After years of fan frustrations and public outcry, the Chicago Bulls confirmed they were in the throws of looking for new candidates to run the franchise’s basketball operations.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported the Bulls discussed their plans with current executive VP of basketball operations John Paxson and general manager Gar Forman. Both figures have been in their respective roles since 2009. But, how did it come to this?
The Bulls thrived at the start of the 2010’s due in part to the rise of former No. 1 overall pick Derrick Rose. However, injuries to Rose and some of the supporting cast–notably Joakim Noah–led to Paxson and Forman firing former Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau over concerns regarding usage and minutes. They hired then-Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg to take Thibodeau’s place.
But that strategy backfired. Although Jimmy Butler developed into a star and Chicago still had the likes of Gasol and Rose, the Bulls missed the playoffs in Hoiberg’s first season.
The Bulls traded Rose and Joakim Noah in the summer of 2016, with Paxson and Forman expressing a stated desire to get younger and faster. Instead, they went out and signed two aging stars in Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo. Chicago squeaked into to the playoffs, but they were bounced in the first round.
Then came the bombshell on draft night in 2017. The Bulls traded Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and a first-round pick that would eventually become Lauri Markkanen.
The years since have seen another coaching change. With Hoiberg giving way to Jim Boylen, and a host of questionable personnel decisions. That would include signing reserve center Cristiano Felicio to a big deal to trading for a big salary in Otto Porter.
Most notably, the Bulls have failed to build any momentum. They had won just 22 games prior to the suspension of the regular season due to the coronavirus pandemic. And players like LaVine repeatedly showed their frustration with Boylen’s coaching methods throughout the year.
But now it appears the Bulls are ready to move on. Here are the five best candidates to take over for Paxson and Forman in Chicago.
5. Daryl Morey
There are clear upsides and downsides to hiring the Houston Rockets’ top executive. Assuming of course, the Rockets choose to move on from Morey after this season.
For starters, Morey comes with a bit of baggage given his comments directed at the Chinese government last year. Owners might be wary of bringing Morey into the fold to run their franchise, regardless of his intentions.
Of course, Morey has taken basketball to a different level this year, fully committing to a five-out system by trading away center Clint Capela in February. At the same time, he seems to have a feel both for team personnel and his head coach. There is no way the Rockets make that move if Mike D’Antoni is not manning the bench.
Do the Bulls have the right kind of roster for Morey to tinker with? On the plus side, Morey is used to maximizing talent in spite of budget crunches. But he would also be taking over a franchise without a star anywhere close to the caliber of James Harden.
4. Adam Simon
Simon received a promotion as the VP of basketball operations for the Miami Heat last June after 16 years in the team’s scouting department.
He was trusted with leading their draft process in 2019, which netted Miami former Kentucky Wildcat Tyler Herro.
In fact, Miami’s current success is due in part to strong scouting. Herro has played well in his rookie campaign, while guys like Kendrick Nunn and Duncan Robinson have also been vital contributors. Not to mention, former first-round pick Bam Adebayo made the All-Star team while becoming one of the best all-around centers in the NBA.
Plus, Simon worked under Pat Riley. Given Riley’s pedigree for making colossal roster moves, that serves to benefit Simon in the process as well.
3. Chad Buchanan
The current Indiana Pacers general manager has a track record of success dating back to the beginning of the last decade.
Buchanan was previously the interim GM for the Portland Trail Blazers. In 2012, he traded Gerald Wallace and Marcus Camby to net multiple draft picks, which would eventually become Damian Lillard and Will Barton. Not bad.
The former Charlotte Hornets assistant GM was hired by Indiana in June of 2017, where he would make one of the more consequential moves in recent franchise history.
Buchanan was part of the front office that orchestrated a trade that sent former Pacers star Paul George to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. Considering Oladipo is a former All-Star and Sabonis made his first All-Star team this season, it would seem that one worked out pretty well for Indiana.
Buchanan has had the opportunity to work with Kevin Pritchard in Indiana. And the Pacers’ recent balance between savvy draft decisions and aggressiveness in free agency could make him an attractive candidate. Especially for a Bulls team that needs some kind of reset.
2. Arturas Karnisovas
Karnisovas–like Buchanan–was promoted to the general manager post in June of 2017, becoming Tim Connelly’s second in command with the Denver Nuggets.
The Nuggets are one of the best teams in the Western Conference, and their success is due almost exclusively to excellent drafting and homegrown talent. From Nikola Jokic and Gary Harris to Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr., the Nuggets have watched their talent flourish together in making them one of the better teams in the NBA.
Karnisovas is almost a former professional, having played in Lithuania, and he has experience as an international scout.
The Nuggets have also not been afraid to spend money on their young core, with both Jokic and Murray receiving big contracts. Karnisovas also brought veteran Paul Millsap into the fold in Denver, and the Nuggets were able to acquire a 2020 first-round pick from the Houston Rockets as part of the four-team deal centered around Clint Capela and Robert Covington.
Given Karnisovas’ scouting history and track record of success in Denver–not to mention his knowledge of international talent–he figures to be one of the most enticing hires for Chicago.
1. Bobby Webster
There is not a whole lot that needs to be said when it comes to what Webster has helped to build as a member of the Toronto Raptors’ front office. They are the defending champions, after all.
While the Bulls are unlikely to hire Raptors president Masai Ujiri (since he is still under contract), Webster would be quite the consolation prize.
Webster and the Raptors know how to take risks. They traded a franchise icon in DeMar DeRozan to acquire Kawhi Leonard, then made one of the underrated moves in recent memory by acquiring Marc Gasol at the deadline, two moves that helped the Raptors win the 2018-2019 NBA title.
Yet, despite the loss of Leonard, the Raptors are still one of the elite teams in the Eastern Conference. How? Again, drafting and development.
From Pascal Siakam to Fred VanVleet to OG Anunoby, Toronto’s young players have stepped up to fill the void left behind by Leonard. Not to mention, the decision to extend Kyle Lowry offered breathing room and has since paid off in droves. Lowry is currently having one of the best all-around seasons of his career.
It is hard to argue against the proficiency of Toronto’s front office, which is what should make Webster the No. 1 candidate to become the top dog in Chicago.