Remember when the Colangelos — Jerry, and later Bryan — were brought in to save the Philadelphia 76ers from the leaguewide embarrassment of “The Process?”
That “embarrassing” process is now venerated and seen as the base of the Sixers success. Then on Thursday, Bryan Colangelo and the Sixers parted ways after reporting exposed his wife’s burner accounts (if you believe him, as the Sixers do) that ripped players. Those accounts caused too much damage to the organization to keep the younger Colangelo around.
So who is next as the general manager of the Philadelphia 76ers? That person is stepping into a situation with a ton of potential because of star players in house — Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons — plus good role players and guys with potential (Markelle Fultz has potential, Robert Covington is a great role player), plus the No. 10 pick, and a lot of cap space. It also can be a challenging task to turn all that potential into contending reality.
Here are some guys in consideration:
David Griffin. The former Cleveland Cavaliers’ GM is all the talk around the NBA Finals as the frontrunner to land this job. The reason is twofold: 1) He has a strong relationship and the respect of LeBron James, the free agent to be who the Sixers are targeting; 2) He’s probably the best guy available even if he can’t land them LeBron. Griffin did an excellent job of clearing the cap space to bring LeBron back, managing desires of a troublesome/challenging owner, and putting a team together around LeBron that won Cleveland it’s only title in franchise history. He’s smart and well connected around the league. He was let go in Cleveland because… ask Dan Gilbert, nobody else is sure.
Gilbert will not come cheap, and after his experience in Cleveland he will want some power and leeway, but he should be the Sixers first choice and they should pay the man.
Danny Ferry. The former Atlanta Hawks GM and a current advisor to Dell Demps in New Orleans comes up because he has had conversations before with Sixers ownership about coming on board. He’s a smart, experienced GM who wants another chance in the big chair. He was let go in Atlanta after reading directly from a racially insensitive (to put it kindly) scouting report on a phone call with minority owners of the team. (He also was caught in a power struggle between the then ownership factions of that team.)
Brett Brown. Could this be another Atlanta situation? When Ferry was forced out of the Hawks’ franchise they temporarily turned everything over to then-coach Mike Budenholzer to run the show, and then ownership decided to stick with him. In Philly, Brett Brown is now in charge of basketball operations running up to the draft and free agency. If the Sixers struggle to reach a deal with an established GM such as Griffin or Ferry, Brown keeping his new title is not out of the question.
Sam Hinkie. There is a vocal majority of Sixers fans were fervent believers in Hinkie and “the process,” and in turn hated everything Colangelo did (even when it was something good, like landing J.J. Redick, or picking up Ersan Ilyasova and Marco Belinelli as buyout free agents midseason). They want Hinkie back. Philadelphia primary owner Joshua Harris was asked about this directly at his press conference Thursday and danced around the question.
“We have a lot of respect for Sam, and we appreciate how he’s positioned our franchise,” Harris said. He was very noncommittal with anything going forward, sounding mostly like a guy still stunned all of this happened in the first place. Which is a fair reaction, this whole thing is strange.
While it’s not impossible, as long as Jerry Colangelo is still in place in the organization — and he is staying — it’s hard to imagine a Hinkie return.
An up-and-comer such as Troy Weaver or Mike Zarren. It is possible Harris and the elder Colangelo decide to go with one of the top guys in the on-deck circle, someone who has paid their dues and deserves a shot in the big chair. Troy Weaver has been Sam Presti’s right-hand man in Oklahoma City, while Mike Zarren is a highly-trusted member of Danny Ainge’s staff in Boston. Both guys deserve a shot. However, with the Sixers positioned to contend if the right moves are made, it’s hard to imagine Harris and company turning to a first-time GM, no matter how good they look on paper.