However unorthodox, Knicks president Leon Rose has “upgraded’’ his basketball operations staff, according to multiple NBA sources.
Rose decided to pick up the option on GM Scott Perry for next season but surprisingly is not expected to retain Perry’s two major scouting hires from 2017 – assistant GM Gerald Madkins and pro player personnel director Harold Ellis.
The contracts for Madkins, their college-scouting chief, and Ellis expire in August.
Their jobs have been replaced this week with Rose adding longtime Utah college scout, Walt Perrin and former Nets assistant GM, Frank Zanin, who arrives from Oklahoma City.
Perrin will run college scouting, while Zanin handles pro scouting. For a rookie president who comes from the agent world, Rose has surrounded himself with two key basketball bird dogs.
In Rose’s defense, the awkwardness goes along with awkward times. The 2020 NBA Draft is expected to be postponed from its planned June 25 date – and there’s no telling if a draft combine will be staged as the coronavirus pandemic drags on.
Perrin and Zanin arrive with multi-year deals, while Perry’s deal is just for next season. Sources indicate that if all goes well, Perry will be in store for an extension next season. That is the case even if he may have made a mistake in bringing aboard Madkins, who has bounced around six teams in nine years.
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“It’s a good decision by them,” one NBA personnel director told The Post. “(Zanin) knows players, knows the cap through his assistant GM role. He’s a very nice person and not full of himself. Between him and Walt Perrin, they have upgraded their personnel staff. I think they are an improvement.”
Zanin spent the past four seasons with one of the top organizations in the Thunder and is “well-respected,” according to another NBA personnel man.
“He’s a good personnel guy, low maintenance and solid,” former Nets capologist, Bobby Marks told The Post. “He checks the box in the two most important categories of scouting – evaluating on the court and gathering intel on potential trade and free-agent candidates.”
Marks, now ESPN’s cap guru, was working with the Nets when president Billy King and Zanin executed one of the NBA’s worst trades with the Celtics in 2013. The Nets received over-the-hill Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce but mortgaged their future in giving Boston unprotected first-round picks in 2014, 2016 and 2018.
Many believe Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov forced King and Zanin into the win-now deal that resulted in exactly one playoff series victory.
“The Boston trade was a group effort that everyone learned from,” Marks said. “It showed the hazards of making a short-sighted trade at the benefit of a win-now approach.”
While getting credit for drafting Mirza Teletovic, Zanin was also known for lobbying King in 2015 to draft an international stash pick at 39, guard Juan Pablo Valet of Argentina. Zanin reportedly called him the next Manu Ginobili. He never made the league.
“As they say, nobody’s perfect,” joked one NBA scout who has worked with Zanin.
Zanin and King had better success in their time together in Philadelphia. Zanin was with the Sixers when they advanced to the NBA Finals in 2001. Zanin and Rose, the Camden, N.J. product, got to know each other from their Philly connections.
Zanin played high school basketball against Kobe Bryant in suburban Philly. The late Lakers superstar once tweeted Zanin should be the Nets GM.
Zanin essentially takes over for Ellis. Steve Mills was fired for the Kristaps Porzingis trade backfiring because of the cap space never being used on a star player.
Sources have indicated Ellis pushed for disappointing Dennis Smith Jr. to be in the deal.
In Utah, Perrin is credited for being part of drafting five All-Stars – the latest being Donovan Mitchell. Perrin, according to a source, was instrumental in scoring an early workout with Mitchell even when it was obvious Utah would have to trade up to get him at 13.
In 2003, Perrin lobbied for the Jazz to trade up to No. 3 and snare All-Star Deron Williams but they did so by bypassing Chris Paul.
David Fredman, Utah director of scouting, called Perrin “a people person” with solid connections to coaches and assistants in the college game. Perrin worked with Perry for one season in Detroit. One source stated Perrin was Perry’s “mentor.”
Rose has now made three well-received hires, starting with VP of strategy, Brock Aller, whose more of a financial basketball guy and was part of designing cap strategies that kept the Cavaliers on course for four straight Finals teams and an historic championship. Aller is expected to pare the fat in basketball operations in this economic crisis.
Aller’s hire probably will leave capologist Michael Arcieri on the outs in August. He also was part of Perry’s spree of hiring former Orlando guys.
Perry hired two other scouts, Fred Cofield and John Halas, whose great, great uncle is Chicago Bears patriarch George Halas. Their contracts also expire in August but still could remain.
Not so for Craig Robinson. It’s been reported since Mills got fired in February that his former Princeton teammate and player development director would likely not have his contract renewed. It gives another reason for Robinson’s brother-in-law/Bulls fanatic, Barack Obama, to root against the Knicks.
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