Sam Presti

Clippers’ Lawrence Frank Named Executive Of The Year

Clippers president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank has been named the NBA’s Executive of the Year for the 2019/20 season, the league announced today in a press release.

Frank received 10 of 29 first-place votes for the award, which is voted on by a panel of team front office executives from around the league. He beat out Sam Presti of the Thunder and Pat Riley of the Heat, who finished second and third, respectively.

The criteria for the Executive of the Year award aren’t clearly defined, so some top vote-getters are recognized for the splashy or savvy roster moves they made within the last year, while others receive votes for an accumulation of the moves made in recent years that helped build their current rosters.

In Frank’s case, it’s safe to say he earned Executive of the Year honors for the job he did landing Kawhi Leonard and Paul George on the same night last July, instantly turning the Clippers into title contenders. The team also re-signed Patrick Beverley, Ivica Zubac, JaMychal Green, and Rodney McGruder to new deals, and acquired Maurice Harkless and a first-round pick in a four-team deal during the free agent period last summer. Frank later flipped Harkless and a first-rounder to the Knicks for Marcus Morris.

Frank’s roster moves didn’t ultimately result in a deep playoff run for the Clippers, who were upset in the second round by the Nuggets. However, voting for the Executive of the Year award was completed prior to the NBA’s summer restart.

The full voting results for Executive of the Year can be found below. Teams’ heads of basketball operations were awarded five points for each first-place vote, three points for a second-place vote, and one point for a third-place vote.

  1. Lawrence Frank, Clippers (61 points)
  2. Sam Presti, Thunder (41)
  3. Pat Riley, Heat (39)
  4. Jon Horst, Bucks (27)
  5. Masai Ujiri, Raptors (20)
  6. Zach Kleiman, Grizzlies (16)
  7. Rob Pelinka, Lakers (14)
  8. Donn Nelson, Mavericks (8)
  9. Tim Connelly, Nuggets (7)
  10. Danny Ainge, Celtics (6)
  11. Bob Myers, Warriors (5)
  12. Jeff Weltman, Magic (5)
  13. David Griffin, Pelicans (5)
  14. James Jones, Suns (3)
  15. Ed Stefanski, Pistons (1)
  16. Dennis Lindsey, Jazz (1)
  17. Kevin Pritchard, Pacers (1)
  18. Sean Marks, Nets (1)

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Thunder Notes: Donovan, Practice Facility, Dort

Billy Donovan is in the final year of his contract with the Thunder, but GM Sam Presti says that he expects the two sides to have “positive” conversations about the coach’s future with the club, as Maddie Lee of The Oklahoman passes along.

“Obviously this is a unique situation for everybody,” Presti said to Lee and the local media during a conference call. “We’ve always been really proud of the fact that Billy’s been our coach. He’s been our coach now for five years, and I think he’s done an excellent job all five years. And our hope is that once we get some clarity on if this is the end of the season, or if we’re playing more, or what have you, we’ll sit down and have those conversations that we always have.”

“…I’m confident that at the right time we will be able to sit down and have a positive conversation with Billy about his future.”

Here’s more from Oklahoma City:

  • The league has targeted May 8 as the first day that teams can open their facilities, but Presti would not commit to the Thunder starting back up on that date, as Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman relays. “With respect to the May 8 date, what I can say is the league has stated that’s a target date,” Presti said. “And we’re still a week or so away from that before we can even get there. And I think what we’ve all seen that live through this experience is that things are changing literally day by day. So we’re evaluating that. I wouldn’t say we’re committed to doing that.”
  • In the same piece, Presti said that he doesn’t believe teams that return earlier will gain an advantage over those that return later. “And I don’t mean from a basketball standpoint, I just mean in general,” Presti explained. “And a big part of that is because the amount of uncertainty that everyone is working with. You could make the argument that coming back too soon is a disadvantage, you know what I mean? I think it all depends on how you’re defining that.” 
  • In a separate piece, Lee details how Luguentz Dort ended up with the Thunder. The rookie, who is on a two-way contract, appeared in 29 games for Oklahoma City this past year.

Northwest Notes: Timberwolves, Presti, Jazz

Given how much turnover the Timberwolves‘ roster has undergone in recent months, the hiatus has at least provided president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas and head coach Ryan Saunders with an opportunity to pause and get familiar with their current players, as Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic writes.

“We’ve gotten to know our guys better than we had a month ago,” Rosas said. “Anything and everything that matters to them we’re trying to understand and we’re trying to build a commitment, we’re trying to build a community based on who individuals are and what they’re going through right now.”

According to Krawczynski, Saunders has made an effort to directly engage with his players since the hiatus began, reaching out to talk to them about their families and about basketball, and sending the message that the team cares about their well-being. As Krawczynski notes, it’s a part of the job that Saunders excels at and one that is more necessary than ever during this time.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Dealing with Jordan Clarkson‘s free agency, working out an extension for Donovan Mitchell, and figuring out a good use for their mid-level exception will be among the top items on the Jazz‘s to-do list this offseason, writes Tony Jones of The Athletic.
  • Ryan Novozinsky of Daily Thunder makes the case that Thunder general manager Sam Presti deserves to win 2020’s Executive of the Year award, arguing that the GM’s “magic” is the reason why Oklahoma City was a playoff team this season while also setting itself up well for years to come.
  • In case you missed it, a pair of general managers for Northwest teams – Arturas Karnisovas (Nuggets) and Justin Zanik (Jazz) – have interviewed for a top basketball operations position in the Bulls’ front office. Karnisovas is viewed as the current frontrunner. (Update: The Bulls are finalizing a deal to hire Karnisovas).

Bulls To Seek Interviews With Karnisovas, Webster, Others

1:24pm: Pacers GM Chad Buchanan will  join Karnisovas and Webster on the Bulls’ list of first-wave interview targets, per K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune (via Twitter). Sources tell Darnell Mayberry and Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link) that Heat assistant GM Adam Simon will be part of that group as well.

According to Mayberry (Twitter link), the Bulls won’t pursue Ujiri or Thunder head of basketball operations Sam Presti and won’t go the player-agent route like New York and other teams have.

12:41pm: The Bulls have formally launched their search for a new top front office executive who will have full authority on basketball decisions, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. We had previously heard in a series of February reports that the team was laying the groundwork for front office changes.

Those February reports suggested that executive VP of basketball operations John Paxson would retain a “valuable seat at the table” amidst the front office upheaval and that general manager Gar Forman would have his responsibilities cut back.

Wojnarowski confirms that Paxson is expected to continue in an advisory role and says that the club will have more conversations with Forman about his future. Previous reports indicated Forman would likely be re-assigned to a scouting position.

According to Wojnarowski, Chicago plans to seek permission to interview Nuggets general manager Arturas Karnisovas and Raptors GM Bobby Webster, among others. The club’s goal is to complete its planned front office changes “well before” the NBA resumes play, per Woj, who hears that interviews will begin next week and will be conducted virtually rather than in person due to the coronavirus.

Neither Karnisovas nor Webster is the head of basketball operations for his respective team — Tim Connelly serves as Denver’s president of basketball operations, while Masai Ujiri holds that position in Toronto. However, the two GMs have risen through their respective organizations in recent years and have played important roles in building the Nuggets’ and Raptors’ talented rosters.

According to K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago, who identified Karnisovas and Webster as two possible targets for the Bulls in a March mailbag, Pacers GM Chad Buchanan, Heat assistant GM Adam Simon, Jazz GM Justin Zanik, and Clippers GM Michael Winger are among the other executives on Bulls president/COO Michael Reinsdorf‘s list of potential candidates (Twitter link).

Many of those executives are under contract beyond the 2019/20 season, but likely wouldn’t be held back by their respective teams if the Bulls’ job is viewed as a promotion from their current roles. Based on Woj’s description, it should be.

The timing of Chicago’s search is interesting. Ujiri spoke earlier this week about putting business like contract extensions for himself and Nick Nurse on hold during the NBA’s stoppage, and we heard on Thursday that the Knicks aren’t pursuing front office changes or a new head coach during the hiatus. Nets GM Sean Marks also said this week that his team isn’t moving forward with its head coach search at this time.

However, no official hiring or firing freeze has been instituted by the NBA, and the Bulls’ situation is a little different from that of those other teams — a new top front office executive would lead the team’s decisions in the draft and free agency, making that search a more pressing matter than a head coaching hire, lower-level front office changes, or extensions for current execs and coaches.

Eastern Notes: Haliburton, VanVleet, Presti, Thompson

Iowa State sophomore Tyrese Haliburton might be the safest lottery pick for the Knicks among the guard prospects, ESPN analyst Seth Greenberg told Marc Berman of the New York Post. Haliburton was averaging 15.2 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 6.5 APG and 2.5 SPG before a wrist injury cut short his season. There isn’t any guard on par with Ja Morant in the draft, according to Greenberg, but Haliburton is a pure point guard who doesn’t carry any baggage.

We have more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • The Raptors would probably be willing to pay unrestricted free agent guard Fred VanVleet $17-20MM annually to retain his services, Blake Murphy of The Athletic opines. The market for VanVleet could drop significantly if the salary cap is lowered, with only a handful of teams having the ability to sign him using their space. VanVleet’s best option may be to secure long-term money from the Raptors since they hold his Bird rights, Murphy adds.
  • It’s doubtful the Bulls would make a serious run at Thunder GM Sam Presti during their planned front office restructuring, according to K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. Not only is it unknown whether Presti would be interested in a high-level front office role with the club but it would probably take $8-10MM annually to land his services, Johnson continues, and the Bulls historically haven’t forked up that kind of money. Presti would also likely want to bring in some of his own people, which would add to the tab, Johnson adds.
  • A sign-and-trade is the most likely outcome for Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson when he becomes an unrestricted free agent, Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer opines. It’s increasingly likely that Andre Drummond will exercise his $28.7MM option, relegating Thompson to a bench role. The Cavs might want to bring back Thompson on a team-friendly contract, but if they draft a center that would also change the equation. Thompson has earned the right to test the market and a sign-and-trade could give him a chance to maximize his value and playing time, Fedor adds.

Bulls Notes: Presti, Paxson, Boylen, Markkanen

Sam Presti has been mentioned as a possible target in the Bulls‘ front office shakeup, but K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago doesn’t believe the organization is willing to spend heavily on a new executive. He estimates it would take an offer in the neighborhood of $10MM a year to get the attention of Presti, the current president of basketball operations for the Thunder.

Johnson adds that Bulls president Michael Reinsdorf is exploring multiple options, which likely include both Presti and Raptors executive Masai Ujiri. Toronto isn’t expected to let Ujiri leave while he still has a year left on his contract, but because Presti is a close friend with Oklahoma City owner Clay Bennett, the feeling around the league is that Bennett wouldn’t stand in his way if he wanted to leave the organization. Even so, Johnson expects the Bulls to make several hires for the new front office, rather than investing so much in a single executive.

Johnson believes John Paxson will accept whatever role ownership wants him to and speculates that Paxson is actually behind the management restructuring plan. The Bulls also intend to revamp their scouting department, which Paxson originally proposed.

There’s more from Chicago:

  • Front office candidates will likely be asked to keep an open mind about the future of coach Jim Boylen, Johnson relays in the same piece. Boylen received a contract extension after last season and has kept the support of management despite a poor win-loss record. He recently objected to senior advisor Doug Collins’ presence at coaches meetings, Johnson adds, so Collins’ role in that area has been reduced.
  • Lauri Markkanen played nearly 21 minutes last night after being sidelined since January 21 with a stress reaction in his pelvis, Johnson writes in a separate story. Markkanen posted 13 points and four rebounds and believes he’s ready for more time once he’s cleared by the medical staff. “I thought he tried. I thought he was active. I thought he was moving pretty good. I thought he showed his whole game — inside, outside,” Boylen said. “… He showed his full game in the minutes he played. I think it was a good first showing for him.”
  • Last night’s game between the Bulls and Timberwolves matches two franchises that are currently linked by bad decisions, states Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. Those include the shared choices to get rid of Jimmy Butler and coach Tom Thibodeau.

Central Notes: Bulls, Presti, Wood, Sexton

As the Bulls consider changes to their front office, Sam Presti‘s name is one that has now surfaced multiple times. Discussing the situation last week, Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times cited the Thunder‘s head of basketball operations as an example of a big-name candidate Chicago could pursue. This week, David Kaplan said during an appearance on ESPN 1000 that Presti is the Bulls’ top target (Twitter link via Daniel Greenberg).

Kaplan’s comments signal that Cowley’s mention of Presti last week probably didn’t come out of nowhere, so I don’t doubt that the Bulls have interest in the Thunder executive. Still, I’m skeptical that Presti would leave a favorable situation in Oklahoma City – where the team has accumulated more first-round picks than it knows what to do with – for a position in which he’d rank below John Paxson in the Bulls’ organizational hierarchy.

While it’s worth keeping the Bulls’ reported interest in Presti in mind, we may not get a more concrete sense of which candidates are realistically in play for the team until after the season.

Here’s more from out of the Central:

  • James L. Edwards III of The Athletic explores whether Christian Wood‘s breakout season with the Pistons is a result of genuine improvement or simply getting a real opportunity. Edwards believes that both are factors, arguing that Wood – a free agent this summer – deserves to be in the Most Improved Player conversation.
  • Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com takes a look at the impact that the Cavaliers‘ trade of Jordan Clarkson has had on Collin Sexton, who says he challenged himself to “step up a little bit more” in the wake of that deal. The second-year guard has averaged 22.6 PPG on .478/.452/.855 shooting in the 32 games since Clarkson’s departure.
  • We passed along several more items from around the Central earlier today, including stories on Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s role in 2019 free agent recruiting, Lauri Markkanen‘s return, and the Cavaliers filling an open roster spot.

Northwest Notes: Carmelo, Presti, Paul, Bazley, Nuggets

Carmelo Anthony made his long-awaited return to the hardwood by signing a contract with the Trail Blazers last month, but the 10-time NBA All-Star revealed that he was open to traveling down a different road if the opportunity presented itself: Going back to Denver.

“I was open to it,” Anthony said about potentially signing with the Nuggets, as relayed by Mike Singer of the Denver Post. “We talked about it. People in my circle were like, ‘Go back to Denver.’ If it was that easy I probably would’ve done it. A lot of things came into play when it comes to that, kind of out of my control at that time, the timing was off. Similar to Portland, the timing has always just been off. All of the sudden that window of opportunity was there.”

Anthony spent his first seven-and-a-half seasons with the Nuggets organization, having been drafted by the team No. 3 overall back in 2003. He helped change the outlook of the franchise during his stint and established himself as one of the league’s most elite players during that time, averaging more than 25 points per game in five of those seasons.

“I don’t think I can ever stop appreciating not just the organization but the city as a whole,” Anthony said of Denver. “We were at a point in time where it was a shift, the team had just only won 17 games prior to when we came in. We kind of started or created a different culture here. The uniforms changed, we changed the colors of the uniform, the vibe in Denver was different, the aura in the city, the energy was different. We were a part of that change.”

Anthony has since moved on and recently had his contract guaranteed by Portland for the remainder of the season, emphasizing his desire to compete with the Blazers for a playoff spot this spring. In 12 games with the team, Anthony has averaged 16.3 points, 5.9 rebounds and 31.6 minutes per contest. The Blazers were 5-9 before signing him and have gone 5-7 since.

There’s more out of the Northwest Division tonight:

  • People close to Thunder general manager Sam Presti believe his relationship with owner Clay Bennett is respectful enough that Presti could leave the organization before his contract expires if he wants to, tweets Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News. Presti and other prominent executives such as Raptors president Masai Ujiri have been linked to the Knicks in rumors throughout the year, especially with league observers beginning to question the job security of current Knicks president Steve Mills.
  • Thunder guard Chris Paul has served as a mentor to Darius Bazley this season, helping the 19-year-old adjust to his first season in the league, Olivia Panchal of DailyThunder.com writes. “It’s been great because [Paul] teaches you so much,” Bazley said. “Even though we were just playing one-on-one, he was stopping and just saying you can do this or you can do that. It just helps because [he] gives you advice on and off the court.”
  • Nick Kosmider of The Athletic examines the Nuggets’ situation with the trade deadline less than two months away, detailing how the team has plenty of depth to offer in deals and could seek draft compensation in return. Denver sports a competitive team geared around All-Star center Nikola Jokic, recording a 17-8 record through 25 games.

Knicks Eyeing Masai Ujiri, Sam Presti For Potential Front Office Opening?

Knicks management has reportedly been put on notice with owner James Dolan expecting the front office to make “progress” in order for several members of the front office to keep their jobs. Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News hears that if New York finds itself hiring a new head of basketball operations, the team’s wish list begins with Raptors team president Masai Ujiri and Thunder GM Sam Presti.

Dolan has long been a fan of Ujiri’s. The Wizards took a stab at prying the executive from Toronto this past offseason with no success. Perhaps Dolan believes the Knicks will have better luck.

Presti has been with Oklahoma City for 12 seasons and he has arguably the most unique resume of any GM in the league. He drafted Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden to build a true contender and after each player left has molded a different team, ranging from contender to mid-tier playoff team to one in a rebuild again.

Bondy also mentions Trajan Langdon – who helped the Nets turn their franchise around before moving onto the Pelicans – and Kiki Vandeweghe – who currently works in the league office – as potential targets. Bondy hears that Vandeweghe would have interest in the job.

Thunder Notes: CP3, Roberson, Maynor, KD

Asked today about how the team might approach a potential trade for Chris Paul, Thunder general manager Sam Presti declined to get into specifics, as Maddie Lee of The Oklahoman relays.

“Those are all case-by-case things,” Presti told reporters. “We’re not really focused on the hypotheticals.”

[RELATED: Chris Paul trade to Miami remains unlikely]

While there are whispers that Paul may want to join a contender rather than the spend the entire 2019/20 season in Oklahoma City, Presti said the veteran point guard is a “hooper” and “competitor” who just wants to play basketball. “I think this is a tremendous opportunity for both of us,” the Thunder’s GM said.

Here’s more out of OKC:

  • Andre Roberson, who hasn’t played in an NBA game since January 2018 due to leg injuries, is expected to be ready to go for training camp, Presti confirmed today, per Eric Horne of The Oklahoman. “We’re hopeful he’ll be seeing some preseason action as it gets closer,” Presti said. “We’ll obviously manage him closely because he hasn’t played competitive basketball in a while. He’s worked hard to get there.”
  • The Thunder have hired former point guard Eric Maynor as an assistant coach for their G League affiliate, the Oklahoma City Blue, Presti announced today (link via Lee of The Oklahoman). Maynor, who played for the Thunder between 2009-13, also spent multiple seasons overseas, which Presti believes “gave him a totally different perspective on the game.”
  • Responding today to critical comments made by Kevin Durant about the way he was treated by the Thunder and fans after he left OKC in 2016, Presti took the high road, telling reporters, “I have nothing but positive things to say about him and his tenure here” (link via Horne of The Oklahoman).
  • According to Royce Young of ESPN.com, Presti pushed back against Doc Rivers‘ recent assertion that the Clippers knew the Thunder were looking to “break up their team” before they negotiated a trade for Paul George“We all know that players like Paul George and Russell Westbrook are extremely hard to acquire in cities, in the smaller cities in the league, and when you have those players, you try to do everything you can to retain them,” Presti said. “… I think the thought pattern just doesn’t really line up if you just look at it logically. Probably that type of thing would have been done much earlier and it wouldn’t have resulted from a trade request from one of your best players.”
  • The Oklahoman’s basketball writers discussed a handful of Thunder-related topics in a roundtable, including whether Billy Donovan is on the hot seat, what the Thunder could realistically expect to acquire in a Chris Paul trade, and more.