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The GM Search

Inspired by Jerry Brewer's piece in the Times today, a number of GM candidates are discussed.

Jerry West is definitely the biggest name candidate out there, but he's promised to stick with Memphis through this draft. I do not see the advantage or wisdom of giving Lenny Wilkens the choice on this pick. Lenny will not be coaching this team and if the team intends to add a basketball guy as a GM (as opposed to more of a business manager; the title GM is just that, a title) then he should make the pick in conjunction with his choice to coach.

Interestingly enough Kiki Vandeweghe's name was broached as being the "hottest" candidate out there. Kiki did a very nice job at first guiding the Nuggets from salary cap hell. The Nuggets had gotten there under the misguided bumblings of Dan Issel, who is the poster boy for just how horribly wrong things can go when you hire local legends for their name rather than their ability to actually do the job. It worked in Joe Dumars' case, but Dumars had expressed interest in personnel for some time; Issel clearly wasn't up to the task.

Under Kiki, the team was quickly reshaped. He traded fragile PF Antonio McDyess for Marcus Camby and the draft pick that became Nene. He hired a surprisingly successful firebrand in Jeff Bzdelik to coach the smoking remains of his roster and not surprisingly ended up with a very high pick the following year which turned out to be Carmelo Anthony along with a boatload of cap space. Other than that his draft record is suspect. He drafted one of the biggest busts of the past 5 years in Nickoloz Tskitishvili and many of the players he drafted in the lower rounds haven't panned out for ANY team; Illinois guard Frank Williams, Tennessee forward Vincent Yarbrough, candidate for VH1's Where Are They Now? Sani Becirovic, and pint-sized St. Joe's standout but ho-hum NBA guard Jameer Nelson.

Unfortunately his adventures in free agency to fill that cap space didn't run out so well either. Kiki signed Andre Miller and Greg Buckner to rather large deals and traded for Kenyon Martin and Eduardo Najera, both deals turning out to be tremendously expensive busts for the Nuggets. Vandeweghe finally parted company with the Nuggets when owner Stan Kroenke fired Jeff Bzdelik (fairly, IMO) and replaced him with George Karl, who had been privately lobbying Kroenke for the job over Vandeweghe's objections.

I'm not sold on Vandeweghe as the best candidate for this team. In a nutshell he's shown that he can shed salary and that's about it. Picking Melo in that draft was an absolute no-brainer. This team doesn't have any of the crippling cap issues that Denver had when he took over and given the young talent already on the roster the Sonics are in arguably a better position already than the Nuggets were when Kiki took over.

The Sonics would be better served by trying to hire away one of Phoenix's front office assistants or San Antonio assistant GM Sam Presti and give some new blood a chance. I don't think Jerry West is a realistic or practical solution for this franchise. West's draft picks and trade record in Memphis was okay, not great and certainly not commensurate with his reputation as architect of the Showtime Laker dynasty. It is fairly easy to do a sell job on prospective NBA free agents when you have the prospect of living in Southern California doing most of the talking for you as well as guys like Magic Johnson helping with the recruiting. West wouldn't have either of those luxuries as Sonic GM.