Ranking The Top NBA Executives
As is the case with all awards given out in the NBA, it is difficult to make a true determination on what the criteria is for making a selection for the Executive of the Year. Each team in the league is in a different place and needs different things, so the answer is not an easy one to come up with. The job of being the executive in charge of making some of the toughest decisions a franchise has to make is a thankless one, one which always keeps these men in the public’s crosshairs.
There are executives around the league doing fine jobs for their teams—and, of course, there are some who are not—but this group of four executives is some who have bettered their respective teams in the past calendar year. Some of these choices may surprise you, but if you just look at the work they have done in the window of the last year, they have, in fact, done a fine job.
Neil Olshey – Los Angeles Clippers
If there is a front-runner for the Executive of the Year award, it would have to be from that team in Los Angeles. No, not that team. The other one. Neil Olshey deserves a great amount of credit for the Clippers being one of the main storylines throughout the 2011-12 season and their push to make some noise in the playoffs.
After the NBA killed the deal which would have sent Chris Paul to the Lakers, Olshey and the Clippers were able to swoop in with the offer that did take. Yet, it was some of the smaller issues he dealt with which put the Clippers in that position, such as exercising the team’s option on Al-Farouq Aminu six months prior to the trade. Aminu ended up being one of the assets sent to New Orleans in the Paul trade and who knows if the deal could have happened between the two teams without his addition.
Olshey also exercised the options on Blake Griffin—a no-brainer—and DeAndre Jordan, ensuring the Clippers would have starters in the post able to attract free agents and be appealing to Paul upon his arrival. Once the Paul trade was complete and the excitement level around the Clippers became palpable, Olshey’s job became even easier, enabling him to sign free agents Chauncey Billups and Kenyon Martin. Without his previous moves, both of these players may have very well decided to play elsewhere.
Pat Riley – Miami HEAT
Could he win it again after doing all the big work last year? After his new-look Miami HEAT lost in the NBA Finals last season, Riley got right back to work, attempting to put the finishing touches on the reigning Eastern Conference champions. He laid the groundwork last year, but by tinkering with his roster, Riley may have done a better job this year than last.
Riley made sure to tender an offer to Mario Chalmers as quickly as possible to ensure his young guard, capable of playing under big time pressure, remained in Miami. At the draft, Riley turned the 31st pick into Norris Cole, a future second-round pick and cash, which was a very solid move. While the draw to come play for the HEAT improved dramatically by the work Riley put in by bringing James and Bosh in last year, bringing in a veteran presence such as Shane Battier this year was brilliant. Battier has always been a wonderful glue player and plays outstanding defense, immediately becoming a great leader for the younger players on Miami’s roster. Adding Ronny Turiaf, another fine glue player, was another fine addition to Miami’s attack.
Re-signing head coach Erik Spoelstra to a contract extension was another important move for the franchise, reiterating to everyone Spoelstra is the man in charge. No matter the players who make up the roster, it is always imperative the front office lets them know they back their head coach and that is exactly what Pat Riley did after speculation of his return to the bench.
John Hammond – Milwaukee Bucks
Hammond began his fine season on draft night by selecting Jimmer Fredette, but moving him along with both Corey Maggette and John Salmons, ridding the team of large contracts. In return, the Bucks landed Stephen Jackson, the low-risks of Shaun Livingston and Tobias Harris and Beno Udrih, who has fit in well as a backup to Brandon Jennings. Don’t forget he also made a solid pick later in the draft of Jon Leuer, a hard-working, energy player off the bench.
Of course, exercising the options for both Brandon Jennings and Larry Sanders were fine moves as well, ensuring Jennings continues to develop into one of the best young point guards in the league as a Buck. At 18.7 points and 5.6 assists per game, Jennings is only beginning to develop into the player he can become, so Hammond—and Bucks fans—should be quite excited for the future of the team.
Realizing a slight miscalculation was made and had to be rectified, Hammond was able to do just that after making a tough decision. Stephen Jackson did not enjoy his time in Milwaukee and had to go, but Hammond was able to make the move by including former number one overall pick Andrew Bogut in a deal to Golden State. While the Bucks were somewhat heartbroken that Bogut’s time in Milwaukee was over, it was the right move, especially since it landed them two fine players in Monta Ellis and Ekpe Udoh.
The moves by Hammond have also been a factor in the possible Most Improved Player candidacy of Ersan Ilyasova, who is averaging career highs in nearly every statistical category. That is partially due to more playing time.
David Kahn – Minnesota Timberwolves
Since his arrival in Minnesota, David Kahn has put himself in positions at times to be the butt of jokes. Yet, he has also never cared what anyone thinks of him personally as long as he accomplishes his goal of turning around the Minnesota Timberwolves franchise. You can argue that the past calendar year was a huge step in that direction.
Kahn’s year started by finally getting Ricky Rubio to sign on the dotted line, ending speculation by many in the media Rubio would never play for the franchise. Not only did he play, but Rubio helped to bring a buzz around the team not seen since they were in the Western Conference Finals. Through a series of draft night moves, Kahn turned Jonny Flynn into Brad Miller’s expiring contract, a first-round pick in 2013 and rookie Malcolm Lee. For a likeable, yet player ready to move elsewhere and that fact was known around the league, Kahn did well.
In a year full of big moments, Kahn also hired Rick Adelman as the team’s new head coach, bringing a veteran and respected coaching voice into the locker room. Adelman is a teacher who also expects great things from his teams and while the Timberwolves were healthy, they were achieving and entertaining at a much higher clip than has become the recent norm in Minnesota.
Kahn also signed Kevin Love to a contract extension and, although there was a bit of talk Love preferred to receive the fifth year designated player status, Kahn instead put the pressure on himself to continue to improve the team quickly. Kahn’s best move may very well have been to put himself into a position where the pressure cooker will remain on high since Kevin Love is watching closely.
These are just four of the candidates, but there are many others out there. Who would be your pick? Is it someone on this list or would you go another route?