In a tally quite similar to that of the Coach of the Year honor, Phoenix Suns general manager Ryan McDonough was second in the 2014 NBA Executive of the Year award voting. It’s similar because McDonough finished second to a San Antonio Spurs employee, but this could be a lot more questionable than Gregg Popovich winning out over Jeff Hornacek.
Spurs general manager R.C. Buford took home the award — somehow for the first time — which is voted upon by fellow NBA executives.
— Sporting News NBA (@sn_nba) May 7, 2014
While many people are quick to judge on changes made to help a team win, Buford came out ahead by keeping it status quo — sort of.
Buford kept a championship runner-up together, simple as that. He re-signed big man Tiago Splitter to a four-year, $36 million deal that looked silly after some Hibbert-esque playoff performances last season. Now, Splitter is cutting up the Portland Trail Blazers after doing so against the Dallas Mavericks. The Spurs also kept Manu Ginobili, signing him to a two-year deal despite the guard considering retirement.
Best of all, San Antonio signed guard Marco Belinelli to a bargain of a two-year deal worth just $5.6 million. He shot 43 percent from three-point range and averaged 11.4 points per game.
In the draft, Buford pulled off a late first-round draft-and-stash of Livio Jean-Charles and also picked DeShaun Thomas in the second round.
Meanwhile, general managers like McDonough and Toronto’s Masai Ujiri engineered substantial rebuilds. McDonough made quick time. He hired Hornacek, acquired Eric Bledsoe and Caron Butler for Jared Dudley and a second-round pick, then dealt Luis Scola to the Pacers for a first-round pick, Miles Plumlee and Gerald Green. Before the year began, McDonough traded Marcin Gortat, Shannon Brown, Kendall Marshall and Malcolm Lee for a first-round pick and Emeka Okafor’s contract.
McDonough also drafted Alex Len and, perhaps more impressively considering the pick, Archie Goodwin. He then used Caron Butler to deal for backup point guard Ish Smith — that moved saved the Suns cash.
The result of all of it worked perfectly for Hornacek’s vision for the 2013-14 Suns and McDonough’s opportunities ahead.
It was more surprising for McDonough’s case that another general manager, like Ujiri, didn’t win. Like the Suns’ general manager, Ujiri worked magic in his first season in Toronto, trading Rudy Gay to open up an opportunity for DeMar DeRozan — a similar story to Plumlee’s after the Gortat deal.
The executive honor coupled with the Coach of the Year award might put Phoenix second to the Spurs, a common theme of the past decade, but it’s a step or 10 ahead of where the Suns were a year ago (Editor’s note: As Paul Coro notes, McDonough was hired a year ago to this day), when Lance Blanks ruled.