The Washington Wizards’ next president of basketball operations will face a massive undertaking.
The team has a lottery pick in an upcoming NBA draft flush with versatile wing players, a position Washington could use. The roster, with just five players available for the start of the 2019-20 season, must be filled out in free agency, which begins July 1. Compounding that matter, Washington already has roughly $90 million tied up in salary, which limits the amount of money it can spend on adding quality players to surround two-time all-star Bradley Beal.
These priorities immediately will land on the lap of the person picked to run the Wizards’ front office, and the direness of the situation might explain why the franchise has taken its time in tapping its next leader.
The Wizards have asked to interview at least four prospective replacements for the fired Ernie Grunfeld. On Tuesday, a procession of candidates (Houston’s Gersson Rosas, Oklahoma City’s Troy Weaver and Danny Ferry) followed one after the other in front of majority owner Ted Leonsis. However, Rosas will be hired as the next president of the Minnesota Timberwolves, according to multiple reports.
Wizards in-house candidate, Tommy Sheppard, essentially has been afforded a month-long interview during the time he has been running the day-to-day operations in the interim.
The organization has kept a tight lid over the interview process. It is not known whether Leonsis will hire two people, a president as well as a general manager, or empower one person to hold the lead executive title as Grunfeld did for 16 years. Also, a timetable for Leonsis’s decision isn’t clear even to people within the organization.
Despite the uncertainty, it has been evident that Leonsis wanted to take his time with the search and self-evaluation process.
In late March, Leonsis hired consultant Mike Forde in advance of firing Grunfeld. By April 2, after Grunfeld’s dismissal, Leonsis declared he would take three weeks to evaluate what has and has not worked within the organization. While other lottery-bound teams around the league have held pre-draft workouts, Wizards employees met with Leonsis and Forde to discuss the state of the franchise.
This week, the Wizards shifted past introspection to interviews.
Two of the candidates, Ferry and Weaver, have ties to the area — and to each other. Ferry, who previously ran the front office in Cleveland and Atlanta, hails from Bowie, Md., and played at DeMatha Catholic High.
Weaver, who recently completed his 10th season in Oklahoma City and first as vice president of basketball operations, played at Archbishop Carroll High.
When Ferry’s father, Bob, was general manager of the 1978 NBA champion Washington Bullets, Weaver was a boy obsessed with basketball and attended the championship parade. Weaver still has family in the area, and his wife and children live in Upper Marlboro, Md.
Weaver’s career dates from his days as the founder of the AAU program DC Assault, and he became known in basketball circles for his knack in landing talent. When Weaver moved to colleges, he was credited with recruiting Carmelo Anthony to Syracuse. The team won the 2003 NCAA championship during Anthony’s only season.
After Weaver, who also made college stops at Pittsburgh and New Mexico, shifted to the NBA, he worked as a scout with the Utah Jazz before joining the then-Seattle SuperSonics and rising to become Sam Presti’s right-hand man.
Despite not being a marquee NBA city, Oklahoma City has not languished through the problems of other small-market teams, thanks in part to its ability to retain talent. The franchise held on to superstar Russell Westbrook after Kevin Durant departed in free agency in 2016. Last summer, the Thunder convinced all-star Paul George to sign an extension.
Though the Thunder lost in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs for the third straight year, the organization has not finished under .500 since 2008-09, its first season in Oklahoma City.