Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

2014 NBA Executive of the Year Award slights Suns' Ryan McDonough

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.

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.

  • 4everis2long

    I still believe McD did more with less than any GM. Hiring Coach Horny in of itself should have brought him cudos. Keeping and signing free agents is not that difficult when you have a championship caliber team in the fold. So while Buford did an admirable job, give me the GM who took a team from the jaws of death, acquired an additional 1st round pick in the 2014 draft while trading its starting center and made them playoff relevant. Although I am certain some voters downgraded McD because the Suns used a number 5 pick on Len, it was a weak draft. Len will prove in the next year or two to be one of the top 5 players selected in the 2013 draft. In my opinion McD has done the best job of any GM I have seen in long time. The voters do not define you McD, your work product speaks volumes.

    • Milich Kosanovich

      Hornacek is 6′-4″, did you notice how Alex Len is towering over him by what looks like almost a foot?
      Your rationale on some voters perhaps downgrading McDonough for using a #5 on Alex Len is why Buford is getting his Executive of the Year for a body of work that dates back to ’99 when he found Manu Ginobilli at #57, Tony Parker at #28 in ’01 and Tiaglo Splitter @ #28 in ’07.(Remember the ’07 draft? Suns could have taken Splitter at # 24 instead of Rudy Fernandez and Marc Gasol at #29 instead of Alando Tucker).

      Then factor in his ability to find marginal players to keep surrounding the big three year after year. The current roster includes Aron Baynes who went undrafted in ’09 and doesn’t get much burn but in game one against the Blazers he joined Splitter, Diaw and Duncan in making Aldridge’s life miserable and managed 10/7 in only fifteen minutes.

      He picked up one of your favorites in Austin Daye for little used Nando De Colo. So Buford obtained a former #15 pick for a #53 pick. Buford convinced former Blazer PG Patty Mills to sign with him two years ago. Buford picked up yet another former Blazer and another center for nothing in Jeff Ayres (Pendergraph) at the start of the season. He also convinced former #18 pick Marco Bellinelli to sign with them at the beginning of the season.

      Cavaliers waived starting SG Danny Green in ’10 and Buford was the man who brought him to San Antonio. He drafted Canadian PG Cory Joseph at #29 in ’11 and Pops wasn’t afraid to use him along with Mills in Parker’s absence.

      The Spurs current playoff roster goes 13 deep with Pops willing to use all thirteen. Austin Daye and Damion James aren’t on the active playoff roster but both are former #1 picks. James was selected #24 by the Hawks ’10.

      Buford has been an Executive with the Spurs since ’94 that includes them making the playoffs for seventeen consecutive years. They have won the title four times and made the Finals five times under Buford and Popovich.

      I love what McDonough has done in only one season but you can’t begrudge R.C. Buford finally being recognized for a fantastic body of work that has spanned more than seventeen years. He has also done a great job staying within the salary cap and playing in a small market. They have to compete with two of the largest cities in the U.S. within their own state and the OKC Thunder are just a short drive up the highway.

      Quoting you, R.C. Buford’s work also speaks volumes.

      • 4everis2long

        Milichhhhhhh, Since you already agreed earlier today McD should have won it, there is not much I can say. I fully agree Buford should win Executive of The Decade when it is established. What he has done for a small market team is second to none. We truly are on the same page.

        • Milich Kosanovich

          I’m a big R.C. Buford fan. If they had chosen any other G.M. I would have been upset. But he provides hope that draft picks such as Alex Len will work out. The guy is THE master talent evaluator. It just sucks for McD that they chose to honor Buford this season.

  • Milich Kosanovich

    I don’t have an issue with R.C. Buford winning his first award, only the timing of it. McDonough clearly did a far better job than Buford THIS year. McDonough should have won.

    Masai Ujiri won last year when he basically did the same thing with the Nuggets as McDonough did with the suns this year. So he should have placed fourth behind Neil Olshey.

    Buford is more of a lifetime achievement award and this is probably the last season they (media) could justify giving it to him.

    If Olshey and McDonough continue to improve their respective teams this summer and next season it should be a two-man race next season with Olshey having a slight edge since coming in 3rd in ’11-’12.

  • Gwen Sherwood

    It appears these awards are now suffering from the same tradition as the Oscars…marketing and lobbying for votes. How incredibly sad. Makes the award almost meaningless.

    • Milich Kosanovich

      Meaningless? I’d agree if they gave the award to Sam Hinke or Pete DAlessandro. Staying with your Oscar theme, awarding Buford is just like the Oscar’s Lifetime achievement award.

      How anybody could be upset with Buford’s colleague’s awarding him for building a contender that has remained in contention for seventeen consecutive seasons is beyond comprehension.