The Phoenix Suns knew they would have to do some serious work in free agency this offseason to fill a potential void, but nobody expected it to be the general manager free agent market that they would be sifting through.
The No. 1 goal this offseason was to find a replacement for, or bring back, a certain power forward that seemed halfway to Miami already. But after Steve Kerr shocked Planet Orange Tuesday by announcing he won’t return next season, the Amare Stoudemire situation went to the backburner as Phoenix is now in desperate need of a general manager.
The original thought was that senior VP of basketball operations David Griffin would succeed Kerr as the guy calling the shots, but news broke that he won’t be returning to the organization either next season. So who do the Suns turn to? It is anyone’s best guess what Sarver is up to in the search for a GM, but here are a few candidates that have been mentioned and could potentially fill the void:
The qualified, yet fairly affordable candidate
Dennis Lindsey — San Antonio Spurs assistant GM
- VP of Basketball Operations and Assistant GM in San Antonio since 2007.
- Spent 11 seasons with the Houston Rockets where he worked his way up from video coordinator and scout to VP of Basketball Operations.
- Was the lead candidate for the T-Wolves’ job before the 2009-10 season, but removed his name from the hat to remain in San Antonio.
- Has been one of the coaches at Reebok Eurocamp for each of the last four summers.
- Played four seasons at Baylor University, where he also earned his undergraduate degree.
It is fairly obvious the Suns aren’t going to hit a home run by making a splash with a big name GM. They are much more likely to take a middle-of-the-road guy with some experience and also some room to grow, and Lindsey fits the bill.
The Arizona Republic reported that he was “of interest” and he is qualified enough and likely just affordable enough to be a top candidate. He has experience in both the scouting and basketball operations departments and has been a well-respected and highly-touted name around the league for a few years now. If he is affordable enough and is interested in coming to Phoenix, he might just be answer to this debacle.
The hometown hero
Rex Chapman — Vice President of Player Personnel for the Denver Nuggets
- Current VP of Player Personnel for the Nuggets since 2006.
- Member of the Minnesota Timberwolves’ front office during the 2005-06 season.
- Served as a scout and eventually Director of Basketball Operations with the Suns before leaving for Minnesota.
- Played his final four seasons with the Suns and is remembered for drilling this shot.
It is sounding like the Suns want to stay with someone who has ties in Phoenix, and if so Chapman is their man. He certainly has the qualifications and should be a lead candidate if he is interested. Not only does he have years of scouting experience, but he also played a huge role in signing Steve Nash when he was with the Suns in 2004 and is considered to be a very close friend of the two-time MVP.
There is no doubt that he would receive a warm welcome in Phoenix and may even be willing to take a hometown discount. He still lives in the Valley and has been employed under Sarver previously, so if Chapman is serious about making the next step then he may very well end up in Phoenix.
The unaffordable ‘probably not going to happen’ GM
Kevin Pritchard — Portland Trail Blazers GM
- Current GM of the Portland Trail Blazers since 2007 and Assistant GM of the club in 2006.
- Served as a scout for the Spurs in the early 2000s and was hired by Portland as a Director of Player Personnel soon after.
- He served as interim head coach of the Blazers for the final 27 games of the 2004-05 season after Maurice Cheeks was fired.
- Coached the Kansas City Knights of the ABA to a championship in 2001.
- Played under Larry Brown and Alvin Gentry at Kansas and won the NCAA Championship in 1988.
- Played for five different NBA teams in six years.
Pritchard is to the general manager free agent market what LeBron James is to the 2010 free agent player pool. He has experience as a player, coach and GM, experience that very few of the other candidates possess. He turned the Blazers from the Jail Blazers to a competitive team and was responsible for bringing Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge to Portland.
He is still currently the Blazers GM, but owner Paul Allen wants him gone and it seems the organization is planning for that to happen.
If money weren’t an option and he was interested in Phoenix, my vote would be for Pritchard, but it simply isn’t going to happen. He did play under Gentry at Kansas, which may play a factor, but there is pretty much no way Sarver will show him the money and make a move for a controversial big name. But if dollars didn’t matter then he would be the best option.
The money savers
After news broke that Sarver asked Kerr to take a 10 percent pay cut, it became clear that he wasn’t looking to spend money on the front office (big shocker there). With that said, the most realistic candidates are going to be a little less heralded, meaning kinder to Sarver’s wallet. Here are a couple of options:
Tony Ronzone — Minnesota Timberwolves assistant GM
- Current Assistant GM of the T-Wolves as of 2009
- Worked for the Detroit Pistons for nine seasons, most recently as the Director of Basketball Operations while handling a ton of international scouting.
- Served as a scout for the Dallas Mavericks from 1998-2000.
- Was an assistant coach at Arizona State in 1990.
- Coached the Saudi Arabian National Team in 1992 and spent five years as a coach in the United Arab Emirates.
- Served as an assistant coach for the Chinese Youth National Team in 1998 and the Chinese National Team in 2001.
Dave Babcock — Milwaukee Bucks Director of Player Personnel
- Current Director of Player Personnel for the Milwaukee Bucks since 2005.
- He joined the Bucks in 1997 as the Assistant Director of Scouting before he was promoted to the Director of Scouting one year later.
- Served as a scout for the New Jersey Nets during the 1996-97 season.
- A native of Phoenix.
Just imagine if …
Charles Barkley — TNT analyst
This one is obviously not even a possibility, but just imagine if Barkley went straight from the TNT studio to his former team and took the reins as GM. Nobody knows whether or not he would put together a solid club, but his personality in Phoenix would definitely be marketable.
It’s not going to happen, but it’s fun to dream.