Unlike the other awards we’ve discussed in our Community Shootaround posts over the last week-and-a-half, the NBA’s Executive of the Year honor is voted on by team executives rather than media members. As such, it’s not generally grouped together with the league’s major awards like Rookie of the Year, Coach of the Year, and Most Valuable Player.
Still, now that we’re facing the possibility that the 2019/20 regular season may be over, it’s worth exploring which executives might be the top candidates for the award this year.
A team’s winning percentage is often a pretty good indicator of which general managers or presidents of basketball operations will receive Executive of the Year consideration. Five of the last six execs to win the award have overseen the team with the NBA’s best record, including last year’s winner: Jon Horst of the Bucks.
With Milwaukee once again holding the league’s best record in 2019/20, Horst is a candidate to become a repeat winner. However, his roster moves in the last year haven’t been particularly flashy — he mostly re-signed key free agents during the 2019 offseason, adding only role players like Robin Lopez and Wesley Matthews.
Voters may be more swayed by a major move such as the acquisition of Anthony Davis, which could put Lakers head of basketball operations Rob Pelinka in the driver’s seat. Besides acquiring Davis, Pelinka filled out the roster with a series of budget signings, building a squad that now owns the top seed in the Western Conference. And he did all that in the wake of Magic Johnson‘s shocking departure from the front office last spring.
Los Angeles’ other team, the Clippers, made a pair of flashy acquisitions during 2019’s free agent period, landing both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, and currently ranks second in the West. As such, president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank should receive Executive of the Year consideration.
Heat president Pat Riley deserves credit for landing Jimmy Butler without any cap space and for identifying under-the-radar gems like Duncan Robinson and Kendrick Nunn. Thunder GM Sam Presti did a tremendous job putting together a playoff roster while trading away George, Russell Westbrook, and Jerami Grant and stockpiling future draft picks. Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge pivoted nicely from a dysfunctional group led by Kyrie Irving to a more cohesive squad with Kemba Walker at the point.
While those look to me like the top candidates, you could certainly make a case for a few others, especially if you consider how past years’ transactions have impacted this year’s rosters. For instance, the Mavericks‘ 2018 draft-day trade for Luka Doncic is the primary reason for the team’s breakthrough ’19/20 season. That’s a point in favor of Mavs GM Donn Nelson, even if you don’t weigh it as heavily as roster moves from the last 10-12 months. Raptors president Masai Ujiri is another exec who’d fall into this category.
I’d also probably give Grizzlies executive VP of basketball operations Zack Kleiman at least a cursory look for a series of impressive transactions, including trading away Mike Conley and trading up in the draft for Brandon Clarke. Memphis also secured a lightly-protected first-round pick in an Andre Iguodala salary dump before flipping Iguodala in a deal that netted the club Justise Winslow.
What do you think? Who would be your pick for Executive of the Year in 2020? Who are the other candidates you’d consider?
Head below to our comment section to weigh in with your thoughts!