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NBA AM: Who Are The Next Wave Of GMs?

As the NBA season comes to a close this week a number of front office jobs will come open, here is a second installment of the names on the rise list.

Steve Kyler

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Who’s Got Next – Part 2:  As the NBA season comes to a close on Wednesday a number of coaches and executives will likely be let go, especially personalities on teams that failed to meet expectations. Last season saw 13 coaching changes and eight front office hires. There won’t be nearly as many open front office jobs, but it looks like three or four opportunities could surface. Last week we took a look at some of those jobs and worked through a list of possible candidates.

Like most lists, the feedback from around the league offered up several more names to consider, so here is the second wave of ‘likely to get interviewed’ front office candidates.

Doug Collins:  As bad as it went for Collins in his final days with Philadelphia, there is still a sense that he has some fans among NBA owners looking for a “face-of-the-franchise” guy. It’s possible that Collins gets his name associated with some of the front office jobs that come up, but there is doubt in NBA circles that Collins would be back with a team so quickly. When it comes to known candidates Collins is that, but its seems unlikely that he is hired this year, but he does seem like someone that’s going to get linked to jobs based on feedback from others around the league.

Joe Dumars:  The worst kept secret in the NBA is that Dumars is out in Detroit. Those around the process call it a mutual decision. Reports from the region say Dumars will hang around as an adviser to the team while he finds his next job. Word is he may have one, and it’s not the Cavaliers, however other things have to play out first. Do not be surprised to see Dumars land in a team president’s chair fairly quickly after the season ends and teams begin to make changes.

Tony Ronzone:  Currently with the Dallas Mavericks as Director of Player Personnel, Ronzone is a seasoned veteran. He has coached at virtually every level and was responsible for international scouting for Team USA for years. Ronzone was the first American to coach the Chinese National team and has organized and held clinics in more than 50 countries. He’s won gold medals and NBA championships. Ronzone has a track record for finding the diamond-in-the-rough type players and is a world traveler. Ronzone was in the mix for the Sacramento job last year and was a name mentioned by several insiders as one of the better pure basketball guys of the bunch. Few would-be front office candidates have Ronzone’s basketball pedigree. He is absolutely a name to watch this summer.

Chad Buchanan:  When asked to list potential candidates for soon-to-open General Manager spots, Buchanan’s name was one of the first mentioned by a wide range of NBA insiders. Buchanan acted as the interim general manager in Portland prior to the hiring of Neil Olshey and is well liked and respected in NBA circles. Buchanan is currently the Director of College Scouting for the Blazers, and combined with the team’s draft history and their current on-court success Buchanan is a name to watch, especially as teams look for a new face and a new direction.

»In Related: Top 100 NBA Draft Prospects.

David Morway:  Most of what the Indiana Pacers have today came on Morway’s watch. The Pacers have always had a complex decision making hierarchy and Morway typically played the role of day-to-day manager. Morway is a smooth front-facing executive who is smart with the cap and a good day-to-day leader. As teams like New York look for someone to run the show every day, Morway becomes an interesting candidate. Morway was one of the finalists for the Sacramento Kings job and was in the running for Phoenix too. It’s very likely that Morway is at the head of the class this summer as well. Morway is currently the Assistant General Manager in Milwaukee and with the team potentially being sold this summer, change at the top in Milwaukee could push the current staff out and open that situation up for new faces there too.

Bobby Marks:  Another name that appeared on virtually everyone’s list was Brooklyn’s Bobby Marks, in fact there was talk last summer that Marks was on Memphis’ radar to replace Chris Wallace, who was doing the dance with Sacramento. Marks is highly respected both for his understanding of the front office of a NBA team, but also as a scout and talent evaluator. Most insiders who commented on potential openings labeled Marks as a ‘can’t miss hire’.

»In Related: NBA Team Salary Cap Situations.

Mark Hughes:  Another name that was on virtually every list was New York’s Mark Hughes. Hughes’ background is more on the coaching side too, having coached in the CBA for several years before landing with the Orlando Magic in 2002. Hughes has been a scout with Knicks for several years and currently carries the title of Director of Pro Personnel for the them. Hughes is extremely well liked and people that have worked with him say it’s simply a matter of time before he is running a NBA team.

Frank Ross:  Currently with the Washington Wizards as Director of Player Personnel, Ross also spent some time as a scout for the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Charlotte Bobcats. Ross was a highly touted player at American University. Ross’ name surfaced on a number of lists and from all accounts he is a name that could sneak into a job this year much like Rob Hennigan did in Orlando two years ago and Ryan McDonough did last year in Phoenix.

»In Related: NBA Draft Picks Owed.

Ryan Carr:  Currently the director of scouting for the Indiana Pacers, Carr was another name on several lists. Carr has been a key part in the Pacers’ overhaul and with the success they have had this year he is likely going to be mentioned in connection with more than a few open jobs. Carr has been more of a behind the scenes guy in Indiana, but when you look at the gems they have found late in the draft, Carr has been a big part of that.

Adam Simon:  When you think of the Miami HEAT you normally don’t get very far down the list, mainly because of how compartmentalized the organization is, however Simon was a name mentioned several times by insiders as a guy that is likely going to get looks from NBA teams. Simon has been with the HEAT in almost every capacity possible including serving as a video intern at one point. Simon currently carries the title Assistant General Manager for the HEAT, but also acts as the team’s D-League affiliate General Manager. Simon is well regarded as a talent evaluator and a solid cap guy. He too could be an under-the-radar hire this year, much like Pete D’Alessandro was for Sacramento last year.

Matt Lloyd:  In the first installment of this list last week, Orlando Assistant General Manager Scott Perry made the list, however several NBA insiders were adamant that Magic Assistant GM Matt Lloyd was more likely to land a GM job first. Lloyd has come up from the bottom, starting as a member of the game night staff in Chicago while working his way into media relations and ultimately into a scouting role with the Bulls. Lloyd is an extremely hard worker and has a solid basketball resume. Lloyd has done a lot of the heavy lifting for the Magic on the draft front for the last two years and has been a key part of the Magic’s rebuild. If the insiders are right, look for Lloyd to get some looks around the NBA this summer.

Justin Zanik:  Currently the assistant general manager of the Utah Jazz, Zanik was a long-time sports agent. Zanik is as dialed into the international scene as almost anyone, but when it comes to savvy deal making Zanik is among the tops in the business. Given that Zanik just landed the Jazz job it might take him another year or two before he gets real consideration for a GM job, but he is absolutely a candidate worth talking to.

Gersson Rosas:  Currently with the Houston Rockets, Gersson left last summer for a brief stint with the Dallas Mavericks that did not work out. Highly regarded in NBA circles as a keen talent evaluator, Rosa handled the General Manager duties for the Rockets D-League team the Rio Grande Vipers during two championship runs. Rosa has held virtually every job you can hold in a NBA front office, Rossa is a name to watch again this summer.

Insiders Video: Phoenix Suns guard Goran Dragic talks about dropping to the Dallas Mavericks and being banged up in the loss.


Today’s Six Things:  Every day we try and give you six things you may have missed, so without further ado; here are today’s Six Things:

More Twitter:  Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to ensure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @AlexKennedyNBA, @TheRocketGuy, @LangGreene, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @SusanBible @TommyBeer, @JabariDavisNBA , @NateDuncanNBA , @MokeHamilton , @JCameratoNBA and @YannisNBA.

Steve Kyler is the Editor and Publisher of Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA and basketball for the last 17 seasons.

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NBA AM: Was Watson Setup To Fail or Just Ill Equipped?

Was Phoenix’s Earl Watson setup to fail or did he just not have the tools and experience to overcome the tenuous job of a rebuild?

Steve Kyler

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Set Up To Fail? Maybe

The Phoenix Suns have parted ways with head coach Earl Watson just three games into the 2017-18 season. Associate head coach Jay Triano is expected to be his replacement as interim head coach.

Some have suggested that Watson was set up to fail, but let’s be honest for a minute. Was Watson really the best option the Suns had after parting ways with Jeff Hornacek during the 2015-16 season? Watson was well liked and that an easy and intoxicating concept, but even as an interim coach Watson won just nine games in 33 tries.

It’s not as if Watson took the team in a totally new direction; the Suns were a bad team when they took the gamble on Watson. Moving the needle wasn’t exactly likely when the massive inexperienced Watson took over the team. Is anyone really surprised he couldn’t make it work?

Sure, the roster and the priorities of the franchise were an uphill climb, but let’s be real for a minute: The Suns couldn’t have expected Watson to have the tools to bring it all together. Rebuilding is hard all by itself, and doing so with a head coach that has never coached isn’t exactly smart. In fact, it rarely works out.

It’s easy to say Watson was set up to fail, but equally easy to say he never had the experience to believe he’d be successful. It was a gamble on the Suns’ part, a gamble that ran its course.

So What Next?

The Suns are not very good, as three straight blow out losses have proven. It’s possible that Triano can make enough changes to at least get the Suns to compete, but the word in NBA circles was the Suns locker room had basically quit after three games, so Triano’s task may be tough for even a coach that been around the block a few times.

Like Watson, Triano is incredibly likable and approachable, but unlike Watson, Triano has experience. Triano has experience not only as a head coach, having coached the Toronto Raptors for three years, but he is the head coach of the Canadian National Team and has been on the Team USA and Portland Trail Blazers staff as an assistant. While Triano’s stint in Toronto looked a lot like Watson’s stint in Phoenix, the big difference is Triano has been around a lot more situations and may be better equipped to put a system and structure in place that could yield improvement, or at least that’s the newest bet the Suns are making.

With Triano at the helm, it’s also likely that the front office will have a better relationship than what’s emerged in Watson’s time in Phoenix. General Manager Ryan McDonough and Watson haven’t exactly been on the same page, and Watson had grown emboldened enough to make it clear in the media somethings were not in his control, often taken subtle shots at decisions made by the front office.

It is rare for inexperience and dysfunction to yield success. The hope is Triano will smooth some of that over.

“I Dont wanna be here.”

As news of Watson’s firing began to leak Suns guard Eric Bledsoe, who had a very good relationship with Watson, took to Twitter to announce “I Dont wanna be here.”

Bledsoe has been a constant name in NBA trade circles for the last few years, and with Watson out of the picture, Bledsoe seems to be looking for the door too.

The 27-year-old Bledsoe has two more seasons remaining on his deal, $14.5 million this season and $15 million owed for next season. The Suns have listened to offers on Bledsoe off and on for some time, with many in NBA circles believing this would be the season the Suns would finally trade him.

With Watson, a long-time champion of Bledsoe, out of the picture, there is a belief that Bledsoe’s role is going to decrease, which is likely why Bledsoe took to Twitter.

Pulling off a trade three games into the season seems highly unlikely, especially given that Bledsoe has likely killed his own trade value. There have been several teams over the last two seasons with interest in Bledsoe; the question is, will the Suns close this chapter or try and see if Bledsoe can help them right the ship under Triano and rebuild some trade value when the trade market opens up in December?

$41.11 Million

Of the Phoenix Suns’ $85.448 million in guaranteed contracts, $41.11 million belongs to Bledsoe, injured guard Brandon Knight and center Tyson Chandler. You can toss $10 million more for injured forward Jared Dudley. While Bledsoe and Chandler have played in all three regular-season games, both are not part of the long-term future of the team.

The question becomes, what role will they play under Triano?

The Suns are truly a tale of two teams. There is the old veteran squad that is clogging up the top of the Suns salary cap chart, and there are rookie scale players that are the future, and not coincidentally the players performing at their worst so far this season.

Will the Suns just let the $41.11 million owed at the top just sit, or will the Suns try and fire-sale some of those veterans? The belief is they would like to do the latter.

As much as people may want to say Watson was set up to fail, the evidence in the situation is he was never proven enough to succeed.

The Suns are in a dreadful no-man’s land of bad contracts and underperforming players. Maybe a more proven established coach could have set this situation in a better direction, but the reality is Watson was never experienced enough to handle a rebuild like this because getting the most out of players while losing is a very tough job even for the most experienced of coaches.

Watson, like many before him, will find another job in the NBA. Maybe like Triano who is replacing him, he can take the lessons learned in Phoenix and become a better coach somewhere down the road and get a shot with a team that wouldn’t require as much as the Suns desperately need.

More Twitter: Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to ensure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @MikeAScotto, @LangGreene, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @TommyBeer, @MokeHamilton , @jblancartenba, @Ben_Dowsett, @SpinDavies, @BuddyGrizzard, @JamesB_NBA, @DennisChambers_, and @Ben__Nadeau .

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NBA Sunday: Kristaps Porzingis Sure Looks Ready To Be The Franchise

The Knicks hope Kristaps Porzingis can become their franchise. Thus far, he seems up to the challenge.

Moke Hamilton

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He stood in front of his mentor, isolated, just like they used to do in practice.

He’d seen the jab steps before and the head fakes—they were nothing new. And when Carmelo Anthony mustered the acceleration he still has in his 33-year-old legs to drive around Kristaps Porzingis, Anthony knew he had the 7-foot-3 Latvian big man beat.

Anthony triumphantly rose to the basket and delicately attempted his right-handed layup. Before he knew what hit him, though, Anthony’s shot had been sent to the free throw line.

The message was clear—Kristaps had taken the torch.

“It was fun,” Porzingis said about his confrontation with Anthony. “We went at it in practices a lot and one-on-one after practices.

“It was a lot of fun knowing what he was going to do and try to stop him.”

The Oklahoma City Thunder were much closer to the NBA Finals than the Knicks were last season, and removing Anthony from the Knicks and pairing him with Russell Westbrook and Paul George gives the Thunder a triumvirate that can at least conceivably challenge the Golden State Warriors. They are perhaps the only team in the entire league with enough firepower and defensive pieces.

So no, the Knicks may not be hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy anytime soon, but at the very least, the franchise seems to be in good hands—the big, soft hands of Porzingis.

As young NBA players come into their own and attempt to fulfill the lofty expectations that everyone has of them, the third year is the charm, almost invariably. And in that that year, a young player can’t control the other pieces that are around him—that’s why they shouldn’t be judged by their team’s wins and losses.

In that third year, a young player also can’t really control the frequency of his injuries. The simple truth is that many 21 or 22-year-old players simply lack the hardened bones of a fully grown adult that most men become after the age of 25.

But what the young player can prove is that he is prepared to shoulder the burden and take the fight to anyone who stands before him. Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks epitomizes this ideal better than any other young player in the league. He is absolutely fearless and it’s a pleasure to watch.

So is Porzingis.

Since the influx of European-born players began about 20 years ago, we have seen our fair share of “soft” European players. His talent aside (which is considerable), Porzingis has proven to be anything but, and that by itself can help players go a very long way.

In what must have felt like the longest summer ever, Porzingis saw the franchise that drafted him undergo an overhaul that resulted in a light beaming so brightly on him, you would have thought the third-year forward was starring in a Broadway musical.

Say what you want about Porzingis, but he has already done all that he can to notify everyone that have anything to do with the Knicks that his bony shoulders aren’t indicative of the weight he’s capable of carrying.

And in Oklahoma City, against his mentor, Porzingis did the heavy lifting.

“I saw energy,” head coach Jeff Hornacek said after his team’s opening night loss.

“He was great moving. He played 38 minutes, and maybe last year that would be a struggle. He would maybe get tired, and get some silly fouls, but even toward the end on that 37th or 38th minute, he was still up hollering, moving, blocking shots and getting rebounds, so he had a great game and we expect a lot more of that from him.”

Being a Knicks fan is something that nobody should wish on their worst enemy. The franchise has made scores of maneuvers that lacked wisdom and seemingly gone out of its way to alienate people beloved by the franchise. On top of it all, Knicks tickets are among the highest in the entire league.

Fans as passionate and dedicated as Knicks fans deserve a team they can be proud of and a front office that dedicates itself to putting winning ahead of petty feuds and politics.

The hiring of Scott Perry may signify just that.

So when the Knicks traded Carmelo Anthony and ended up getting back 10 cents on the dollar for his value, everyone should have prepared for a long season in New York City.

Coming in, Knicks fans once again found themselves in the unenviable predicament of having to talk themselves into believing that Ramon Session, Michael Beasley and Tim Hardaway were capable of giving this team feel good moments. And while they certainly are, they will surely pale in comparison to the amount of losses that the club accrues along the way.

If there’s one thing the Philadelphia 76ers have taught everyone, however, it’s that the losses don’t necessarily need to be in vain.

So heading into this season, what Knicks fans should have been looking forward to and hoping for is nothing more than the installation of a culture that’s marked by effort, communication and selfless basketball—the hallmarks of the Golden State Warriors.

Aside from that, yes, they should have also come in with the hope that Kristaps Porzingis would take an appreciable step forward and prove himself to truly be a capable franchise cornerstone.

To this point, from the way he holds his head highly, despite a win or a loss, and the way he competes to the best of his abilities, despite his limitations. For now, it’s really all that could reasonably be asked of him.

When it was all said and done—when Porzingis looked the Knicks’ past in the eyes after the Thunder had soundly defeated his New York Knicks—Carmelo Anthony probably told him that he was proud of him and that he wished him all the luck in the world.

He probably told him to continue to work on his game and hone his craft and to block out the background noise.

And above all else, Carmelo probably told Kristaps that he believes he is capable of being his successor.

With his nodding head and serious demeanor, Porzingis, in all his glory, listened intently. Even more so, he believed every word. 

It doesn’t take all day to figure out whether the sun is shining—it’s an adage that remains as true in basketball as it does on a May Day in New York.

For Porzinigis, the bright sky and the beaming sunlight—he’s basking in it all. Not only has he becomes the Knicks’ franchise by default, he believes he’s capable of shouldering the burden.

In this town, that’s more than half the battle.

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Dejounte Murray: The Spurs’ Latest Steal

The Spurs have a history of drafting talented players late in the draft. Dejounte Murray is emerging as their most recent steal, writes David Yapkowitz.

David Yapkowitz

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It seems like almost every NBA season, the San Antonio Spurs end up selecting a player late in the draft who unexpectedly goes on to become a valuable contributor, sometimes even a star. The entire draft in itself can often be a crapshoot, but the lower the pick, the lower the chances of a team finding a solid rotation player. But with the Spurs, it’s as if they hit far more often than they miss.

Their pick from a year ago is shaping up to be no exception as the injury to starting point guard Tony Parker has opened up a huge opportunity for Dejounte Murray; one that he is taking advantage of.

There is a lot of preparation by analysts leading up to the NBA draft. Several mock drafts are created up until draft night itself. Murray was often projected to be a high first-round pick, possibly even a lottery pick. He had a solid freshman season at the University of Washington where he averaged 16.1 points per game, six rebounds, and 4.4 assists.

Draft night arrived and he ended up slipping to the bottom of the first round (29th overall), far later than he had anticipated. Following his selection, LeBron James himself, who is represented by the same sports agency as Murray, tweeted out some words of encouragement for the young rookie. He let Murray know that he may not have been drafted where he wanted to, but that he was with the best organization in the league.

Murray pretty much rode the bench last season as a rookie, which is not at all uncommon for a first-year player on a veteran team with championship aspirations. He was inactive for most of the final two months of the season. In the first round of the playoffs against the Memphis Grizzlies, and most of the second round against the Houston Rockets, he was relegated to garbage time duty. Perhaps if he’d been drafted as high as initially projected, he might have had a bigger opportunity at getting minutes right away.

That all changed, however, against Houston in Game 2 when Parker went down with the injury that he is still recuperating from. Murray was thrust into the starting lineup and he responded as well as an inexperienced rookie under the bright lights of the playoffs could. In Game 4, although the Spurs lost, he had eight points on 50 percent shooting along with three assists. He actually didn’t play in Game 5, but in the Spurs closeout Game 6 win, he poured in 11 points, ten rebounds, five assists and two steals while shooting 50 percent from the field.

Even though the Spurs were ultimately swept in the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors, Murray continued his steady play with 8.3 points, 3.8 assists, and three steals.

At the start of this season, Murray has taken his momentum from the end of last season and carried it over. He was given the starting point guard spot in place of Parker on opening night against the Minnesota Timberwolves. He responded on national television with 16 points on 7-8 shooting from the field, five rebounds, two assists and two steals.

It’s still too early to tell, but it’s highly possible that the Spurs have found their starting point guard of the future once Parker eventually decides to hang it up. At 6-foot-5, Murray is a tall point guard and his length gives him the potential to develop into an elite defensive player. He can score the basketball and he is improving his court vision and playmaking.

One area he could improve in is his outside shooting. Although he did shoot 39.1 percent from the three-point line last season, he only took 0.6 attempts. In his lone college season, he shot 28.8 percent from downtown. If he can improve his range and really begin to put together his entire package of skills, we’ll be talking yet again about how the Spurs bamboozled the rest of the league and found a draft-day gem.

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