Travis Schlenk

Pistons Notes: Front Office Candidates, Weaver, Buzelis

Michael Blackstone, an executive who worked with new Pistons head of basketball operations Trajan Langdon in New Orleans, is considered the favorite to become Langdon’s second-in-command in Detroit, sources tell James L. Edwards and Shams Charania of The Athletic. Blackstone, the Pelicans‘ vice president of basketball administration, was an assistant general manager in Atlanta before coming to New Orleans in 2020.

Other prominent names to watch, according to the authors’ sources, are Matt Lloyd, senior vice president of basketball operations with the Timberwolves; Travis Schlenk, the Wizards‘ vice president of player personnel and former team president in Atlanta; Brock Aller, the Knicks‘ vice president of basketball and strategic planning; and Tayshaun Prince, vice president of basketball affairs with the Grizzlies. The authors note that Prince is a sentimental favorite among fans because he was a starter on Detroit’s last championship team in 2004.

There’s an opening in the front office after the Pistons parted ways with general manager Troy Weaver in what the team described as a mutual decision. Weaver, who served as GM for the past four years, lost decision-making authority with the addition of Langdon.

There’s more from Detroit:

  • Poor draft decisions marked the biggest mistake Weaver made during his time running the organization, contends Andrew Birkle of The Detroit Free Press. Birkle acknowledges that seven of Weaver’s eight first-round picks look like they’ll have a future in the NBA, but he views them as a mismatched collection of talent that doesn’t fit together. He also questions whether the team has any potential stars other than Cade Cunningham, adding that it’s too early to fully evaluate the No. 1 overall pick in 2021 because he’s missed so much time due to injuries.
  • Shooting and rim protection are the most important assets in the NBA, and Weaver failed to provide the Pistons with either of those things, observes Shawn Windsor of The Detroit Free Press (subscription required). Windsor adds that everyone should be considered expendable after a 68-loss season, starting with head coach Monty Williams, who will be Langdon’s next major decision before addressing the roster.
  • Keith Langlois of examines Matas Buzelis as a potential pick for the Pistons at No. 5 in this year’s draft. Although the G League Ignite had a disastrous season, Buzelis showed promise with 14.3 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game. Langlois notes that his 6’10” size, floor-spacing and play-making ability, and his versatility on defense make Buzelis a good fit with the rest of the roster.

Mitch Kupchak Moving Into Advisory Role With Hornets

Hornets president of basketball operations Mitch Kupchak will leave his post to become an organizational advisor to the franchise, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

The search for a replacement will begin immediately, and new owners Rick Schnall and Gabe Plotkin are expected to hire someone before the end of the regular season, Wojnarowski adds. Sources tell ESPN that Kupchak will continue his current duties until his successor is named.

Wojnarowski hears that several current general managers will be among the targets of the search, including the Sixers’ Elton Brand, the Pelicans’ Trajan Langdon, the Cavaliers’ Mike Gansey and the Clippers’ Trent Redden. Sources tell Woj that some assistant GMs will be considered too, such as the Nets’ Jeff Peterson, the Wizards’ Travis Schlenk and the Kings’ Wes Wilcox, all of whom worked for the Hawks when Schnall was a minority owner in Atlanta.

Roderick Boone of The Charlotte Observer also lists Bucks assistant GM Milt Newton and Knicks assistant GM Frank Zanin as potential candidates.

Schnall and Plotkin began plotting a new course after purchasing a majority interest in the Hornets in August, Wojnarowski states. They are focused on rebuilding around a young roster as the team parted with veterans such as Terry Rozier and P.J. Washington in recent trades. Plans are also in the works for a $275MM arena renovation and a $60MM practice facility.

Kupchak will leave behind a mixed record during his time with the Hornets, Boone observes. He was able to fix the cap situation and make the team competitive after taking over as general manager in 2018, but his signature move — the signing of Gordon Hayward to a four-year, $120MM contract in 2020 despite a history of injuries — didn’t pay off as Kupchak had hoped. Hayward was traded this week to Oklahoma City for a modest return.

Drafting LaMelo Ball and Brandon Miller may leave the Hornets with a brighter future, but Boone notes that Kupchak had his share of draft misses, including in 2021 when Charlotte selected James Bouknight, Kai Jones and Scottie Lewis, who are no longer with the team.

Scotto’s Latest: Raptors, Pacers, Hawks, Markkanen, Hornets, More

Rival executives believe Pascal Siakam is more likely to be traded than OG Anunoby if the Raptors decide to shake up their roster, according to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. In fact, teams looking for help on the wing think Toronto “will do whatever it takes” to retain Anunoby as a free agent in 2024 — he’s widely expected to decline his $19.9MM player option for next season.

Scotto reports that top front office executives from the Pacers and Hawks had extensive conversations with Toronto’s brass at the NBA G League’s Winter Showcase in Orlando this week. Both teams have consistently been linked to the Raptors for several months, Scotto notes.

If the Raptors trade Siakam, they’d be looking for young players and draft capital in return, according to Scotto, with the goal of retooling around Scottie Barnes and Anunoby.

To that end, Pacers forward Jarace Walker, the No. 8 overall pick in the 2023 draft, could be a name to watch in trade talks. He hasn’t played much as a rookie this season, but he’s had some strong performances in the G League. Scotto also hears the Hawks would prefer to keep Jalen Johnson, who was having a breakout third season before sustaining a fractured wrist (he was recently cleared to resume practicing in full).

Here are more rumors and notes from Scotto:

  • Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen has been the subject of some trade speculation this season, but Scotto is the latest reporter to reiterate that the Finnish star is expected to stay put. According to Scotto, there are three reasons for that: Markkanen wants to remain with the Jazz, the cost of acquiring him could be exorbitant, and he could renegotiate and extend his contract in the offseason, which would bypass 2025 free agency. Multiple executives told Scotto the idea of a possible Markkanen trade was “wishful thinking.”
  • There’s a “strong belief” among rival executives that the Hornets will make front office changes “by next season at the latest,” Scotto writes. If president of basketball operations Mitch Kupchak is fired or moved to a different role, Nets assistant GM Jeff Peterson and Wizards senior VP of player personnel Travis Schlenk are potential candidates to replace him, league sources tell Scotto. As Scotto writes, both Peterson and Schlenk previously worked with new Charlotte co-owner Rick Schnall in Atlanta.
  • Kings guard Keon Ellis and Cavaliers guard Craig Porter Jr. are among the top candidates to be promoted to standard deals from their current two-way contracts, per Scotto. Cleveland has an open roster spot and wouldn’t necessarily need to release anyone to give Porter a raise (and make him playoff-eligible), while Sacramento has Juan Toscano-Anderson on a non-guaranteed deal.

Wizards Notes: Winger, Dawkins, Schlenk, Draft

In an outstanding piece for The Athletic, Josh Robbins details Michael Winger‘s journey from his days as a college student in Ohio to becoming the new president of the Wizards.

While attending Miami University, Winger saw a flyer stating that Ron Shapiro, a powerhouse baseball agent who represented several Hall of Fame players, was giving a talk on campus. Shapiro, who is also the father of Toronto Blue Jays president and CEO Mark Shapiro, became a mentor to Winger and wound up helping him get his start in the NBA, according to Robbins.

It is gratifying for me to see Mike do everything that he has done because it’s like one of my own children doing those things,” Ron Shapiro said. “And it’s gratifying to me to see Mike not only be the professional that he is, but to be the person that he is. He is kind and he’s sensitive and he’s caring and he’s strong.”

Here’s more on the Wizards:

  • Within the same story, Robbins asked Winger about his plans for the team. He says he wants to get to know the players off the court before he makes any major decisions. “If the visions align for being competitive and doing things the right way with a little bit of patience, absolutely there’s a path forward with them (Bradley Beal, Kyle Kuzma and Kristaps Porzingis),” Winger said as part of a larger quote. “I don’t think we’re going to be an overnight title contender; that I’m pretty confident about. And so, if they would rather pursue immediate winning, then they probably do have to pursue that somewhere else. But I think that there’s a very open dialog, a very open invitation to talk about the future of the team — the near-term future and the long-term future — and see where goals align and see where they don’t align.”
  • In another story for The Athletic, Robbins provides some highlights of the introductory press conference featuring Winger, new GM Will Dawkins, new VP of player personnel Travis Schlenk and owner Ted Leonsis. “The eventual expectation is that we’re going to build a generational contender,” Winger said. “We’re going to eventually have a team that is competing for championships. I can’t promise when that will be. But there’s no excuse for the lone NBA team in Washington, D.C., not to be a perennial contender or at least be pursuing championships. So, that’s the goal. The goal is to pursue championships by any means necessary. It’ll take time.”
  • As David Aldridge of The Athletic writes, the Wizards now have a group of high-level executives with varied backgrounds and experiences, and their preexisting relationships with key personnel around the league should help the organization moving forward. Dawkins said the team will be very focused on the new Collective Bargaining Agreement once it’s released. “Whenever (the CBA) comes out, and we’re obviously able to see it, you spend time with it, work with it,” Dawkins said. “And the goal is to find the advantages. And the team that learns it, and can find those advantages early on, is the team that’s going to find those benefits earlier.”
  • While Winger made it clear he would be accountable as the team’s primary decision-maker, Dawkins will run the day-to-day operations of the Wizards and Schlenk will oversee the team’s scouts and all player evaluations, writes Ava Wallace of The Washington Post. Still, the group said it will be a collaborative effort. “We’ve all had a lot of shared experiences at high levels, and once you put all that in a room, it’s going to be a little janky for a little bit,” Dawkins said. “We’re going to figure it out, stumble on some toes, but we’ll realize, hey, you’re better at this, or, hey, your idea works here. But there’s no such thing as a bad idea. The more you throw it out, the more I’ll be able to apply it to something else down the line or another way of thinking. I’m excited. Those guys are going to be easy to work with.”
  • Winger said Dawkins and Schlenk will primarily be handling the upcoming draft, which takes place June 22, per Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. Dawkins is confident the Wizards will find the right group of players on draft night despite the new-look front office being hired within the past couple weeks.  “The draft doesn’t start right now. The draft started two, three or four years ago. That’s the mindset that we’ll have. I will say this: we’re not playing from behind at all,” Dawkins said. The Wizards control the Nos. 8, 42 and 57 picks.
  • According to Hughes, Schlenk provided some insight into what he values when it comes to scouting. “One of the big things I’ve always focused on… is the character of the person,” Schlenk said. “That’s extremely important. These guys spend so much time together. If you have somebody that kind of brings down the environment every day, it can really be a drag on the team. That would be one of the first big things.”

Wizards Notes: Schlenk, GM, Winger, Offseason, Richman

Having reached an agreement to join the Wizards as the team’s senior VP of player personnel, Travis Schlenk will oversee Washington’s player evaluation work at all levels (amateur, international, and professional), according to Josh Robbins of The Athletic, who says scouts will report to Schlenk.

While new team president Michael Winger will have the final word on personnel moves, Schlenk’s input will carry “significant weight,” writes Robbins, as will that of the executive that the Wizards eventually hire in a general manager-type role. Winger hasn’t offered that position to anyone yet, sources tell The Athletic.

As Robbins explains, Winger’s previous work has focused less on player evaluation and more on bigger-picture roster construction and strategy, as well as navigating the CBA and salary cap, so he wants to ensure he’s surrounded by strong player evaluators in Washington’s new-look front office.

Here’s more on the Wizards:

  • According to Marc Stein at Substack, the word in league circles is that the Wizards offered Winger an annual salary in the neighborhood of $9MM to lure him away from the Clippers to become the new head of basketball operations in D.C.
  • Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington lists five major decisions Winger will have to make within his first few months on the job, starting with hiring a general manager. The Wizards’ new president will also have to determine whether or not to keep the team’s “big three” (Bradley Beal, Kristaps Porzingis, and Kyle Kuzma) intact and figure out whether or not to sign Deni Avdija to an extension this offseason.
  • Assistant coach Ryan Richman is leaving the Wizards and taking a job as the head coach of the Seahorses Mikawa, a Japanese team, sources tell Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link).

Wizards To Hire Travis Schlenk In Front Office Role

President Michael Winger plans to make his first addition to the Wizards‘ new-look front office, hiring former Hawks president of basketball operations Travis Schlenk as senior vice president of player personnel, sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

Josh Robbins of The Athletic confirms the news (via Twitter) through his own league sources.

While Schlenk is certainly a notable executive, Winger is still searching for a general manager to directly oversee the Wizards and their G League affiliate, the Capital City Go-Go, Wojnarowski adds. The new GM would report directly to Winger.

Formerly an assistant GM in Golden State, Schlenk was hired as Atlanta’s general manager in 2017 and was promoted to president of basketball ops in 2019. He had been the ninth longest-tenured head of basketball operations in the NBA before he moved into an advisory role in December.

Schlenk launched a rebuild when he initially joined the Hawks and oversaw three losing seasons before the team turned things around in 2020/21, making a run to the Eastern Conference Finals. They have been ousted from the first round of the playoffs each of the past two seasons.

During his tenure atop the team’s front office, Schlenk swung two major draft trades to land Trae Young (for Luka Doncic and a future pick) and De’Andre Hunter; drafted John Collins, Kevin Huerter, Cam Reddish, and Onyeka Okongwu; and acquired Dejounte Murray from San Antonio in a blockbuster deal this past summer.

Although the Hawks publicly announced Schlenk was transitioning to advisory role, subsequent reporting from Sam Amick of The Athletic indicated that he was no longer part of the operation in Atlanta and was free to leave for another team if he desired to. About five months later, he’s landing in D.C.

According to Amick, Schlenk expressed reservations about the price to acquire Murray (three first-round picks, including two unprotected, and a pick swap), and that played a factor in his exit from the franchise. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution also reported that Schlenk’s relationship with Young had deteriorated after the point guard chartered a private flight home from Miami without telling anyone from the team during last year’s playoffs. Young was later fined.

Hawks Rumors: McMillan, Young, Schlenk, Collins

It’s becoming increasingly likely that this will be Nate McMillan‘s final season as head coach of the Hawks, according to Lauren Williams and Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Sources tell the authors that a player agent was informed that McMillan won’t be returning in a recent meeting with team owner Tony Ressler and his son, manager of basketball and business operations Nick Ressler.

Star guard Trae Young has been involved in disputes with McMillan, although their relationship has reportedly been smoother since an incident that was highly publicized in early December. Williams and Vivlamore hear from several sources that McMillan has considered resigning (as previously reported), but team officials were able to talk him out of it. When asked for a response, McMillan said he is focused on the playoff race and will delay any decisions on his future until after the season.

New head of basketball operations Landry Fields and Kyle Korver, who is finalizing a deal to become assistant general manager, both denied talking to agents about the team’s plans for McMillan.

“We’ve got half a season (left),” Fields said. “That’s a lot of basketball. There’s been transition. There’s been stories that come out. There’s been so much investment that we have to have today to think about beyond this season. It’s not just like Nate, it’s with a lot of different people. Like for us, how are we thinking about ourselves going forward?

“To start to live into that space without honoring this space would be unfair for everyone involved — Nate, myself, Kyle included — like, that’s somewhere. We believe in Nate right now. He’s for us. He’s trying to do things in this whole transition of leadership that are hard. They’re hard for everyone. So having this partnership right now for the objectives that we have for this continued season is our only focus.”

There’s more on the Hawks, all from Williams and Vivlamore:

  • The relationship between Young and former president of basketball operations Travis Schlenk deteriorated over the past few months, leading to Schlenk’s decision to move into an advisory role in December, according to the authors’ sources. They add that even though Schlenk is listed as a senior advisor, he’s had no actual input into the organization since stepping down, confirming a recent Sam Amick report. The dispute reportedly began after Game 2 of last season’s playoff series when Young chartered a private flight home from Miami without telling anyone from the team. He was subsequently fined.
  • Several controversial personnel decisions led to the front office shakeup, sources tell Williams and Vivlamore. Among them was a John Collins trade last season that was ultimately vetoed by ownership. Other moves include the trade of Kevin Huerter to the Kings made just to avoid the luxury tax, the high price the team paid to the Spurs for Dejounte Murray, the signing of Aaron Holiday, who was Nick Ressler’s teammate in high school, and the trade of Luka Doncic to the Mavericks after drafting him in 2018.
  • The Hawks are focused on portraying an atmosphere of stability amid all the recent changes, Williams and Vivlamore add. The organization is looking for a new uniform sponsor and doesn’t want to scare away a potential advertiser with any appearance of turmoil.

Hawks Rumors: Schlenk, Ressler, Murray, Collins

The Hawks‘ impending promotion of Kyle Korver to assistant general manager is just one of many changes taking place in the team’s front office this season, writes Sam Amick of The Athletic.

According to Amick, although the Hawks announced last month that Travis Schlenk would be moving into an advisory role after stepping down from his president of basketball operations position, league sources tell The Athletic that Schlenk is no longer part of the operation in Atlanta and is free to leave for another team if he so chooses.

Nick Ressler, the 27-year-old son of Hawks owner Tony Ressler, has had “increasing influence” on both roster and staffing decisions since becoming the franchise’s director of business and basketball operations in December 2020, Amick explains, adding that the younger Ressler’s “effect on the decision-making process” was a factor in Schlenk’s departure.

Amick describes the Dejounte Murray trade as the “beginning of the end” for the previous regime in Atlanta, reporting that Schlenk expressed reservations about the price the team paid for the former Spurs guard (three first-round picks, including two unprotected, and a pick swap). Nick Ressler was the driving force behind that move, per Amick.

The “messinessinvolving head coach Nate McMillan in early December also played a part in ownership’s final decision on Schlenk, according to Amick, who adds that Tony Ressler may bring in a more experienced executive at some point to help fill out a fairly green front office. There has also been plenty of chatter about the possibility of the Hawks adding more former players to their basketball operations department, tweets Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports.

Here’s more on the Hawks:

  • Atlanta has been one of the NBA’s most active teams in trade talks in recent weeks and is very much in the market for immediate help, as opposed to trying to recoup draft picks, Amick writes. It’s clear the Hawks’ priority is still to win as soon as possible despite a disappointing start to this season (the team’s record is 19-22).
  • Rival executives who have spoken to the Hawks about John Collins indicate that the asking price has come down considerably compared to where it was in past years, says Amick. League sources tell The Athletic that there are some scenarios in which Atlanta is simply asking for a quality player in return for Collins, as opposed to that player plus draft capital.
  • Speaking to Amick, Collins referred to Schlenk’s “advisory role” using air quotes and suggested that the Hawks’ players hadn’t received a full explanation for the front office changes. Murray, meanwhile, admitted that his first season in Atlanta has been more turbulent than he anticipated. “I mean, there’s a lot going on (that’s) non-basketball,” Murray said. “And then with basketball, you’ve got guys in trade rumors.”
  • Here’s more from Murray on that outside noise: “I wouldn’t say more than what I expected, but more than where I came from in San Antonio where everything was just not as loud. There’s a lot going on, but for me I’m just trying to keep guys together with my leadership, showing up to work, working hard, being vocal and keeping us together, and trying to keep the outside noise the outside noise. But at the end of the day, we all see it. You can’t hide. You can’t run from it. … At the end of the day, winning takes care of it all. So we need to control what we can control, continue to come together as brothers, and try to go out and win basketball games.”

Hawks’ Schlenk Moving Into Advisory Role; Fields To Run Basketball Ops

9:09am: The Hawks have officially announced that Schlenk is stepping down from his position as president of basketball operations and moving into an advisory role, with Fields assuming control of the team’s basketball ops. A statement from Schlenk suggests that he was the one to initiate the change.

“Throughout this season, Tony and I have had multiple, honest conversations about some of the personal things I’ve been going through and how I’ve been feeling, and I appreciate the counsel he has provided me as well as the opportunity he gave me six seasons ago to be a first-time general manager,” Schlenk said. “As we enter a new year, the timing feels right for me to take a step back, reflect and prioritize my family.

“I am proud of the group I assembled both on the floor and in the front office. We have built a strong foundation for the Hawks franchise and achieved a high level of success. As an advisor, I look forward to working with Tony and Landry and continuing to make contributions in less visible but still impactful ways.”

9:02am: The Hawks are making a change to their front office structure, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, who reports (via Twitter) that president of basketball operations Travis Schlenk will be transitioning into a senior advisory role.

General manager Landry Fields will take Schlenk’s place as the executive who oversees and runs Atlanta’s basketball operations, Wojnarowski adds.

It’s unclear whether the move was instigated by the Hawks or whether it stems from a desire on Schlenk’s part to take a step back. Either way, he has multiple years left on his contract and will remain in the organization working alongside team owner Tony Ressler for the foreseeable future, sources tell Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

Fields, meanwhile, has enjoyed a meteoric rise as an executive since his NBA playing days ended in 2015. He joined the Spurs as a scout in 2016, then was named the general manager of their G League affiliate in Austin in 2016. The Hawks brought him aboard as an assistant GM in 2020, and he was subsequently promoted to GM earlier this year amid rumors that other teams were trying to lure him away from Atlanta.

Schlenk, formerly an assistant GM in Golden State, was hired as Atlanta’s general manager in 2017 and had been the ninth longest-tenured head of basketball operations in the NBA. He was promoted to president of basketball ops in 2019.

Schlenk launched a rebuild when he initially joined the Hawks and oversaw three losing seasons before the team turned things around in 2020/21, making a run to the Eastern Conference Finals.

During his tenure atop the team’s front office, Schlenk swung two major draft trades to land Trae Young (for Luka Doncic and a future pick) and De’Andre Hunter; drafted John Collins, Kevin Huerter, Cam Reddish, and Onyeka Okongwu; and acquired Dejounte Murray from San Antonio in a blockbuster deal this past summer.

Going forward, Fields will be tasked with trying to transform the Hawks from a playoff team into a legitimate title contender. Atlanta is expected to be active before this season’s trade deadline, with Collins once again believed to be on the block.

Hawks’ Schlenk: “It’s Not Going To Be A Major Overhaul”

The Hawks are heavily involved in the trade rumor mill ahead of the draft and free agency, but president of basketball operations Travis Schlenk says the team isn’t looking for a major roster shuffle.

It’s not going to be a major overhaul,” Schlenk said, according to Jeff Schultz of The Athletic. “I think some people have assumed some things based on some of my comments or (team owner) Tony (Ressler)’s comments after the season.”

As Schultz writes, Atlanta faces an important offseason as a pretty good team that took a step back in 2021/22 — the Hawks made the Eastern Conference finals in ’20/21 but were eliminated by Miami in the first round of the playoffs this season. The Hawks want to compete for championships around Trae Young, but transforming a low-end playoff team into a championship-caliber club is easier said than done.

It’s a lot easier to become a good team, a playoff team, than it is to become one that contends for a title,” Schlenk said. “We feel we’ve become a competitive team, but now we have to take the next step and these are difficult decisions. If you make a mistake in the draft, you can overcome that. It’s a two-year mistake. If you make a mistake in free agency or in a sign-and-trade, when you’re giving somebody a four-year, $150 million contract, that can be detrimental for a long time.”

Schlenk said he’s talking to five or six teams a day, and acknowledges that “there are four or five paths we can take right now.” He’s adamant that finding the right fit will play a crucial role in whichever path he takes.

It’s about fit,” Schlenk said, per Schultz. “That’s an aspect of this people don’t appreciate enough. It’s easy to (assess) talent, but these are human beings, and they’re a close-knit group of guys who spend a lot of time together. The right guy or the wrong guy can really affect a team.”

It’s an interesting story from Schultz and worth checking out for Hawks fans who subscribe to The Athletic.