New Faces in New Places: NBA Executives
As NBA enthusiasts, we all think we know what’s best for our favorite teams. Whether it’s a deal gone wrong, a signing gone awry or a draft pick gone bust, NBA fans around the country feel like they could’ve done a better job given the same situation.
This is why NBA General Managers have such a tough gig.
In the NBA, there’s a good amount of turnover in the front office because generally when there’s a public backlash for player personnel decisions, the GM is the first head on the chopping block. A handful of teams found themselves in the situation of needing to replace a GM this offseason and, while some have found an answer, others remain in the market for a new decision maker in the front office.
We’ve already taken a look at the head coaches residing in new places this summer, now it’s time to turn our attention to the front office:
Neil Olshey, Portland Trail Blazers
Last season – Chad Buchanan (Interim GM)
After helping to lead the LA Clippers out of a lottery-bound abyss over the last few seasons, Olshey joins a Blazers squad clearly on the upswing. After agreeing in principle to remain with the Clippers this offseason, Olshey decided it was best for the two sides to part ways and joined the Blazers to become the 10th GM in franchise history.
The Clippers reached the playoffs this past year for only the second time over the course of the last decade thanks to a few savvy moves from Olshey and the Clipps front office. Some of Olshey’s subtle moves over the past few offseasons played a huge role in that other LA team becoming contenders in the West.
The signings of Caron Butler, Reggie Evans and Randy Foye helped transform the Clippers and Olshey will be looked upon to do the same with a young, up-and-coming team in Portland. The combination of Clippers owner Donald Sterling opening up his wallet and one huge break (the LA Lakers trade for Chris Paul being rejected) helped Olshey succeed and also helped fuel Portland’s desire to bring Olshey in this summer.
Heading into next year and beyond, the onus will be to put quality veteran pieces are an already stout young Blazers core and Olshey’s track record suggests he will be up to the task.
Rob Hennigan, Orlando Magic
Last season – Otis Smith (fired)
Perhaps just as much as Stan Van Gundy, the Dwight Howard saga took a huge toll on Smith and signaled the end of his reign as GM of the Magic. Smith made his fair share of head-scratching decisions during his seven-year tenure with the Magic and the final straw was Howard’s desire to leave an overpaid, talent deficient roster in Orlando this summer.
In his place steps Hennigan who, at 30, becomes the youngest GM in the NBA after stints in the front office with both the Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs. One of the first tasks for Hennigan was how to deal with a disgruntled star in Howard, as the best center in the NBA clearly wanted out of Orlando.
When the dust finally settled early in August, the Magic were able to grant Howard’s wish even if what they got in return wasn’t exactly ideal in the eyes of both Orlando fans and critics of the deal alike. Moving forward, the Magic got exactly what they wanted from the Howard trade which is flexibility heading into upcoming seasons. With that, Hennigan will have a chance to prove in stripes as he tries to infuse some talent into a Magic team that had grown stagnant in terms of its direction over the last few seasons.
Kevin Pritchard, Indiana Pacers
Last season – David Morway (contract not renewed)
Despite Larry Bird winning NBA Executive of the Year last season and the Pacers giving the Miami HEAT all they could handle in the playoffs, both Bird and GM Morway resigned this offseason. Stepping in to fill the void in their place are former New York Knicks President and GM Donnie Walsh and former Blazers GM Pritchard.
Luckily for the new pair, the duo they are replacing have set this Pacers team up with a young and formidable core heading into next season and beyond. Both Pritchard and Walsh have had their share of criticism in the past, and each was relieved of duty in leading roles with the Blazers and Knicks, but this could be a good situation for the tandem to prove their mettle and keep this team on track.
Starting center Roy Hibbert is already locked in for the foreseeable future and standout forward Paul George is locked up for at least the next two years with the Pacers having the option to sign him to an offer sheet in 2014.
Dennis Lindsey, Utah Jazz
Last season – Kevin O’Conner (resigned)
With one of the top GM’s in the NBA in O’Conner moving to a higher executive position within the Jazz organization, Utah has turned to former San Antonio Spurs assistant GM Lindsey to take the reins. Replacing O’Conner, who has spent the last 13 seasons at the helm for the Jazz, won’t be easy but the pedigree of coming from a perennial contender with the Spurs will certainly help smooth the transition.
Utah already features a solid team with a good mix of veteran talent and young players on the precipice of taking that next step. Figuring out what to do with the logjam in the frontcourt should be Lindsey’s first priority but possessing too much talent on the interior shouldn’t exactly be considered a dilemma.
Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap are set to become free agents next summer and both Derrick Favors and Gordon Hayward will also be early extension candidates. The summer of 2013 will be a great test for Lindsey as he will be in charge of a myriad of decisions that will affect the Jazz for years to come.
Teams Still Searching
Los Angeles Clippers
Last season – Neil Olshey (resigned)
Losing Olshey was a blow to the Clippers and, while not exactly still reeling, LA has yet to select a new man for the job. Clippers’ Director of Player Personnel Gary Sacks, who has virtually been working as the interim GM since Olshey left the team, has been discussed as an option.
Outside the organization, former Denver Nuggets GM Kiki Vandeweghe, VP of Basketball Operation for the Philadelphia 76ers Tony Dileo and former Blazers GM John Nash, among others, are options for the vacant position.
Regardless of who takes the reins, next summer will be a crucial time for the future of the franchise. Aside from Blake Griffin, most of the roster will be in flux including centerpiece Chris Paul and vital personnel decisions will need to be handled appropriately so that the Clipps don’t fall back into NBA oblivion.
Last season - Rod Thorn (resigned)
There’s been a few different interviews over the past week and it seems Philadelphia has narrowed its search for a new general manager. As of now, former Blazers and Memphis Grizzlies’ assistant GM Tom Penn and former New Orleans Hornets GM Jeff Bower are rumored to be the leading candidates to land the job.
Earlier this offseason, the Sixers made a bold move in acquiring former Lakers’ center Andrew Bynum and are set up nicely for the upcoming season. However, Bynum will be a free agent after the season is done and point guard Jrue Holiday will have the opportunity to hit the free agent market if Philly decides not to extend a qualifying offer.
Does your team have the right person in charge to lead the way into next season and beyond? Should the teams above have gone in a different direction? Let your voice be heard in the comments section below!