The Utah Jazz’s current GM Justin Zanik did a video interview with the Chicago Bulls for the position of Executive VP of Basketball Operations according to K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.com. Zanik joins GM Arturas Karnisovas of the Denver Nuggets as a candidate for the position. The Utah Jazz’s GM was recently promoted to his current position at the end of last season when Dennis Lindsey made the move to Executive VP of Basketball Operations in Utah.
Justin Zanik’s first season as General Manager was seen as gutsy, risk taking, and aggressive. He moved on from crowd favorite Ricky Rubio and the last remaining member of the Core 4-era Derrick Favors. He traded Jae Crowder, Grayson Allen, and a future 1st round pick to Memphis for Mike Conley. He successfully closed the biggest offseason signing since Carlos Boozer with the acquisition of Bojan Bogdanovic. He also flipped Dante Exum for Jordan Clarkson. Some of those gambles paid big dividends like Jordan Clarkson and Bojan Bogdanovic. Others like the loss of Derrick Favors and the pairing of Mike Conley and Donovan Mitchell did not. Justin Zanik was with Utah as an assistant GM when they targeted some lanky Frenchman who ran like a baby giraffe in a weak draft. 7 years and two Defensive Player of the Year trophies later, Rudy Gobert has made the Jazz front office look amazing for that pick.
In Arturas Karnisovas time in Denver he has helped identify strong prospects from international sources like Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Torrey Craig who while not Australian was found while scouting the NBL. He also had a voice in what could have been one of the biggest coups for Utah as he targeted Trey Lyles with Utah that allowed the Jazz to trade up and draft Donovan Mitchell. Karnisovas was not with the Nuggets when they made the trade that helped Utah get back into the 1st round to draft Rudy Gobert for only Erick Green and cash. In his time as an assistant GM, he helped Denver draft Michael Porter Jr., sign Paul Millsap as a free agent, and helped turn a middle of the pack Denver Nuggets team into a Western Conference powerhouse.
The Chicago Bulls have two great candidates for the vacancy. The GarPax era is over in Chicago. If they hire Zanik or Karnisovas, the Bulls could once again have a promising future. But it will come at the expense of one of the West’s premier small market teams.