They often don't get the credit for it, but NBA general managers are as responsible for a team's success - or failure - as anyone within the organization (just as the New York Knicks about Phil Jackson). As such, finding a good one is crucial for a franchise. Which young NBA executives are on track to become successful GMs at some point in their career? Here are the top six:
1) Michael Winger, Assistant GM/team counsel, Oklahoma City Thunder
Winger has turned down a number of general manager jobs over the last five years in order to stay with Oklahoma City, and he has played a major role in building a successful roster while keeping the franchise's cap situation manageable. He knows the ins-and-outs of the CBA and salary cap as well as any executive in the league and serves as the point man on conversations with other teams thanks to his vast amount of contacts in the league. As the salary cap continues to explode, execs of his ilk are becoming more and more in demand - meaning he'll be a general manager sooner rather than later.
Winger comes from a business background, serving as the personal assistant to Ron Shapiro during his last year of law school, and came into the NBA in 2005 as the director of basketball operations and general counsel for the Cavs. He stayed there through the end of the 2009-10 season before moving to his current role with Oklahoma City.
2) Koby Altman, Assistant/acting GM, Cleveland Cavaliers
This one may be cheating a little bit since Altman is already acting as Cleveland's general manager since the departure of David Griffin, and owner Dan Gilbert has met with him about the future of the front office. There's a solid chance that Altman gets the promotion to permanent GM, which would cap a quick rise through the ranks.
He was hired as the team's pro personnel manager in August 2012 after serving two years as an assistant coach for Columbia University. Altman was promoted to assistant GM prior to the start of this past season.
3) Troy Weaver, VP & Assistant GM, Oklahoma City Thunder
Another Thunder executive, Weaver is known as one of the best talent evaluators in the sport, along with his specialty of identifying which players will fit with OKC's culture. Those in the organization also rave about his ability to work with others, and has no problem deferring to those who know more than him in a certain area.
Many credit Oklahoma City's front office success to Weaver's player evaluations and Winger's ability to handle the business side of things. That combination has led to a lot of success for both, and will eventually lead to general manager jobs.
4) Mike Zarren, assistant GM, Boston Celtics
Zarren is the main analytics guy in Boston's front office, and despite interest from several teams seemingly every offseason, he has stayed with his childhood favorite team in the Celtics. He's the biggest rising star in one of the best front offices in the entire league and should continue to see interest from other teams with GM openings every offseason.
Zarren came very close to joining the 76ers in 2013, but opted to stay. He will get chances to leave again, but it seems like he may wait it out until he gets his chance in Boston.
5) Trajan Langdon, assistant GM, Brooklyn Nets
Langdon, who's name you may know from his days as a sharpshooter for Duke and stint in the NBA, has spent time with the Spurs as a scout and in Cleveland's front office before accepting his role with the Nets in March 2016. He is part of a front office that inherited a mess in Brooklyn that will take a few years to get out of, so it may take some time before he starts getting GM offers - which is the only reason why he's so low on the list.
He needs to prove himself in his new role, but those around the league point to his experience at all levels of basketball (star a Duke, professional player in NBA and overseas) as a major asset. His ability to relate to players, scout talent and manage players have him as a front office star worth watching.
6) Kirk Lacob, VP of GSW Sports Ventures & Assistant GM, Golden State Warriors
Lacob is somewhat stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to his professional career. His father, Joe, owns the Warriors, so Kirk is obviously going to stay with the franchise. However, Golden State also happens to have the best general manager in the league in Bob Myers, who is firmly entrenched in the position and doesn't appear to be going anywhere anytime soon. As such, that keeps Lacob - who almost everyone in the league holds in high regard - in the assistant role.
He started as the team’s director of basketball operations in 2010 and quickly become the assistant GM, a role he has held for the last four seasons. If Myers were to leave for whatever reason, Lacob would easily make the transition to GM. Otherwise, would he be willing to consider other roles in the front office?Back to the NBA Newsfeed