While Jeff Weltman is considered a favorite to land the Phoenix Suns’ general manager position, the team will also consider two candidates on very opposite ends of the NBA spectrum. While the 48-year-old Weltman sits in the middle of the experience versus upside – as if we’re talking about lottery picks — Boston Celtics assistant general manager Ryan McDonough and Spurs assistant GM Scott Layden span a great width of front office experience.
Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski reported Wednesday that those two round out the short-list of candidates to resume the duties of the Suns’ general manager, and Paul Coro reported that list with the addition of former Pacers GM David Morway.
It could very well come down to what exactly Robert Sarver and president of basketball operations Lon Babby are looking for. Do they go for the proven Layden, the familiar Weltman who they interviewed before hiring Lance Blanks, or the young McDonough?
The embattled but proven vet
Scott Layden has seen it all. His father, Frank Layden, coached the Utah Jazz and helped develop his son’s eye. In 1981, he joined the team as a scout, then began working for his father as an assistant the next year and eventually made his way into the Jazz’s front office. His best work of talent evaluation is hard to beat — he’s considered responsible for drafting both John Stockton and Karl Malone. His time with Utah extended into the 1990s, and before he left for the New York Knicks, Layden left the Jazz with a nice piece in Andrei Kirilenko.
His tenure with the Knicks from 1999-2004 didn’t go as well.
Layden inherited a stable but aging franchise and was criticized for too much loyalty as he failed to develop the New York mindset coming from the calmness of Salt Lake City. He re-signed aging Knicks such as Allan Houston for contracts that weren’t only out of this world but poor considering their ensuing injury problems, and he was responsible for botched draft picks such as Michael Sweetney and — gulp — Maciej Lampe.
Allan Houston has been a one-man show the last two seasons, but he is not worth the same kind of money — $100 million — that Kevin Garnett and Jason Kidd just signed for. No other club could offer Houston more than $72 million when he was a free agent two years ago, so why not give him $75 million? Now, despite his ability, Houston is basically untradeable.
Reserves like Shandon Anderson and Howard Eisley can be found in the Continental Basketball Association for $400,000 a year, yet Layden brought the two former Jazz role players aboard for a combined $83 million. Clarence Weatherspoon, who has become a useless spare part in the Knicks’ storehouse of power forwards, has three years and nearly $18 million left on his contract.
The pieces Layden left in New York couldn’t be picked up by his replacement, Isiah Thomas.
Layden returned to Utah in 2005 as an assistant on coach Jerry Sloan’s staff and stayed with the Jazz until 2012. He was brought into the front office of the Spurs last year.
As is, it’s hard to see if Layden would take the job in Phoenix. It’s only a half-step up the food chain compared to San Antonio, and much will probably depend on Layden’s desire to face such a pressure-packed challenge. No, it’s not New York, but Layden will obviously be charged with rebuilding for the Suns rather than reloading for the Spurs.
As an aside regarding the coaching search, Layden’s hire could bring back a former Suns player as a coach. While Jeff Hornacek is in the running for the Philadelphia 76ers head coaching vacancy as Wojnarowski reports, Phoenix could very well be on his list as well. His candidacy would take a large boost should the Suns bring on Layden as the general manager, according to the Deseret News.
The high-upside GM prospect
If I tried, it’d be hard to outdo the profile that SB Nation’s Paul Flannery wrote on McDonough not long ago.
But to be brief, the 33-year-old already has respect across the league. Working under former Suns coach and player Danny Ainge, McDonough’s ascent has been quick and dirty. His greatest accomplishment, ironically, has been using the Suns’ 21st overall draft pick to acquire All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo. He was convincing enough to sway the Celtics’ higher-ups to take on Brian Grant’s contract while giving up a draft pick and cash to Phoenix in exchange for the pick that became Rondo.
And in general, Boston’s winning hasn’t kept them from grabbing draft-day steals. Avery Bradley, Jared Sullinger, Glen Davis and Rondo all came in years following winning seasons.
Perhaps the most impressive piece of McDonough’s work has been through this season. When Sullinger, Rondo and Leandro Barbosa led the list of injuries, one of the Celtics’ knee-jerk moves included signing of former lottery talent Terrence Williams, who was seemingly forgotten while playing in China.
“If a guy is talented enough to be in the NBA, you have to constantly monitor him until he retires,” says McDonough. “I’ve heard people say, ‘I don’t want that guy, or he’s not my kind of guy.’ Well, it’s difficult to dismiss somebody with NBA-caliber ability.”
If Sarver and Babby want “The next generation GM” as is Flannery’s title, McDonough would be a hard name to overlook.
Who else is in the mix?
Ken Berger of CBS Sports reports, as does Coro, that Morway is still in the mix and is a good friend of Babby’s. That would make my mention of his poor relationship with Larry Bird less of a concern — one sticking point for the Suns to be successful would obviously be how the new GM and Babby get along.
And one darkhorse candidate that Coro mentioned a while back is Tony Ronzone, whose backround specializes in international scouting. He was hired by the Dallas Mavericks front office last summer, and he previously worked for the Minnesota Timberwolves — he’s a big fan of Wes Johnson, apparently — where he helped scout Ricky Rubio, and under Rick Carlisle with the Detroit Pistons. He was the director of basketball operations with the Pistons, where he was responsible for picks such as Mehmet Okur and Carlos Delfino.
Ronzone also had a role with USA Basketball for former Suns owner Jerry Colangelo and has another Arizona tie as well. Ronzone worked as an assistant coach for former ASU coach Bill Freider.