The Executive of the Year award is a strange one to handicap, as sometimes the league’s best executive of a particular year could be the guiding hand on a losing team, and sometimes the best teams in the NBA take in upwards of a half-decade to fully construct. As was the case with 2013-14’s Executive of the Year, San Antonio’s R.C. Buford, his movement was spurred into action by David Robinson breaking his foot in Dec. 1996. It certainly wasn’t the Feb. 2014 Austin Daye deal that pushed the Spurs over the top.
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This is why it was calming to have an outright, one-year candidate for 2014-15. A guy that went out and picked up the league’s best player before adding several other major rotation players all within the confines of the calendar year.
Because this is the NBA, though, that guy came in second place.
Golden State Warriors general manager won the 2014-15 Executive of the Year award on Friday, beating out Cleveland Cavaliers GM David Griffin. Myers, who was the architect of the best regular season team in the NBA this year, received 13 first place votes to Myers’ eight:
Griffin was seen by many to be a shoo-in for the award after signing LeBron James in the offseason. League GMs vote on the award, and it’s very possible that some considered James’ return to Cleveland a fait accompli regardless of who was sitting in the executive chair (Griffin is in his first year running the Cavs), but that doesn’t take away from Griffin’s wrangling of Kevin Love from Minnesota or his role in nailing two crucial midseason trades for Timofey Mozgov, J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert.
The Warriors, by comparison, are more or less the same team that fell in the first round of the playoffs last season to the Los Angeles Clippers, outside of adding Shaun Livingston and Leandro Barbosa. Golden State did fly over the top on its way toward 67 wins in adding Steve Kerr as coach. Myers had the intelligence to realize that his team was underachieving under the talkative Mark Jackson as head coach, and with Kerr at the helm the team’s fortunes improved by 16 wins, and a first round sweep of the Pelicans thus far. That alone takes some basketball sense and also some chutzpah.
Of course, Myers isn’t alone running the show in Golden State.
As Tim Kawakami of the expertly detailed in a midseason column, Myers takes counsel from several Warriors executives, including Kerr (who in the past served as Phoenix Suns general manager). Consultant Jerry West, assistant general managers Travis Schlenk and Kirk Lacob and owner Joe Lacob all have a major say in the goings on. You might notice that both Kirk and Joe Lacob share a last name, and that’s because Kirk is the son of the team owner.
That’s a situation that, given the wrong leader, could be fraught with peril. That’s two former GMs, the well-regarded owner’s son, a sound basketball voice in Schlenk and an opinionated team owner all looking to shape things. And things could get ugly, if Myers didn’t encourage what could be a combative chorus.
I encourage people to speak with conviction. Whatever your opinion is, just believe it. If there’s eight people in the room that believe one thing and you believe something entirely different, just stand on that, right? Don’t waver, don’t waffle because you’re the only one that disagrees.
So we encourage conviction. We don’t want… what I don’t want is somebody that’s afraid to speak their mind. What we don’t want is somebody that we don’t value they’re opinion–if we don’t value your opinion, you shouldn’t work for our organization.
So we try to put people in the room who’s opinion we value and every time I hear someone in our room when we discuss things, I’ll learn something.
Where if it’s just me in our room with our owner, we’re going to miss something. We will absolutely miss something. I know it. I don’t know what it’ll be, maybe something small, but we’re going to miss it.
But if you’re in a room with six or seven people, and sometimes you have to break off and get it into smaller groups sometimes, because the noise can be overwhelming… but certainly we love those type of platforms. We encourage it.
That platform was certainly put to test last summer, when Minnesota repeatedly offered Golden State the services of a disgruntled Love in exchange for Klay Thompson. Love was coming off of a 26-point, 12-rebound season, and Thompson was thought to be a very good player at a very meaningless position. Many would have pulled the trigger.
Finding replacement-level relief for Thompson’s shooting, however, would prove tricky in Golden State’s spaced out offense. Love was an All-Star, but he would also be somewhat superfluous on a team that already featured a scoring power forward in David Lee, and the Warriors refused to include Thompson in any deal. It’s to Myers’ credit that when Lee went down early in the season with a hamstring injury, the team had Draymond Green in hand to move into the starting lineup and play perhaps the biggest role in Golden State’s top-ranked defense.
Griffin’s Cavaliers didn’t even finish with the best record in their conference, falling short of the mark set by the Atlanta Hawks in the regular season. The Hawks’ technical GM is coach Mike Budenholzer, who is holding the role until Danny Ferry returns from his indefinite leave following disclosure of his re-telling of some ill-informed remarks about Luol Deng. Budenholzer is on record as thinking that Ferry, and not the Hawks coach, should receive credit for the award.
Most of Ferry’s work was done prior to his banishment and prior to this season, which is why this award is so daffy to begin with. Griffin’s dominant turn as Cavs GM took place in one six-month swoop, however, and though they finished behind Golden State and Atlanta in the overall standings, when healthy the team looked as championship-worthy as anyone in the league.
For Flip Saunders (who received one second place vote), Mitch Kupchak (same) and Sam Hinkie (the same) to take in voting credit shows just how strange this process is. Saunders’ Timberwolves finished with the worst record in the league, Kupchak’s Lakers managed the fourth-worst record in the league and the worst in Lakers history, while Hinkie has been purposely blowing seasons off while collecting draft picks – he even traded last season’s Rookie of the Year in February for a pick he may not see for two more years.
If the execution works, however, and Saunders, Hinkie, and Kupchak’s teams rise from the ashes on the heels of multiple lottery runs, they’ll have done fine work. Thinking that a 67-win and 17-win team could both be run by someone worthy of the Executive of the Year trophy speaks to the conflicting goals, time frames, and out and out luck that 30 different NBA executives have to work in line with.
To that end, it’s hard to get upset at the respect shown to the architect (some six years in the making) of a 67-win team by his peers.
It’s also hard not to wonder just how much more David Griffin would have to do to grab this trophy. I mean … the guy got LeBron.
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