Another NBA season has come and gone, and once again fans are surprised by some the end-of-season award winners. It feels like a rite of passage at this point.
It’s no great surprise to see Giannis Antetokounmpo take home MVP this year after leading the Bucks to a league-best 56-17 record in the regular season, although some had some qualms with him also taking Defensive Player of the Year honors. Brandon Ingram (Most Improved), Ja Morant (Rookie of the Year), Montrezl Harrell (Sixth Man of the Year), Vince Carter (Sportsmanship Award) and Nick Nurse (Coach of the Year) all seem deserving of their respective awards. But the award that had the most people riled up is one you wouldn’t typically expect: Executive of the Year.
It’s not that Clippers team president Lawrence Frank, this year’s winner, isn’t a worthy candidate. He transformed the roster this past offseason, landing 2019 Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard in free agency and acquiring Paul George in a blockbuster trade. Those two moves reshaped the entire landscape of the Western Conference and made the Clippers instant title favorites.
The problem is there’s a pretty strong argument that Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka was an even stronger candidate, and he only finished seventh in the voting among his fellow executives.
Here’s the full voting for NBA Executive of the Year, which was won LA Clippers Lawrence Frank. OKCs Sam Presti finished second. Miami’s Pat Riley finished third. Lakers’ Rob Pelinka finished 7th & got one first place vote pic.twitter.com/7YRIxHz08A
— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) October 8, 2020
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Let’s recap Pelinka’s 2019-20 resume:
He started with a bang by trading for Anthony Davis, sending Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and three first-round picks to the Pelicans for the big man, who now has a chance to win Finals MVP. Pelinka also hired head coach Frank Vogel, who seamlessly navigated the regular season and postseason to get the Lakers back to contending for a championship. He re-signed Rajon Rondo and Alex Caruso and added free agent Dwight Howard and Markieff Morris for a combined $8.7 million salary cap hit. Every one of those players has played in big moments for the Lakers this postseason.
Hindsight is 20/20 of course, but compare what the Lakers gave up to get Davis vs. what the Clippers gave up to get George: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari and seven combined first-round picks and pick swaps. The Thunder will have a minimum of an extra draft pick or swap for six of the next seven years. Frank made big moves to make the Clippers contenders this season, but Pelinka clearly was able to do a lot more while giving up a lot less.
So, how did Pelinka fall so low in the voting?
Well, that’s partly due to voting being based on games played through March 11, although it’s still shocking to see Frank win over Pelinka considering the Lakers were 5.5 games up on the Clippers at that point and had the best record in the West.
Other executives to finish ahead of Pelinka were Sam Presti, who got that massive haul for the Thunder by trading George; Pat Riley, who helped lead the Heat to their first Finals appearance since 2014; Bucks GM Jon Horst; Raptors president Masai Ujiri; and Grizzlies executive vice president Zach Kleiman.