EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

What the field looks like as Suns search for a new GM

Apr 4, 2019, 5:18 PM | Updated: Apr 5, 2019, 7:19 pm
In this April 22, 2014 photo, Cleveland Cavaliers interim general manager David Griffin wrap-up the...
In this April 22, 2014 photo, Cleveland Cavaliers interim general manager David Griffin wrap-up the season at the NBA basketball team's headquarters in Independence, Ohio. On Monday, May 12, 2014, the Cavaliers announced Griffin has been named general manager of the and Mike Brown has been released as head coach. (AP Photo)
(AP Photo)

Former Phoenix Suns vice president of basketball operations David Griffin interviewed for the New Orleans Pelicans’ general manager opening Thursday, according to the New York Times’ Marc Stein. Such news strikes the city of Phoenix in a unique way, not only because Griffin spent nearly two decades working for the Suns.

It comes as the Suns themselves are in the market for a new front office leader.

The news also confirms Griffin is interested in getting back into the executive world. He parted ways with the Cleveland Cavaliers as GM in 2017 and has seemingly enjoyed himself working in the media since.

All that leads to the obvious question: Shouldn’t the Suns at least see if their homegrown talent, who is arguably the best GM candidate on the market, would think about leading Phoenix?

Either way, the Suns have candidates to sift through.

To get a read on the GM market across the league, here is the latest on the job openings across the NBA, who was fired and who has been reportedly linked to each front office opening.

Phoenix Suns

Fired: Ryan McDonough

Candidates reportedly under consideration

Former Rockets coach and Timberwolves GM Kevin McHale (per Stein)

Former Cavaliers GM and current Bulls director of pro personnel Jim Paxson (per Stein)

Current co-interim Suns GMs James Jones and Trevor Bukstein (per 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station’s John Gambadoro)

(AP Photo/Ben Margot)

The outlook: Phoenix will reportedly consider retaining Jones and Bukstein, but the team also reportedly has interest in McHale and Paxson. Owner Robert Sarver will think hard about adding someone with experience. Jones and Bukstein have taken flak from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and others because of their admittedly unique scouting techniques, but their one year’s worth of worth has been at least solid.

The Suns have been judicious, unwilling to make risky or knee-jerk moves to impress Sarver immediately. They’ve focused heavily on improving the team at hand and rid the roster of veterans who didn’t like what they’d signed on for. Additions of Kelly Oubre Jr. and Tyler Johnson, who were acquired by trading vets Trevor Ariza and Ryan Anderson, respectively, look promising in regards to changing the culture of the Suns.

At least there are pieces to work with. Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton, Mikal Bridges and the possibility of matching any offers for Oubre is a start. Working under Sarver, who has a reputation of meddling with roster moves and farm animal pranks, is the obvious red flag.

Washington Wizards

Fired: Ernie Grunfeld

Candidates reportedly under consideration

Celtics assistant GM Mike Zarren (per Stein)

Nuggets GM Tim Connelly (per The Athletic’s Fred Katz)

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

The outlook: It’s too soon to know much about what Washington is thinking, but two very strong names have surfaced. Zarren has long been viewed as one of the best No. 2s in the league, while Connelly has the recent resume of drafting well and pulling the Nuggets into the conversation as one of the top five NBA teams at present. Whether either would leave cozy situations remains to be seen.

At least Wizards owner Ted Leonsis has a reputation for holding onto his GMs for too long. The team fired Grunfeld after 15 years on the job, and while he helped Washington recover from the Gilbert Arenas gun scandal, the Wizards have little talent and injured point guard John Wall’s mammoth contract to figure out. Do prospective GMs see that as a worthwhile challenge or as a deterrent as they consider taking the job?

New Orleans Pelicans

Fired: Dell Demps

Candidates reportedly under consideration (per Stein)

Former Hawks GM and current Pelicans interim GM Danny Ferry

Former Suns VP of basketball ops and Cavs GM David Griffin

Current Warriors assistant GM Larry Harris

Current Nets assistant GM Trajan Langdon

Current Rockets executive VP of basketball ops Gersson Rossas

Current interim Wizards GM Tommy Sheppard

Celtics assistant GM Mike Zarren

(AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)

The outlook: It looks like the Pelicans are considering many options, but what exactly there is to work with in New Orleans remains to be seen. The Pelicans are owned by New Orleans Saints owner Gayle Benson, and for that might be viewed as second in priority. From a pure basketball perspective, it’s a bit of a mess as well.

The trade demands from star Anthony Davis have put them in a tough spot. The Pelicans might best be served riding it out through half of next season before Davis is a free agent in 2020, refusing to trade him until the 2020 deadline to get the best possible return. Or maybe a GM thinks they can get a deal done this summer, though doing so on draft day and before free agency might not be the best timing.

In any case, that eventual trade will give a new GM the opportunity to start over. But the Pelicans will need someone confident a trade that could make them successful is actually out there.

Minnesota Timberwolves

Fired: President and head coach Tom Thibodeau

Candidates reportedly under consideration (per Stein)

Current T-Wolves GM Scott Layden

ESPN analyst and former Pistons guard Chauncey Billups

Current Nuggets assistant GM Calvin Booth

(Photo by Sean M. Haffey/BIG3/Getty Images)

The outlook: Like Phoenix, Minnesota has one star (Karl-Anthony Towns) and one starting-caliber youngster (yes, Andrew Wiggins) who could be a piece of a playoff team. Maybe Minnesota has fewer long-term rotation player options (though Josh Okogie ain’t bad), but it certainly has a strong, committed ownership group.

There’s a lot of pieces that need to be added to make the Timberwolves contenders, but there have been flashes that the trajectory is back on track since the team traded Jimmy Butler and fired Thibodeau, replacing him with up-and-coming head coach Ryan Saunders.

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