The Wizards Swung and Missed on Tim Connelly, Now What?

The Wizards ongoing search for a new head executive was expected to come to a close this weekend but with Tim Connelly now staying in Denver, that is no longer the case. Connelly had been linked to Washington for several weeks and after he visited Washington on Friday and interviewed with Ted Leonsis, it appeared the Wizards may land him after all.

Initial reporting over the weekend suggested the Wizards offered Connelly a four-year contract somewhere in the ballpark of $4 million per year, but Washington Post reporter Candance Bucker refuted that notion this morning.

Connelly has been the Denver Nuggets’ top executive since 2013. Over the past several years under his guidance, the Nuggets gradually improved and emerged as one of the better teams in the Western Conference this past season. Connelly’s decision to draft the likes of Nikola Jokic, Garry Harris, and Jamaal Murray, as well as sign Paul Millsap in free agency, were impactful moves.

The hope was that he could do the same for Washington, an area in which Connelly has significant ties. He grew up in Baltimore, attended Catholic University in D.C, and worked in the Wizards organization for nearly 11 years. He started off as a video coordinator before working his way into scouting and player personnel roles in the front office.

However, the lure of coming home was ultimately not enough to poach him from Denver. It’s hard to blame him for staying put, either. Connelly has put together a great roster and essentially built the Nuggets into a Western Conference contender. The odds of him leaving such a great situation were always relatively low.

Does this sting? No doubt. Connelly was the Wizards’ top target for the GM position and checked off all the boxes. He was the most ideal candidate for the job, but Washington, more specifically Ted Leonsis, must now move quickly to pick up the pieces. The NBA draft is just a month away and is quickly followed by free agency and summer league. It’s imperative that the Wizards find someone to lead the front office over the next few months and beyond.

The Wizards will now turn their attention to three other candidates whom they had been considering for the position: Tommy Sheppard, Danny Ferry, and Troy Weaver.

Sheppard is the only in-house option among the group. For the past 16 years, Sheppard has worked underneath Grunfeld as the Wizards’ Vice President of Basketball Operations. Since April 2, when Grunfeld was fired, Sheppard has been serving as the team’s interim GM.

He signed Jordan McRae and Tarik Phillips to contracts for 2019-20, parted ways with Devin Robinson following an off-court altercation, and recently attended the combine to interview and scout draft prospects. All three of these things have long-term implications and hint that Sheppard could end up being the guy after all.

There’s also the possibility that Sheppard is promoted to GM but the Wizards still hire a new President of Basketball Operations, such as Weaver or Ferry.

Weaver has already been interviewed twice by the Wizards. Weaver is highly-regarded around the league and his name has been floated around for front office openings over the past several years. He’s been the Oklahoma City Thunder’s VP of Basketball Operations since 2010.

Like Connelly, Weaver has ties to the D.C. area. He was born and grew up in Prince George’s County and coached AAU basketball in the Nation’s Capital for multiple years, amassing an impressive 85-17 record. Prior to joining OKC, Weaver worked in the Utah Jazz’s front office as a head scout and director of player personnel.

Then there’s Danny Ferry, the third candidate for the position. Ferry, 52, began his front office career with the San Antonio Spurs in 2003 following his retirement from the league. He served as the General Manager of the Cleveland Cavaliers from 2005-2010 and earned that same title for the Atlanta Hawks two years later.

After a falling out with organization in Atlanta, Ferry joined the New Orleans Pelicans in 2016 in an advisory role to then-GM Dell Demps. When Demps was fired this past season, Ferry took over as the interim GM but was removed from that position last month following the hiring of David Griffin.

Between Ferry, Weaver, and Sheppard, the Wizards have a difficult decision to make. Each candidate is qualified for the position and bring different qualities to the table. It’ll be interesting to see which direction Leonsis and the Wizards take.

One thing is for sure, though – Washington needs to make a decision as soon as possible.


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