After 18 seasons of either Gar Forman or John Paxson leading the Bulls’ front office, Chicago is finally making a change. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Friday that Forman and Paxson are being assigned to different roles, and the Bulls have started the search for a new top executive to run the team.
With league operations suspended as of last month and the 2019-20 regular season feeling more and more like it’s all but over, it makes sense that the Bulls would start to act as if the offseason is here. NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson reported that president and COO Michael Reinsdorf had originally planned to begin interviewing candidates after the regular season ended, but now the new hire can get a head start on assessing the current staff. Jim Boylen, we hardly knew ya.
Though it’s nice to see one of the league’s legacy franchises do what it should have done years ago, the key question now becomes who the Bulls will hire next—and what that hire will say about the direction the franchise wants to go. The end of the GarPax era is finally here, so let’s look at (and dream up) some possible candidates to be the Bulls’ savior:
The Sensible Choices
Following Friday’s news that Reinsdorf is beginning his search, Woj reported that the Bulls already have plans to reach out to two current general managers: Denver’s Arturas Karnisovas and Toronto’s Bobby Webster. Both Karnisovas and Webster have risen up the ranks with their respective franchises by playing a big role in shaping strong rosters. Webster’s résumé speaks for itself: He helped Masai Ujiri build the Raptors into title winners, then kept them competitive this season despite the loss of Kawhi Leonard. Webster is only 35, and the rumors of the Bulls’ interest in him quickly bring to mind the Cubs’ hiring of 37-year-old Theo Epstein in 2011. Epstein, of course, helped revive one of the most famous institutions in sports—could Webster do the same?
Karnisovas, meanwhile, doesn’t have a ring, but has the pedigree of helping construct one of the more patient and successful rebuilds in the league. The Nuggets are not just a competitive, mostly homegrown team—they also have a young core that seems ready to win for the foreseeable future, which is both a testament to the entire infrastructure and a sign of Karnisovas’s skill. Like Webster, Karnisovas could help change the culture inside the Bulls right away.
The Athletic also reported that the Bulls are going to reach out to both Indiana GM Chad Buchanan and Miami VP of basketball operations Adam Simon. There’s a thread here that should be encouraging for Bulls fans—all of these names are currently employed by franchises that have good cultures and have been on the right side of .500 lately.
The Agent-Turned-GM Move
The Bulls reportedly don’t plan to go this route, but we’ve seen plans change in the past in Chicago. If the franchise reverses course, it could follow in the footsteps of the Warriors, Lakers, and Knicks and choose to hire an agent as its front office head. Now that the door has been opened by the Rob Pelinkas and Leon Roses of the world, a lot of agents are undoubtedly going to want to follow suit. Is this the right move for the Bulls? It’s hard to say. Right now, they’re not exactly in a position to attract big-name free agents. They have a team full of young players with promise, but little proof that they’re getting better. An agent turned GM might be more transaction-focused than development-oriented, and at least for now, the Bulls seem to realize they need the latter.
The Big Swing
The Bulls have taken a big hit in the past few years. They have finished three straight seasons under .500, and have had more controversial stories published about their coaches and players than they’ve had playoff wins. Still, Reinsdorf may believe that the Bulls are still the Bulls and should act as such. So why not swing for the fences? According to The Athletic’s Darnell Mayberry, the Bulls are not planning to go after Masai Ujiri or Sam Presti, but … can I throw out Daryl Morey as a suggestion? Maybe Morey’s Hong Kong controversy last fall will be enough of a deterrent, but if there’s interest from Chicago’s side, it’s not hard to envision a world in which Morey reciprocates. Houston has been a mess since Tilman Fertitta bought the team and started trying to cut costs. And though the team seemed to be turning a corner before the season shut down, just having James Harden isn’t enough. The situation in Houston does not seem conducive to winning for the foreseeable future. Maybe Morey—a Northwestern alum!—could use a new project.
The Legacy Guy
Let’s have some hypothetical fun with this one. What about Scottie Pippen? This wouldn’t be the first time a team tried to reach back into the past to recreate its glory days. Pippen is currently an analyst on ESPN’s NBA show The Jump and has stayed connected to the game. With the right support staff around him and development-driven coaches, the Bulls could straddle the line between becoming an attractive option for free agents—being able to put Pippen in a room is an automatic advantage—and a hub for developing young players. It makes sense that the Bulls are reportedly not going after an agent, given that they can’t currently afford to prioritize big-name transactions over internal growth, but with Pippen, there’s a chance Chicago could get the best of both worlds. Plus, if Jordan can own a team, why can’t Pippen run one?