Sources: Bucks hiring search firm to lead pursuit of new GM

Adrian Wojnarowski
The Vertical

The Milwaukee Bucks are turning to assistant general manager Justin Zanik to run the franchise’s predraft process as they employ a search firm to help direct the hiring of a new top basketball executive, league sources told The Vertical.

The Bucks are working to replace former GM John Hammond, who left on Tuesday to join the Orlando Magic’s front office as general manager.

Zanik remains a strong candidate to emerge from the process as the Bucks’ new top basketball executive, league sources told The Vertical.

Milwaukee could try to pursue elite and established top NBA team executives, but Orlando and Atlanta found in recent searches that rival owners are largely unwilling to let presidents and general managers become candidates for comparable jobs while under contract.

Cleveland Cavaliers GM David Griffin has a contract that expires at the end of June and has shown a willingness to explore job opportunities elsewhere.

Bucks ownership hired coach Jason Kidd without a search process in 2014 and inherited Hammond as GM. Kidd isn’t a candidate to add front-office power to his coaching role, league sources said.

Zanik had been ownership’s choice a year ago to become a sort of GM-in-waiting in Milwaukee when it lured him from his assistant GM job with Utah. Zanik had been part of the Dennis Lindsey-led Utah front office that constructed one of the best young rosters and organizations in the NBA.

Milwaukee extended Hammond’s contract through the 2017-18 season, but sources say that the ownership group has wanted to move in a different direction longterm for the franchise’s basketball leadership.

After leaving a decade-long career as a player agent in 2013 to join Utah, Zanik worked closely with Lindsey on player personnel – including the drafting of Rodney Hood and Dante Exum – and the hiring of coach Quin Snyder. Zanik oversaw the Jazz’s NBA Development League affiliate, a project that the Bucks are undertaking for the 2017-18 season.

Zanik will have an extended period to prepare the organization for the June NBA draft, where the Bucks own the No. 17 overall pick.

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