50-win seasons since Hinkie left, mostly with players whom he drafted. It’s likely that he would do another “Process” in Washington if he were hired, but it could work in Washington’s favor.
Danny Ferry, former Cavaliers and Hawks GM — Ferry is a D.C. area native and the son of former Bullets GM Bob Ferry. He played 14 seasons in the NBA for the Cavaliers and Spurs after a successful college career at Duke from 1985-89. Ferry was able to construct Cavs and Hawks teams that won 60 regular season games at each of his stops, but none won championships. He also was in hot water over reading an offensive comment on a Luol Deng scouting report aloud which ultimately led to his departure. He was most recently the Pelicans’ interim GM but wasn’t hired full-time. Dan Griffin was.
Milt Newton, Bucks Assistant GM - Newton was with the Wizards from 2003 to 2013 as their Vice President of Player Personnel and went to the Minnesota Timberwolves where he was their GM from 2013 to 16. He has since been with the Bucks where things have been rocking and rolling the last couple of seasons.
And more names!
And here are some more people to think about.
Chauncey Billups, ESPN analyst — Billups may be providing his take on basketball teams from a TV studio, but he has interviewed or linked with front office jobs with the Cavaliers and the Timberwolves.
Trajan Langdon, Long Island Nets GM — Langdon is best known in America as a college basketball star at Duke, but Europeans know him best as a superstar guard for CSKA Moscow who won two EuroLeague championships in 2006 and 2008. Langdon led the Brooklyn Nets’ G-League team for three seasons where the Long Island Nets earned the top seed in the east last season.
Arturas Karnisovas, Nuggets GM - Karnisovas owns the Nuggets’ GM title, partly as a move to keep him in Denver and from pursuing a position elsewhere. Before coming to Denver, Karnisoas has served as a European scout and played on the Lithuanian teams in the 1992 and 1996 Olympics that won bronze medals.
Troy Weaver, Thunder VP of Basketball Operations — Weaver served in his current role in 2008 where he saw the Thunder become one of the NBA’s perennial powers despite being in a small market. Weaver was also a D.C. area AAU team coach and assistant coach at Syracuse when Carmelo Anthony was playing there.
Marc Eversley, 76ers VP of Player Personnel - Eversley was in Philly since 2016 and has interviewed for other jobs since. He was with the Wizards before in a similar capacity.
These are far from the only names who could be in consideration for the role. Who would you like to see become the next Wizards head of basketball operations? Let us know in the comments below.
Who would you like to see become the next Wizards General Manager/President of Basketball Operations?
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Someone else (say who in the comments)