Who’s Got Next – The GM Edition
Every year for more than a decade I have quizzed a pool of agents, front office executives and even a few in the ownership circle of the NBA on which names should be considered as the “Next Guys” on both the NBA coaching and NBA front office front.
This year, more than any other, there is a growing sense that as many as six NBA teams could be looking for new leadership this summer. While six front office changes seems aggressive, even if only half make a change that could still be a big shift in the NBA, especially if the next hires come from existing teams.
Here are some of the names to know, as the topic of front office change starts to take center stage in the coming months.
Adam Simon – Miami HEAT
Simon is widely regarding in NBA circles as a quality evaluator of talent and a NBA-lifer, having spent more than 22 years in the HEAT organization, literally working his way up from an intern position. Simon has been a key driver in helping the HEAT discover talents like Tyler Johnson, Hassan Whiteside and a myriad of other diamond in the rough players the HEAT seems to find year-after-year. With a solid reputation in the agent community, a strong understanding of the collective barging agreement and the inner workings of the NBA, Simon continues to be one of the most frequently mentioned guys to watch in the “next GM” conversation. The HEAT have continued to put more responsibilities on Simon’s plate, so stealing him away from South Beach won’t be an easy conversation, but he is one of the names to know.
Tony Ronzone – Dallas Mavericks
Ronzone has been in the NBA for almost two decades, serving various roles with teams like the Pistons, the Timberwolves and currently the Mavericks. Ronzone is regarded as one of the more connected guys in the NBA, both domestically and internationally. With a vast network of relationships reaching into virtually every basketball league in the world, Ronzone embodies the “connected” concept; he knows everyone. Ronzone has served as Director of International Scouting for TEAM USA and has personal relationships with some of the top players in the game, as well as a solid reputation with the agent community. Known as a guy that can get things done. Ronzone has coached in China, was the National team coach for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. When it comes to X’s and O’s in the front office, there might not be a better “basketball guy” of the bunch. Ronzone makes the list of more insiders than not.
Matt Lloyd – Orlando Magic
While Magic Assistant General Manager Scott Perry gets a lot of press as a possible front office hire, the name more insiders mention is Matt Lloyd. Arriving in Orlando with current GM Rob Hennigan, Lloyd has a solid resume having worked his way up in the Chicago Bulls organization from a game-day staffer in the PR department to a senior manager position in the basketball operations department. In Orlando, Lloyd has developed a reputation as a hard worker, a solid and informed deal maker with agents and he’s as visible as almost anyone in the Magic front office, while scouting and evaluating talent. In terms of the “next guy,” Lloyd might be a sneaky play for an opening this year, especially if there is the expected upheaval in Orlando. Lloyd is well regarded in NBA circles and fits the young up-and-comer mold.
Marc Eversley – Philadelphia 76ers
Eversley makes this list every year, and is usually one of the unanimous names from virtually everyone sampled. Eversley started his basketball career with Nike on the sports marketing side before landing in Toronto with Bryan Colangelo. Eversley has held executives role with the Raptors, the Wizards and most recently with the Philadelphia 76ers, where he literally oversees the day-to-day of the team on many fronts. Viewed as a savvy and smart talent evaluator, Eversley has a reputation for putting in the work. He is visible at virtually every significant scouting event and regular attendee at the Sloan Sports Conference in Boston. Eversley might epitomize the profile of the “next GM.” He recently accepted a pretty solid role with the 76ers to anchor Bryan Colangelo’s staff, so he might not be obtainable this go around.
Tommy Sheppard – Washington Wizards
There may not be a nicer guy in basketball than Tommy Sheppard; “well regarded” does not give him credit. He is almost revered in NBA circles. Sheppard’s name comes up with almost every front office opening in the league and he has interviewed for a few of them. Sheppard has been with the Wizards for almost 15 years and is the guy that handles the day-to-day of the team, including managing the salary cap, deal making, scouting and running the draft process for Washington. Sheppard has a pretty solid gig in Washington, so it would take something special for him to consider leaving, especially with the Wizards on an upswing again. There may not be a more balanced and proven guy currently not completely running a team, which is likely why his name comes up anytime you discuss the topic.
Larry Harris – Golden State Warriors
Harris has held a GM position before running the Milwaukee Bucks. Harris, like many on this list, came up from the bottom, starting out as a video coordinator in Milwaukee before rising to assume almost every role on the operations side of the business. Harris joined the Warriors in 2008 and was an assistant coach for a year in 2008, before shifting to the scouting side. Harris has been the lead guy for the Warriors on the draft for a number of years, and while the Warriors make decisions as a group, Harris played big roles in landing Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green, Festus Ezeli and even current Warrior rookie Damian Jones. Harris has a strong basketball background and is well regarded in NBA circles. He has been grinding since the Bucks gig and is considered one of the more experienced options of the bunch. Harris has a solid and established gig with the Warriors, so it might take a solid situation to poach him away from a perennial Finals contender.
Troy Weaver – Oklahoma City
Weaver has a long history in basketball, starting his operations career as an assistant coach in college basketball before joining the Utah Jazz as a lead scout, eventually working his way up to Director of Player Personnel. Weaver joined the Thunder in 2010 and has served as Sam Presti’s right-hand guy ever since. Viewed as a “grinder” by many of his peers, Weaver has been mentioned and interviewed for a couple of opening over the last five years. It’s hard to assemble a list of “next guys” without Weaver on it. There is a prevailing thought that it would take a whopper of a situation to pry Weaver out of Oklahoma City, but his name should be on any list on this topic.
Jeff Weltman – Toronto Raptors
Weltman has a great front office resume, serving in roles for the Clipper, Pistons, Nuggets and Bucks before moving to Toronto with Raptors president Masai Ujiri. Weltman carries the title General Manager and handles all of the day-to-day for the team including the salary cap, scouting, working with agents and fleshing out the roster. Well regarded in NBA circles as a proven operator, it would take a great situation to pry Weltman out of Toronto. Regarding proven and polished guys that are ready to go, Weltman might be one of the best on the board.
Michael Zarren – Boston Celtics
Like Weltman, Boston’s Mike Zarren is considered one of the best and brightest. The problem with landing Zarren is he has a great gig with the Celtics and is widely considered to be Danny Ainge’s replacement if and when Danny decides to step back from the game. Zarren has interviewed with teams in the past only to pull out of consideration. It’s not out of the question that Zarren gets asked to interview, but it’s pretty unlikely he’d consider leaving the Celtics, where he has something of a cult following among the analytics community. While Zarren is known for his role in crafting the NBA Draft “wheel” concept, he is also a savvy dealmaker and negotiator and serves a General Counsel for the Celtics and does most of the contract and cap work in the front office.
While there are likely a dozen more names that could make a list like this including former executives like long-time Pacers and Bucks executive David Morway, recently released Laker GM Mitch Kupchak and long-time executive Jerry West [who may move on from the Warriors]. These names are the ones current insiders in basketball view as the next guys.
We’ll do the same exercise on the “next coaches” next week.
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