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Is Nets assistant GM headed to Charlotte Hornets next season?

The Nets have their own executive ‘tree’ in the NBA. Now, another branch may be sprouting

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It’s a little bit of an open secret around the NBA. Jeff Peterson, Sean Marks’ No. 2 as Nets assistant GM, is one of the more coveted young NBA executives, likely to be the next No. 2 to get the top job somewhere. Hired in May 2019 — just before the Nets Clean Sweep, Peterson has been the subject of more than one positive profile, including one by The Athletic a year ago.

Now Jake Fischer of Yahoo! Sports includes Peterson among “the NBA’s next wave of front-office executives,” and suggests that he could be headed to the Charlotte Hornets next season.

Brooklyn assistant general manager Jeff Peterson has emerged as one of the most respected young executives in the NBA. Peterson is hailed for his authenticity, particularly in his ability to communicate up and down the organizational chart. In 2020, Peterson interviewed for the Pistons’ general manager opening. And with a new ownership structure in Charlotte, should the Hornets ultimately move on from Mitch Kupchak after the final year of his contract, Peterson has become widely linked by league personnel as a possible next lead executive in Charlotte.

One reason is that Kupchak, who Michael Jordan hired in April 2018, is 69 years old while Peterson is 34. Another reason, Fischer points out, is that there will be changing of the guard in Charlotte now that MJ has sold the team to new investors for $3 billion, one of whom has a connection to Peterson. Sports Illustrated’s FanSided notes that one of the new owners of the Hornets, Richard Schnall, a former minority owner in Atlanta when Peterson was an assistant GM with the Hawks.

Fischer also reports B.J. Johnson, the Nets Director of Player Evaluation, has been getting offers. Johnson, who is personally close to Marks as well, “was recently considered for a prominent role in Portland’s front office,” per Fischer. However, a league source says the interest took place last year. Johnson runs the Nets draft operations.

Marks in talking about Peterson for The Athletic profile said this about his No. 2.

“There are people who can have honest conversations, peer-to-peer — I could have a conversation with the GM, players can talk to players, coaches talk to coaches. Jeff is a rare breed that can talk across platforms,” Marks told Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic. “So he can have a very honest conversation with a player. He’s had that multiple times. Get the message across, he’s not afraid.

“He’ll have the same conversations with coaches. He’ll have the same conversation with the front office. He’ll have the same conversation with our ownership group. So when you’re able to like be true to who you are across all of that and not be afraid. That’s a talent.”

A number of Nets current and former players have praised Peterson, most recently Bruce Brown in a conversation with Dan LeBatard.

Marks lost Peterson’s predecessor, Trajan Langdon, to the Pelicans in 2019. He remains in New Orleans as GM. And on Friday, the Hawks announced they have hired Ronald Nored as an assistant coach. Nored got his start as the first head coach of the Long Island Nets.

Other young basketball operations staffers have also gone on to NBA careers in recent years. Andrew Baker, who was Marks first capologist, is now senior director of salary cap and strategy at Dallas Mavericks. Also in Dallas is Matt Riccardi who’s senior director of pro personnel. He had been the Long Island GM and director of scouting operations in Brooklyn. Tegan Bunsu Ashby, who handled sports data as Senior Developer of Basketball Systems for the Nets, is now Assistant Director, Software Engineering, for the Phillies.