The 76ers announced Thursday afternoon they had parted ways with GM and president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo a little over a week after an investigation by The Ringer's Ben Detrick revealed the existence of Twitter burner accounts linked to Colangelo. Those accounts regularly criticized Sixers players and revealed sensitive information about the team, and while Colangelo argued his wife was solely responsible for all of the social media activity, the Sixers found Colangelo's relationship with the franchise had "been compromised."
While there may be additional fallout from this Philadelphia fiasco, the 76ers must focus on their immediate future with the NBA Draft two weeks away and free agency fast approaching. Head coach Brett Brown will take over basketball operations on an interim basis, but the Sixers need a permanent GM. Leaving a coach to handle normal day-to-day duties and long-term roster construction rarely works out well.
The Sixers are a team on the rise with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons leading the charge, so this is a very attractive position. There are several candidates that will emerge, but Philly's front office should target one man for the job: David Griffin.
Griffin, who has been busy showing a natural talent as an analyst on NBA TV, served as the Cavs general manager from 2014-17. He helped open the door for LeBron James' return, traded for Kevin Love and built a consistent title contender with subtle but important moves. Unfortunately for Cleveland, Griffin couldn't find common ground with owner Dan Gilbert during contract negotiations last summer. Koby Altman took his place and overhauled the roster twice, once with the Kyrie Irving trade and again at the February deadline.
The sudden change certainly didn't sit well with James: "It makes no sense why he shouldn't get an extension," the Cavaliers superstar told ESPN last April before Griffin parted ways with the team. "He's pulled every move - he's tried to make every move happen - to better this team to be able to compete for a championship.
"So we wouldn't be in this position, obviously, without him and without the guys that are here - from the coaching staff to the players to Griff. He's been a big piece of it."
If no one appreciated you Griff I did, and hopefully all the people of Cleveland! Thanks for what u did for the team for 3 yrs! We got us 1🏆- LeBron James (@KingJames) June 20, 2017
Griffin's connection with James alone makes him a great candidate. The Cavs are on the doorstep of elimination against the Warriors in the NBA Finals, and soon attention will shift to James' impending free agency. The Sixers would be able to secure a meeting with James even if Griffin weren't at the table, but his presence could give them a slight advantage.
Griffin also already has a solid understanding of the dynamics in play. In a recent appearance on CBS Sports Radio, Griffin noted the role of LeBron's agent, Rich Paul, who just so happens to represent a certain 6-10 point guard from Australia.
"I do think it is significant, though, that Rich Paul is the representative for Ben Simmons as well," Griffin said. "So he's going to know the organization very well, and I think that will certainly give them a leg up, because I know Brett Brown is somebody that you're going to look at when you're LeBron, and you're going to look at Pop [Spurs coach Gregg Popovich], you're going to look at the coach in LA... all the teams he's went to, coaching is going to matter. And I think because Ben has intimate knowledge of coach Brown, that will probably help."
But it's not just the LeBron angle - the 76ers find themselves in a similar position to the 2014 Cavs. Now past the "Process" phase, Philly is looking to become an annual contender out of the East along with the Celtics.
Those fringe moves can make all the difference with a thin margin of error, and Griffin knows them well. He nailed big decisions like creating cap room for James and firing David Blatt in 2016 in favor of Tyronn Lue, but consider some of his smaller transactions with the Cavs:
- Signing Shawn Marion in 2014 and Richard Jefferson in 2015
- Trading for Timofey Mozgov, JR Smith and Iman Shumpert in 2015
- Trading for Channing Frye in 2016
- Trading for Kyle Korver in 2017
Those might not seem like game-changers, but finding the right pieces around stars and sustaining a strong culture can prove extremely difficult given salary cap restraints. That same situation could arise in Philadelphia if the Sixers sign a max player like James and hand out big contracts down the road. (Embiid's extension is already in place, and Simmons' is coming soon.)
Brown and the rest of the 76ers front office folks have six picks ahead of the 2018 NBA Draft, including the No. 10 overall selection. They can easily create enough cap space to sign a star, whether it's James or Paul George this summer or Kawhi Leonard or Klay Thompson in 2019. These are fun problems to have, but ones that need to be managed by someone capable of earning the respect of players and rival GMs alike.
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