COMMENTARY | Tim Leiweke is keeping his list of targets to be Toronto's next general manager close to his vest, but by reading the tea leaves it's becoming clear who he may be looking at.
Based on those sources, here is my list of who Leiweke may be talking with to fill his opening as general manager of the Toronto Raptors.
General manager, Denver Nuggets
Stealing the current executive of the year away from the Denver Nuggets and returning him to Toronto would be a brilliant move by Leiweke.
There are reports that Denver is stingy and won't pay their front office people top dollar but I'm not buying that. First, George Karl is rumored to have made $4.5 million last season. Second, Ujiri is tight with the owner's son and is loved and appreciated by everyone in the organization. If the Nuggets refuse to pay him after all he's done - getting value for Carmelo Anthony and stealing Andre Iguodala last season in the Dwight Howard deal - it will look horrible on the franchise.
Plus, why would Ujiri walk away from a Denver team that has he built to his liking? Sure, it's not a perfect team, but it's a strong team that can compete in the Western Conference for years to come. Walking away from that franchise would be tough, especially if Denver throws some solid money at him.
Look for Toronto to throw a ton of cash at Ujiri but for Denver to match it.
Assistant general manager, Oklahoma City Thunder
Weaver is the guy I anticipate Toronto ending up with if they can't entice Ujiri back to where he started his front office career in the NBA.
Weaver was with the Thunder when the team drafted Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka and made the bold move to trade James Harden before the start of this season. Something else that jumps out at you is that he got his start in the NBA as director of player personnel for the Utah Jazz - one of the better run franchises in the league.
He also is linked to Syracuse University as the guy who got Carmelo Anthony to play for them and eventually win an NCAA Championship during his only season playing college ball.
While Weaver may not have experience running an NBA team, he's been around enough talented front offices to have a strong grasp of what the role entails. Instead of Toronto picking up a retread general manager that flamed out somewhere else or left their current situation for a bigger pay day, hiring Weaver might be just the kind of bold move the franchise needs.
General manager, Indiana Pacers
Why would Pritchard leave Indiana? It's the state where he grew up in and he's at the helm for one of the top teams in the NBA. Throw into the mix their two core players are Roy Hibbert and Paul George - neither player is older than 26 - and he would be foolish to bolt.
Plus, it's not like he's an ideal fit for Toronto or has proven himself as a front office genius. Grabbing Brandon Roy looked great a couple years back, but it's become clear the past few years why so many teams passed on him and his ravaged knees. The drafting of Greg Oden doesn't look too great either. He didn't last long in Portland due to power struggles and issues with his ego and personality.
Granted, he's off to a great start in Indiana, but he hasn't had a big hand in shaping the roster. All of Indiana's key pieces - Hibbert, George, David West, George Hill, Lance Stephenson, Danny Granger - were all in place before he arrived.
Pritchard may be a splashy name, but the Raptors would be better suited going with an option other than him.
Executive vice-president of basketball operations, Toronto Raptors
There's a lot of logic in retaining Stefanski and possibly Wayne Embry with him as well, but I'll be shocked if Toronto elects to go this route. By pushing Bryan Colangelo out of his role it's clear they don't like how the team has been run so it would be bizarre if the team elected to keep pieces of the front office that were in place while he was in control.
Also, with Colangelo still lurking at Air Canada Centre as vice-president it would be a weird and awkward situation for Stefanski.
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