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As assistant general manager Justin Zanik has started to operate the Milwaukee Bucks on a day-to-day basis, the franchise was granted permission to speak to several outside front-office executives in its search for a permanent GM, league sources told The Vertical.
As a precursor to possible interviews, Milwaukee made calls on Tuesday to inquire about Indiana vice president of basketball operations Peter Dinwiddie, Denver assistant GM Arturas Karnisovas, Memphis Grizzlies VP of player personnel Ed Stefanski and Atlanta Hawks special adviser to ownership Wes Wilcox, league sources told The Vertical.
Those teams granted permission for Milwaukee to interview the candidates. The Bucks are running a search to replace John Hammond, who left to join new president Jeff Weltman as GM of the Orlando Magic. The Bucks have hired a search firm to assist in the process, and there are expected to be more candidates contacted about the job, league sources told The Vertical.
Zanik remains a strong internal candidate for the job, league sources told The Vertical. He joined the Bucks in 2016 after three years as assistant GM of the Utah Jazz.
Stefanski and Wilcox both were general managers in the NBA. Stefanski was GM of the
Philadelphia 76ers (2007-11) and Wilcox was with the Hawks (2015-17).
Dinwiddie and Karnisovas have emerged as two of the NBA’s most respected young front-office executives.
Stefanski has history with Bucks coach Jason Kidd and team consultant Rod Thorn, whom he worked closely with in New Jersey. Stefanski was Thorn’s top assistant in the Nets’ run to consecutive NBA Finals appearances and led the Sixers to three playoff appearances in four years as GM, including the drafting of Jrue Holiday (No. 17 overall in 2009) and Nikola Vucevic (No. 16 overall in 2011).
The Hawks recently moved Wilcox out of the GM job and into an advisement role with ownership, but the totality of his run in the Atlanta front office earned Milwaukee’s interest.
Wilcox replaced Danny Ferry as Hawks GM in 2015, a part of the front office that resurrected the franchise to a 60-victory season and berth in the Eastern Conference finals. Under Wilcox and president/coach Mike Budenholzer, the Hawks won 48 and 43 games the past two seasons, replenishing the roster with young players and significant assets moving forward, including 11 draft picks over the next three years.
Karnisovas was a finalist for the Brooklyn Nets GM job a year ago, finishing runner-up to Sean Marks. Karnisovas, a two-time Olympic medalist for Lithuania, has moved up rapidly in the NBA, including stops in the league office, Houston and now under GM Tim Connelly in Denver.
Karnisovas has been a key player in the evaluation and drafting of franchise cornerstone Nikola Jokic, 2014 first-round pick Jusuf Nurkic, and 2014 first-round pick Gary Harris.
Dinwiddie has risen in the Pacers’ front office and evolved into ownership’s and ex-president Larry Bird’s personal choice – as well as new president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard’s choice – to move into a senior front-office role with the Pacers. Dinwiddie has earned significant praise from Bird and longtime Pacers president and consultant Donnie Walsh. Dinwiddie is completing his 11th season with the Pacers.