Spurs GM R.C. Buford has won the Executive of the Year award, the NBA announced. It’s the second time in three years that Buford has come away with the honor, for which fellow team executives vote. Trail Blazers GM Neil Olshey finished a close second, beating Buford in first-place votes 10-9 but falling short in the balloting system that gives five points for every first-place vote, three points for second-place votes and one point for third-place votes. Buford cast his first-place vote for Olshey, sources told Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical (Twitter link), but the Spurs GM held a 10-3 advantage in second-place votes, which proved the difference.
Buford’s most significant coup of the past year was signing LaMarcus Aldridge away from Olshey’s team in Portland. San Antonio made other key moves, including the addition of David West for just the minimum salary, that positioned the team for this season’s 67-15 record, the best in franchise history. It’s the culmination of a long planning process for Buford, who convinced Kawhi Leonard to wait on an extension in the fall of 2014, a move that helped the team create the cap space necessary to sign Aldridge. Other maneuvers also proved key, like Buford’s offloading of Tiago Splitter to Atlanta, where former Spurs assistant coach Mike Budenholzer is in charge of the front office. Rookies Jonathon Simmons and Boban Marjanovic were useful finds as the Spurs and Buford furthered their reputation for uncovering talent in obscure places. Buford works in tandem with Gregg Popovich, who holds the titles of coach and president.
Olshey replaced four starters from last season’s Blazers, who finished with the sixth-best record in the Western Conference, and Portland astoundingly wound up with this season’s fifth-best Western Conference mark. The success came in large part because of former Olshey lottery pick CJ McCollum, this year’s Most Improved Player of the Year. Warriors GM Bob Myers, the 2015 Executive of the Year, finished third this time around. Raptors GM Masai Ujiri, Hornets GM Rich Cho, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge and Thunder GM Sam Presti were the others who came away with first-place votes.
Below, see how each vote-getter ranked, with first-place votes noted where applicable.
1. R.C. Buford (Spurs) — 9
2. Neil Olshey (Trail Blazers) — 10
3. Bob Myers (Warriors) — 5
4. Masai Ujiri (Raptors) — 2
5. Rich Cho (Hornets) — 1
6. Danny Ainge (Celtics) — 1
7. David Griffin (Cavaliers)
8(tie). Stan Van Gundy (Pistons)
8(tie). Pat Riley (Heat)
10(tie). Sam Presti (Thunder) — 1
10(tie). Sam Hinkie (Sixers)
12(tie). Wes Wilcox (Hawks)
12(tie). John Hammond (Bucks)
12(tie). Dennis Lindsey (Jazz)