OKC Thunder: Frank Zanin fits Leon Rose’s front office strategic rebuild

OKC Thunder: New York Knicks president Leon Rose (C). (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
OKC Thunder: New York Knicks president Leon Rose (C). (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /

Knicks President Leon Rose gets his man, hiring OKC Thunder front office talent Frank Zanin as the Assistant General Manager of Professional Personnel.

The 2019-20 NBA season has served up plenty of surprises. Among them is the overachieving Clutch Time Killers aka the OKC Thunder. On the opposite end of the spectrum are the New York Knicks.

The team from the Mecca hit this last offseason with renewed optimism. Knicks’ fans had visions of Zion dancing in their heads, expected to sign not one but two superstar free agents and anticipated ending a six-year playoff drought.

Those hopes were dashed in a matter of months as the Pelicans won the Zion Stakes while Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant signed with the cross-town rival Nets. In response, Knicks’ management signed seven free agents and a two-way player. Inexplicably, five of those eight players’ natural position is at power forward.

Ten games into the season Scott Perry and Steve Mills held an impromptu presser as if to signal the simmering drama was about to boil over. Head Coach David Fizdale was fired 22 games into the season. By December 10th, 24 games were in the books with a meager four victories claimed, and that coveted playoff berth already a pipe dream. The kicker occurred with the firing of Steve Mills two days before the trade deadline.

James Dolan’s fingerprints were all over the dramatic plotline. And, while the owner hid in the shadows everyone knew he was the ghost haunting the hallowed Gardens. Fed up, the impassioned Knicks fans clamored for change and the exorcism of the ghost.

Paradoxically, the Knicks are the most valuable NBA franchise ($4.6 billion). Players unilaterally cite MSG as their favorite venue to play in but you’d be hard-pressed to find a superstar willing to take on the challenge of returning the Mecca to prominence.

As for Dolan, the chorus of 19,812 chanting ‘sell the team’ seemingly got his attention since Mills’ release occurred a few days later. It was clear stark changes were required and the first move was to hire former player agent Leon Rose to fill the President’s position.

Whether Rose will be afforded the autonomy necessary or the move was made to quell the angry mob likely won’t be known until next season.

In the interim, Rose hasn’t spent the ‘stay at home’ period in submission. Rather, he’s aggressively filling front office positions by poaching top talents from opponents staff.

Reportedly, the two new front office members are Walt Perrin who leaves the Utah Jazz to become an Assistant General Manager focusing on college personnel. And, while the rumor mill has run rampant over Chris Paul‘s former agent eyeing the Clutch Time King, for now, he’ll have to suffice with another OKC Thunder staffer. That person is Frank Zanin who heads to New York to tackle a big challenge.

As per Mike Vorkunov of the paid-for subscription, The Athletic, Zanin will be Assistant General Manager of Professional personnel.

The duo will join recent hire Brock Aller (from Cavaliers) who is the new Vice President of Basketball and Strategic Planning,

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There is a common thread running through this rapidly reshaping Knicks front office. In each case, the individual has demonstrated prowess in a specific area.

For example, the Jazz is known to find hidden gems in the draft such as Donovan Mitchell. Aller was with the Cavaliers during their heyday and someone who Rose developed a strong relationship with as an agent but most importantly trusts with all business matters.

As for Zanin, his ability to help nab quality proven NBA assets to fit the OKC Thunder culture and roster is on full display. Clearly, Sam Presti makes the final decisions but Zanin is experienced and highly respected.

That Rose is pulling from clubs who excel in the specific areas he’s filling isn’t a coincidence. His best talents likely lie in the assessment of talent and negotiating deals. Over his tenure as an agent, he compiled an understanding of who the cream of the crop is both as franchises and personnel.

The goal will be for this reformulated front office to pull off some magic this offseason when it comes to filling in the roster. The question is how much longer the indentured Knicks fans will be willing to wait and whether the ghost has been vanquished for good.

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