Nielsen on Raptors: Meet the GM candidates

Pacers general manager Tom Pritchard, Nuggets general manager Masai Ujiri and Raptors assistant general manager Ed Stefanski. (Associated Press)

On Tuesday, the Toronto Raptors announced that Bryan Colangelo would relinquish his duties as general manager, essentially putting an end to his stint as the man making the personnel decisions in Toronto.

While Colangelo will remain on board as the team’s president, the man who is shuffling the deck in the Raptors front office, Tim Leiweke, is now faced with the task of finding a new captain of the ship in Toronto.

There have already been several names linked with the general manager’s job in Toronto; there are also several others who fit the bill as Leiweke tries to fill the hole.

The following is a list of several available candidates who have been linked with the Raptors job and other recent openings as well:

Ed Stefanski – Executive vice-president of basketball operations, Toronto Raptors

Stefanski has a history of making wise draft decisions including grabbing Jrue Holiday for the 76ers with the 17th overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft. During his time in New Jersey, he also helped engineer the blockbuster trade in which the Nets stole Vince Carter from the Raptors for draft picks and spare parts.

As Colangelo’s right-hand man, he will hardly represent the big splash the Raptors are looking to make and while he is a shrewd talent evaluator, he is not necessarily the best decision-maker when it comes to contract negotiations.

Masai Ujiri – General manager, Denver Nuggets

Ujiri was recently named NBA Executive of the Year but his contract is set to expire and he is one of the lowest-paid general managers in the league. He has guided the franchise through some turbulent times in an impressive fashion as he rebuilt the Nuggets through the haul he acquired from the New York Knicks along with some impressive picks in the draft. Among his more recent draft picks are guard Evan Fournier and forward Kenneth Farried.

Ujiri also has ties to Colangelo having served as his assistant general manager in the past. However, it remains to be seen if he wants to leave the Nuggets before completing his current project.

Tommy Sheppard – Vice president of basketball administration, Washington Wizards

Maybe not quite as big a name as others on the list, Sheppard has been around the league for many moons now. He has been in Washington for nine years and is Ernie Grunfeld’s right-hand man. Prior to joining the Wizards, Sheppard spent time in Denver where he worked with Leiweke, which could be why he has been linked with the job.

Troy Weaver – Assistant general manager, Oklahoma City Thunder

Weaver is one of the hottest commodities in the NBA right now as he serves as Sam Presti’s top lieutenant in Oklahoma City. Prior to joining the Thunder staff, Weaver was in Utah where he was director of player personnel. Any link with the Thunder or Spurs front office seems to add to other teams’ interest in the team’s staff.

Jeff Weltman – Assistant general manager, Milwaukee Bucks

Weltman has been in Milwaukee for five seasons where he has served as assistant general manager to John Hammond. Prior to joining the Bucks, he spent time time in Denver and Detroit as well as with the Los Angeles Clippers.

Scott Layden – Assistant general manager, San Antonio Spurs

While he is the son of Jazz legend Frank Layden, Scott Layden has quite a long resume of his own. He was GM of the Knicks for five (up-and-down) seasons around the turn of the century but has more recently been part of the Spurs incredible front office staff. Many consider Layden to be responsible for the Jazz decision to select John Stockton.

Mike Zarren – Assistant general manager, Boston Celtics

He is a lifelong Celtic who has worked his way up the ladder from unpaid intern to assistant general manager in similar fashion to Blue Jays boss Alex Anthopoulos. Zarren is an all-star in the stats community and recently turned down a similar posting with the 76ers according to reports.

Kevin Pritchard – General manager, Indiana Pacers

This former Kansas Jayhawk worked his way up through the Portland Trail Blazers organization. He helped erase the Jail Blazers era in Portland by piecing together deals which helped bring LaMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy to Portland although he also drafted Greg Oden over Kevin Durant. He left Portland under odd circumstances in 2009 and joined the Pacers front office in 2011. He had a so-so summer last year as the Pacers made an odd draft pick (Miles Plumlee) and also engineered a deal which moved Darren Collison to Dallas, stripping the Pacers of depth.

Tom Penn –

Penn was Pritchard’s right-hand man in Portland and also spent seven seasons with the Grizzlies and was with them for their final season in Vancouver. He is considered to be a top-notch expert in managing a salary cap and on the CBA. He has also aided ESPN on their combine coverage in the past.

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