Front Office Upheaval Coming?
With most NBA teams having less than 10 games remaining in their season, the inevitable is starting to take shape— for some teams, change in the front office is not only coming, but likely necessary.
Here are some teams to watch:
Yesterday, both ESPN’s Marc Stein and Zach Lowe along with the Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Kings owner Vivek Randive was exploring the idea of adding more help to the Kings front office and had sought permission from the 76ers to speak with former general manager Sam Hinkie.
Within hours of those reports, the Kings issued a statement denying interest in Hinkie, despite numerous league sources saying the team had already spoken with Hinkie about a role with the team.
There has been a long-running narrative in NBA circles that the Kings front office was run rather loosely and that current general manager Vlade Divac was not nearly the day-to-day worker others in his position were. Both reports from yesterday paint a picture of Divac staying with the team with a more proven operator placed in a role above him, but that’s something the Kings statement disputed.
“The Kings are not hiring Sam Hinkie and have no plans to bring anyone in above Vlade,” the team said in the statement.
To make matters worse, there has also been a long-running narrative that there is a rift between many in the minority ownership group and Ranadive, and those minority owners have grown frustrated with how Ranadive has managed the team, specifically when it comes to the front office.
The Kings did hire Ken Catanella as assistant general manager last offseason. However, it does not seem to many that he is permitted to play the role many expected him to play under Divac.
The Kings have eight games remaining in their season and will enter their 11th consecutive offseason without a playoff appearance.
In what seems inevitable, the Orlando Magic seem poised to be moving on from general manager Rob Hennigan at season’s end, and the prevailing thought is the Magic may turn to former Magic player and executive on the rise, Pat Garrity.
Garrity, who is currently part of the Pistons organization, played 10 seasons in the NBA (including nine with the Magic) and was well regarded in his playing days as an active member of the NBA Players Association.
Garrity is currently an assistant general manager with the Detroit Pistons and widely regarded as one of the bright up and coming executives in basketball.
Magic sources have been quick to say that nothing has been decided yet on either the future of Hennigan or who would replace him if he is indeed replaced. However, it does seem like some initial groundwork has been laid.
League sources have said that many of the Magic’s lower level basketball executives have started gauging jobs elsewhere in the NBA, understanding that a front office change is likely.
New Orleans Pelicans
A few league sources peg the New Orleans Pelicans as a team that is going to make sweeping changes once their season ends in eight games.
The Pelicans have long been rumored to be the next stop for former Piston’s executive Joe Dumars, who is a Shreveport, Louisiana native and has close ties to the ownership and leadership of the Pelicans and Saints organization.
League sources said recently that Dumars has been active in the NBA front office circles, scouting players and reconnecting to the process.
The Pelicans will finish their seventh season under current general manager Dell Demps, having made the playoffs twice in that span.
It is also probable that current head coach Alvin Gentry, who signed a four-year deal in 2015, is let go, as well. Gentry has just one more fully-guaranteed year left on his contract, with the fourth year being at the team’s option.
The Pelicans made the bold trade at the All-Star break to land DeMarcus Cousins to push the team into the post-season, however that hasn’t worked as well as planned.
The Phoenix Suns will miss the postseason for a seventh straight season, and while current general manager Ryan McDonough has assembled an impressive roster of young talent, the Suns are again no closer to competing this year than they were a season ago.
Unlike many on this list, it’s possible current Suns ownership stays the course for another season, but there is a growing sense in NBA circles that owner Robert Sarver may go in another direction to get the Suns back into the playoff discussion.
McDonough is well regarded in NBA circles, and the results he has had influence over have been better than almost anyone on the proverbial hot seat. However, the NBA is a result-oriented business, and that puts the future of the Suns front office in doubt.
Executives in the NBA usually get a five-year runway, which means it wouldn’t be out of character for the Suns to give McDonough one more year. It is possible, after all, that the Suns could be one more offseason away from moving into the next tier.
Just after being sold to Antony Ressler, the Atlanta Hawks named Mike Budenholzer President of Basketball Operations and promoted Wes Wilcox to the role of general manager. While it’s unlikely either changes roles this offseason, there has been talk in NBA circles of the Hawks making some organizational changes and adding some new faces.
When the Hawks named Budenholzer to the post of team president, the new ownership group sought to make a stability statement for a team that had just won the Southeast Division title.
With ownership more in control and settled, there is a growing sense that some changes may be in order, especially as the team starts to remake itself after losing Al Horford to free agency last offseason and faces the possibility of losing Paul Millsap this offseason.
A league source said it’s unlikely the Hawks change either role at the top, but adding more options to the staff seems more likely than not.
Making changes to a team front office is never an easy decision because teams usually have to go backward before they can take meaningful steps forward, so teams with a glimmer of hope usually cling to it, even if it seems likely that change is needed. That’s usually why teams hang on to an executive a season longer than maybe they should, but that’s why making a change at the top is never an easy or quick decision.
There are some dates to keep in mind that drive some of the decision making on teams facing playoff elimination.
The NBA regular season ends on April 12. The annual Portsmouth Invitational is April 12 to April 15 and will feature college seniors who are draft hopefuls. April 23 is the NBA Draft Early Entry Deadline for all underclassmen who wish to declare for the 2017 NBA Draft. The 2017 NBA Draft Combine is set for May 9 to May 14 in Chicago. The 2017 NBA Draft Lottery will be May 16, with the actual draft itself set for June 22 in New York.
If a team is going to make a change, doing so quickly becomes important, especially with the NBA draft playing a big role in the team’s future.
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