The Chicago Bulls focused on a few candidates for their GM search as the Paxson-Forman era comes to an end; former players like Tayshaun Prince make a case.
The Chicago Bulls have endured John Paxson and Gar Forman era for far too long, and this week have both been progressive, but frustrating for ownership to move forward with the team’s future. Paxson was hired as general manager in 2003 to replace Hall of Famer Jerry Krause and when Paxson was elevated to the executive VP title in 2009, so Paxson brought Forman with him promoting him to general manager.
Chicago had a .500 record or better each year from 2008-09 to 2016-17, starting the Paxson-Forman era out on the right foot with Tom Thibodeau as head coach. Since the start of the 2017-18 season, however, the Bulls have had three-straight seasons of 27 wins or fewer. They totaled 71 victories over the last three seasons — the least amount of wins over three years in franchise history since 2000-2003. That also marks the second-lowest win total in the Eastern Conference over three seasons trailing only the Knicks’ 70.
Currently, the Bulls are zeroed in on Denver Nuggets GM Arturas Karnisovas who is the best-case scenario for the franchise – plain and simple. He’s a proven leader, well respected in any gym across the league and he assisted in creating one of the best nuclei of talent in the Western Conference built around a do-it-all center.
The latest K.C. Johnson podcast is a good listen for the latest updates In the Bulls front office search and what will happen to Paxson and Forman, but if they can’t land Karnisovas, then it’ll be time to completely shake up the search.
The Bulls have requested to interview two different candidates outside of Karnisovas, the Heat’s Adam Simon and Raptors Bobby Webster. Chicago has swung and missed on Jazz GM Justin Zanik already and Pacers GM Chad Buchanan pulled out of the interview process, opting to stick around in Indiana and pass on the already set meeting with Bulls ownership.
The Bulls’ search is being led by Michael Reinsdorf, with his father, chairman Jerry Reinsdorf at the helm, but it’s clear that if they don’t land Karnisovas that they will have to start looking at former players that have risen up inside franchise management — like Tayshaun Prince.
NBA teams such as the 76ers (Elton Brand), Hornets (Mitch Kupchak), Kings (Vlade Divac), Michael Finley (Mavericks), and the Suns (James Jones). have made the move over the past five years bringing in former players as general managers. It’s safe to say since all four have taken over, there have been bright spots including blockbuster trades and promising draft selections between the group.
The 76ers are the most notable team of the group with Brand landing Al Horford, Tobias Harris, Jimmy Butler, Josh Richardson and more players to fuel that 2018-19 Eastern Conference Final run and continued success into this season before COVID-19. The Kings and Hornets have a nice assembly of core young talent from the draft the past two seasons, and shouldn’t be slept on in the future.
Divac landed De’Aron Fox and Marvin Bagley III in the draft and resigned Buddy Hield for Sacramento while Charlotte and Kupchak signed Terry Rozier, and drafted P.J. Washington last season. The Suns drafted Jarrett Culver this past season in James Jones’ first draft class and signed Ricky Rubio to play alongside Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton in Pheonix.
Mark Cuban even endorsed Michael Finley for the Bulls job after it opened, and frankly, Chicago can’t miss the boat on any of these former players and lose out on this core unit that Former-Paxson put together. Sports Illustrated did a piece on Cuban promoting Finley to the Windy City and Pippen Ain’t Easy’s Andrew Miller also did a piece on Finley that gives some stellar quotes straight from Cuban.
In 2017, the Memphis Grizzlies hired Tayshaun Prince as special advisor to the general manager, and in April 2019, he was promoted to vice president of basketball affairs. Prince’s quick rise in Grizzlies management is a credit to his former career as a player, most notable for the Detroit Pistons (02-12), but also his time in Memphis (13-15). He only spent three seasons in Memphis, but helped lead the franchise to its first Western Conference Finals in 2012-13 after being traded from Detroit.
Prince was the No. 23 overall pick in the 2002 NBA Draft and finished his career averaging 11.1 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 2.4 assists over 17 seasons with four teams and 1,017 games played. Prince played for the Pistons, Grizzlies, Celtics, and Timberwolves in his career, most notably winning the NBA Championship with Detroit in 2004. He won an Olympic Gold Medal in 2008 with the United States Men’s National Basketball Team and was a four-time NBA All-Defensive Second Team selection (2004-08).
His duties with the Grizzlies include facilitating alignment between the front office, coaching staff and locker room, as well as participate in the evaluation of professional, college and G-League personnel. He’s been apart of the franchises’ drafting and development of Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr., and Dillon Brooks. His latest challenge is developing former Heat wing Justise Winslow after his trade to Memphis from Miami.
Prince was also a driving factor in the Grizzlies trade to receive Kelly Oubre Jr. in December of 2018. Ultimately, Oubre was dealt to Phoenix and never played a game for Memphis, but Prince’s young management career is impressive. Chicago’s last two significant trades involved deals with the Wizards for Tomas Satoransky in a sign-and-trade on July 7, 2019, and Otto Porter Jr.‘s four-year $106 million-plus contract on Feb. 2019. Those two deals did nothing but put the Bulls in a financial bind with Porter Jr.’s contract especially for the 29 games played since being acquired.
The chance to work with a core of Coby White, Zach LaVine, Otto Porter Jr., Lauri Markkanen, and Wendell Carter Jr. surely has to be enticing for Prince and current candidates, but is it enough to pull these successful GM’s from their respective franchises, or is Chicago even going to follow this trend that the future of the league is pointing towards?
Bulls’ ownership has discussed the plan with Paxson and Forman, according to Woj. Paxson is likely to continue in an advisory role with the Bulls and Forman likely to remain in scouting with updates coming soon. Chicago has a chance to be revolutionary with the new management selection, rather than selecting another potential Paxson-Forman type pairing.
Chicago only has one chance to make the right hire as the next five-to-ten years will either be an uphill battle or a hopeful return to the beginning of the 2010s with a new coach, new management, and new team identity.