April 26, 2010
I think the Executive of the Year Award is rather silly.
Sure, all of these postseason awards are pretty pointless, but this one seems to bug me the most. To begin, it's voted on by team executives, so there's no telling what level of backroom "let's build him up to take him down" shenanigans are, eh, going down.
Secondly, and most importantly: Executive "of the Year?" One year? The NBA doesn't work that way. There are 30 teams, and 30 different plans. Some are used more often than not - tear it down and build through the draft, clear everyone for one big free agency splash, or take on everyone else's junk to win now - but that doesn't mean one plan is any more valid than the next.
And because rebuilding, or "building," plans usually have to run you several years before you can pass judgment, the idea that you would reward an executive after a year's turn seems rather pointless. As such, this award turns into sort of a "most improved team" award, and it's only fitting that I save as much enmity for it as Skeets does the Most Improved Player award. At least the MIP gives you a proper time frame to work with.
The year-to-year angle to this award puts undue pressure on GMs, making this award almost a disservice to the profession. The finest executive job in a 12-month term could have come from a GM for a team that won 17 games.
Still, the news that Milwaukee GM John Hammond won the award this week is appropriate. He's done a fantastic job of late running the Bucks, after really doing an iffy job of running them before the last offseason. And it's that about-face that probably won him this award.
You see, in turning the Bucks around from the "win now" mess he'd created for 2008-09, Hammond very publicly and humbly admitted his mistakes. He didn't call for a sullen press conference with his mother in the first row, but he did trade Richard Jefferson(notes) (back when people weren't that down on Richard Jefferson) for expiring contracts the first chance he got.
He didn't stick it out, and try to get a stud youngster. He didn't demand a high end draft pick be thrown in. No, Hammond went for some expiring contracts, including an unguaranteed deal (Bruce Bowen's)(notes) that he was able to waive right away and save his owner some money. Trading for Jefferson in the first place seemed to be a bit of a weak grab at mediocrity, something to keep the fans happy instead of getting creative with rebuilding, and Hammond's quick dismissal of Richard after one year as a Buck said a lot.
Probably said a lot to his peers, who knew how bad it looked to admit defeat on a deal so publically. It wasn't as if the Nets fleeced Milwaukee, it was an awful deal for them as well. No, it was just the idea of trading for a Richard Jefferson that failed. And to Hammond's credit, he noticed the fail along with the rest of us and quickly worked to move past it.
Beyond that, most of Hammond's award-winning moves are of the tinkering type. He hired Scott Skiles, clearly the best move above all, and drafted Brandon Jennings(notes) even when it seemed that the college-skipping Brandon would be more trouble (especially under Skiles) than he was worth. He watched as Skiles molded Luke Ridnour(notes) (an expensive bum acquisition for Hammond initially) into one of the league's most improved players and one of its best sixth men. Hammond drafted Luc Mbah a Moute two years ago, he's already one of the league's better defenders, and securing the return of Ersan Ilyasova(notes) was huge.
Nearly as important was bringing Carlos Delfino(notes), and then Jerry Stackhouse(notes), back to the NBA. Delfino's rebounding and defense have considerably, and Hammond probably saw how spry Jason Williams'(notes) legs looked after a year off from the NBA, and set to seeing if Stackhouse was the same way. Usually a D-League hire is better in that situation, but Stack bucked the trend, no pun intended, and Milwaukee is better off for it.
And the topper was taking advantage of Chicago's (rightful) fear that John Salmons(notes) would opt-in to the last year of his contract for 2010-11, after a pretty miserable 2009-10 with Chicago toned down his asking price as a potential free agent.
Not only was Hammond able to take advantage of Chicago's nerves regarding around six million in cap space leaving the building just as Salmons checked one box, he was able to pry a draft pick upgrade from Chicago and Salmons for the pittance of two unused expiring contracts. Former Hammond draft bust Joe Alexander(notes) was one of them, but hey, that was two years ago. This is the Executive of the YEAR, dammit.
Don't let my quibbles take away from the standout work that Hammond has done of late. He's been fantastic at his job.
A fine job it was, for an award that makes no sense.