Toronto Raptors: The Search for a New General Manager May Be over

Mark BirdsellContributor IIIAugust 1, 2011

DENVER, CO - MARCH 21:  Andrea Bargnani #7 of the Toronto Raptors looks on during a break in the action against the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center on March 21, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. The Nuggets defeated the Raptors 123-90. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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There isn’t much going on in the NBA these days with the NBA lockout in full effect. Many of the NBA’s top players are left weighing their options playing overseas, while, Billy Hunter, the NBPA and David Stern try to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement.

However, NBA executives are just sitting on the sidelines waiting for the lockout to end. They are still working to improve their teams. Among those is Bryan Colangelo, President of Basketball Operations for the Toronto Raptors.

His first move this offseason, after receiving a two-year contract extension, was to hire Dwayne Casey as the team’s head coach. Casey was an integral part of the Dallas Mavericks’ championship run. He was one of the chief architects of the team’s defense and will be responsible for transforming one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA.

Next, Colangelo reorganized the team’s front office. Maurizio Gherardini and Jim Kelly had their contracts renewed as well; both are senior level executives with the team. However, Doug Smith of the Toronto Star reported that their job descriptions could very well change next season.

Then it was rumoured the Raptors were in the market for a new General Manager. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reported the three front-runners were former New Orleans Hornets GM Jeff Bower, Philadelphia 76ers GM Ed Stefanski and San Antonio Spurs assistant GM Dennis Lindsey.

SEATTLE - APRIL 1:  Head coach Kevin Pritchard of the Portland Trail Blazers claps during the game against the Seattle Sonics at Key Arena on April 1, 2005 in Seattle, Washington.  The Sonics won 89-87.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agree
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A new candidate emerged today. David Aldridge of is reporting that Kevin Pritchard is in the mix for the Raptors’ GM position.

Pritchard became the Director of Player Personnel for the Indiana Pacers on July 8, 2011.  However, he has an option that allows him to terminate his contract if a GM position becomes available with another team.

Kevin Pritchard would be the ideal executive to add to the Raptors’ front office. He is a tremendous talent evaluator and has a knack for acquiring assets.

Before Colangelo received his contract extension his critics were seeking his dismissal. I never understood why. Yes, it is true the Raptors have not produced as was expected when Colangelo took over in 2006, but there weren’t too many candidates available with his pedigree. 

The only person I felt was a legitimate replacement for Colangelo was Pritchard. Now the team might be able to have both.

Like many of the NBA’s top executives Pritchard started in the front office of the San Antonio Spurs. He later joined the Portland Trailblazers as the Director of Player Personnel. Then he was promoted to General Manager in 2007. He is responsible for drafting, among others, Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge and Greg Oden.

The Trailblazers were seen as the NBA’s up-and-coming team, the heir apparent to the Spurs and Lakers before injuries to Roy and Oden. After the 2008-09 season the Blazers were the second youngest team in the league, yet finished with 54 wins, tied for second most in the Western Conference.

Pritchard’s relationship with the Trailblazers began to sour in 2010. First, his right-hand man, Tom Penn, was fired in March. Then Pritchard was relieved of his general manager duties one hour before the 2010 NBA draft. However, he stayed on at the request of owner Paul Allen to make the team’s selections.

No reason was given for Pritchard’s dismissal.

The addition of Pritchard would bring reinforcements to a depleted Toronto front office. The team lost Masai Ujiri last season when he left to become the GM of the Denver Nuggets

Furthermore, Pritchard wouldn’t just be hired for the sake of adding another senior executive. He would bring legitimate skills to the table and a fresh perspective for a team that has become stagnant in recent years.

The Raptors have a long way to go if they want to compete for an NBA Championship. There are a number of holes in the team’s current roster that need to be addressed. Pritchard’s knack for orchestrating trades and acquiring assets would benefit Toronto significantly. 

Pritchard reportedly has a large ego, which makes him hard to work with, but if he can keep that in check he would be a welcome addition to any team.

There is no denying his skills as an NBA executive, and if he has any interest in coming to Toronto, the Raptors would be foolish to pass up the opportunity to add him to the team's front office.