Raptors look at GM candidates

Three candidates have emerged as frontrunners for the Toronto Raptors’ general manager job, league sources told Yahoo! Sports.

Former New Orleans Hornets GM Jeff Bower, Philadelphia 76ers GM Ed Stefanski and San Antonio assistant GM Dennis Lindsey are three focuses of the franchise to work under Toronto president Bryan Colangelo, sources said.

No formal interviews have been conducted, sources said, but Colangelo has started the process of getting permission from teams to talk to candidates. It may not be until August that Colangelo starts formal interviews for the job.

Colangelo has held the title of president and GM, but has said he’s willing to cede the GM title for the right candidate.

Bower was fired as Hornets GM in 2010, just weeks after he was close to replacing Rod Thorn as the New Jersey Nets GM. Bower was Thorn’s choice, but Nets coach Avery Johnson fought to keep Bower out of New Jersey because he was still angry that Bower didn’t want him as Hornets coach.

Stefanski is part of a regime change in Philadelphia, where new ownership is taking over and may overhaul basketball operations. Thorn came into Philadelphia a year ago as team president, usurping Stefanski’s power.

Lindsey has turned down two GM jobs in the past couple years, including Phoenix and Minnesota. He works under Spurs GM R.C. Buford.

Colangelo was given a new two-year contract this spring, but with a mandate to make changes and start winning. In the past year, he lost Masai Ujiri from his basketball operations for the GM job, and reshuffled those left in his front office. Ujiri left to work for the Denver Nuggets.

Colangelo would keep final say in basketball operations, and it’s unclear how much, if any, autonomy a GM would have under him. Colangelo has always been hands-on with his coaching staffs and active in trade talks and deals. Toronto has missed the playoffs for two straight years. After losing Chris Bosh(notes) to free agency in the summer of 2010, the Raptors won 22 games last season.

Colangelo, a two-time NBA executive of the year, has come under increased criticism in Toronto since winning an Atlantic Division title in his first season as Toronto’s GM in 2006-07. He’s gone through two head coaches (Sam Mitchell and Jay Triano), and hired Dallas Mavericks assistant Dwane Casey last month as the team’s new head coach.