If you have yet to read Michael's piece about this topic, click here!
In a continued pursuit of self-torture, we at Bulls Confidential thought it might be fun to take another look around the NBA and find some candidates to replace Gar Forman and John Paxson, destroyers of fun and lovers of Cyclones.
This list mostly consists of candidates who have risen up to prominence in successful front offices but are still waiting to be handed the reins to their own team. Sometimes hiring an assistant GM works out great, like with Daryl Morey in Houston, and sometimes it doesn’t, like with Rob Hennigan in Orlando. I think we’ve come up with a solid list of prospective GarPax replacements, so please read on and dream about what will probably never be.
Mike Zarren - Boston Celtics - Assistant GM
Mike Zarren is perhaps most well known for being the creator of “The Wheel,” a popular idea for reforming the NBA draft lottery. However, Zarren has a lot more on his resume other than just a hypothetical attempt to combat tanking. He’s considered to be one of the sharpest minds in basketball analytics, he’s a regular speaker at the Sloan conference every year, and he was rumored to be strongly in the running for the Philadelphia job that eventually went Sam Hinkie.
Zarren was originally hired as an intern in Boston by then assistant GM Daryl Morey, and together, the two of them began to conceive of the type of play, Moreyball, that has now become famous in Houston. In a story about Houston’s offensive renaissance this season, Daryl Morey told The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor that Zarren should “for sure be a GM somewhere.” How about Chicago?
Zarren got his bachelor’s from UChicago before attending Harvard Law School, and would be a rational, logical addition to a front office and organization that has operated on gut checks and affiliations to Iowa for far, far too long. It seems inevitable that Zarren will eventually get a crack at running his own team, and the Bulls would be wise to get in line.
Troy Weaver - Oklahoma City Thunder - Assistant GM
Any time a team can hire someone that had a hand in drafting Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Russell Westbrook in consecutive years, that team should do it. Troy Weaver has been an assistant GM in OKC for several years now, and before that, he worked under Jim Boeheim in Syracuse. He helped bring Carmelo Anthony, and we know how that turned out.
Weaver has been touted more than once as one of the next guys to make the leap once a job opens up. With one notable exception, the OKC front office has done an objectively excellent job in GM Sam Presti’s tenure, and the Bulls would benefit greatly from Weaver’s experience of being in an environment in which decisions are made for basketball reasons.
Finally, Weaver would serve as a good compromise between the old and new schools of basketball management. He has a reputation as an old school basketball guy, but anyone who spends multiple seasons in OKC will surely have a good understanding of cap management and other minutiae. OKC has already produced one GM in Rob Hennigan, and the Bulls should make it two.
Arturas Karnisovas - Denver Nuggets - Assistant GM
The next stop on our tour of well-functioning front offices takes us to Denver and to Arturas Karnisovas. Karnisovas was a star player at Seton Hall in the 1990’s before going on to earn two Olympic bronze medals playing for the Lithuanian national team. The 45 year-old would fit the popular stereotype of playing at a high level before entering the front office, but he’s also achieved real success as an assistant GM in Denver.
Nikola Jokic, Gary Harris, Will Barton, Jamal Murray, and Juancho Hernangomez were all drafted with Karnisovas in the organization, and it wouldn’t be unreasonable to think that his international connections have helped with collecting the breadth of young international talent currently on the Nuggets.
Karnisovas would likely need to have an assistant GM with some management experience next to him since he’s yet to garner much experience in that aspect of the job, but he’s definitely worth a look.
Jeff Weltman - Toronto Raptors - GM
Weltman is definitely the veteran on this list, having been in NBA front offices for over two decades. He’s held positions with the Clippers, Bucks, Nuggets, and Pistons and is currently the general manager of the Toronto Raptors. Despite his title, Masai Ujiri still has the final say on all decisions, so coming to Chicago would still be an upgrade for Weltman.
Weltman has done an outstanding job this season upgrading the Raptor’s roster, and it’s long past due that he gets a chance to run his own team. It’s practically inarguable that he’s unqualified for the position. Although Bulls fans know first hand that many years of experience is no guarantee for competence, it’s clear from his history of dealings that Weltman is no slouch. Toronto has built an impressive team over the past few years, and Jerry Reinsdorf should give Jeff Weltman a chance to do it all again in Chicago.
Sam Hinkie - A Different Plane of Human Existence - Architect
C’mon. You know you want to see Adam Silver’s face. When Sam Hinkie was effectively forced out of Philadelphia and released his now infamous resignation letter, his reputation as a GM was vastly different than it is today. That’s all because of Joel Embiid of course, which is the exact kind of outcome-based judgement that The Process was trying to fight against, but whatever. Hinkie had a lot of good ideas when it came to team management, but he wasn’t always great at communicating them or dealing with people in the league.
If I know anything about the Bulls, I know that this will never happen (although he is a big name and would probably attract a lot of buzz and sell tickets so who knows anymore). It’s just too much of a risk, and Hinkie would never ever tolerate the type of “retooling on the fly” BS that has become the Bulls’ bread and butter. But how fun would it be? Maybe the Bulls would actually win a trade for once. Maybe they’d finally realize that 3 points is one more point than two points. Maybe the Bulls could get Sauce Castillo. The possibilities are endless.
I would personally be on board with a Sam Hinkie hire, and I’m not actually sure how controversial of an opinion that is anymore. We’ve come a long way since reading about chess strategies and strange Abraham Lincoln quotes (seriously read his letter if you haven’t). If nothing else, it would be a wild ride, and probably more entertaining than watching Cameron Payne miss 3s.
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