It was reported last night that Lawrence Frank has won Executive of the Year. Frank, the Clippers’ President of Basketball Operations, was a surprise winner for many fans. A lot of people expected Sam Presti, Rob Pelinka or Pat Riley to win the award. Frank was definitely not expected to pick up the trophy.
Marc Stein of The New York Times had a comprehensive breakdown of the balloting on Twitter.
Full NBA Executive of the Year balloting ... pic.twitter.com/mz4JI0oKxe— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) October 8, 2020
I have to congratulate Lawrence Frank on winning this award. Frank did a good job in getting Kawhi and Paul George to Los Angeles. However, I cannot help but feel that Sam Presti was much more deserving of winning this honour.
Presti dealt two franchise cornerstones in Paul George and Russell Westbrook. In both trades, Sam was able to get back a boatload of assets while finding a building block of the Thunder’s future in the form of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
The Thunder were expected to be a rebuilding team that would miss the playoffs and enter the lottery. The reality could not be further from the expectations. Oklahoma City were a tough playoff team that could go toe to toe with any contender on any given night. The team assembled by Sam Presti over-achieved hugely.
The voting for Executive of the Year ceased on March 11. This means that playoff performances by teams were not considered by those who voted. It is possible to make more of a case for Frank when you disregard the collapse of the Clippers in the playoffs.
However, I struggle to see how Lawrence Frank won the award when Sam Presti and other executives around the league outperformed him. Frank’s work as the President of Basketball Operations is a little suspect.
The Kawhi Leonard signing is an unqualified success. Leonard is a transformative player who gives the Clippers gravitas and that star quality when the game matters most. This was the perfect move by the Clippers. It is after this success where Frank’s record starts to drift.
The Paul George trade did mean that the Clippers acquired a second star but LA gave up their entire future for a player who is known to wilt in the postseason. George has a terrible habit of not turning up in the postseason.
Lawrence Frank also made moves during the season. The Clippers signed Reggie Jackson, a scoring point guard who likes to command the ball and LA pulled off a trade for Marcus Morris. In theory, both players filled a need in the rotation. Los Angeles was short on playmaking and versatility at the forward spots, the moves made were designed to fix these issues.
The practical matter was a different story altogether. Los Angeles needed a point guard who would share the ball and prioritise on getting guys open for looks. Reggie Jackson is not that player. Jackson is predominantly a player who hunts his own shot first and then dishes the rock.
The playmaking issue was never solved by the Clippers and it became a real issue in the postseason. The Clippers ended up being stuck running the same, stagnant isolation sets for George and Leonard.
Morris worked nicely for the Clippers. His scoring and ability to guard a few different positions on defense was a useful tool for Doc Rivers to have. The Morris trade was a good deal overall but LA paid too much for Morris. The Clippers gave up Moe Harkless, a first round pick and two second round picks.
On the other hand, Sam Presti traded Paul George for 3 first round picks, 2 pick swaps, SGA and Danilo Gallinari. This trade was a huge success for the Thunder as it started the rebuilding process with the store cupboard being stocked with picks.
Sam artfully played on the Clippers’ desperation to get a deal done in order to get a treasure chest of picks. Moreover, the Thunder got Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in the trade. Gilgeous-Alexander is a rising star in this league and has the potential to be an All-NBA level player.
Sam was also able to deal Russell Westbrook for assets, something that a lot of media members believed would be very difficult. Westbrook’s contract did not meet his standard of play at that point in time. Nobody expected Sam Presti to get a good haul for Russell.
Over the last few years, we have seen that Sam Presti is a wizard when it comes to trades. The Taj Gibson trade is a great example of his magic at the trade table. The Thunder were able to deal Cameron Payne and get back Doug McDermott, Taj Gibson and a second round pick. Presti fleeced the Bulls then and has fleeced a lot of other GMs around the league.
Presti managed to pull off the same trick in the Russell Westbrook trade. He dealt Russell and received a bevy of assets. In the Westbrook trade, Sam got Chris Paul, two first round picks and two pick swaps. That is not too bad for a supposedly untradeable player.
That trade will pay even more dividends in the coming offseason when Sam Presti deals Chris Paul for more assets. Over the course of an offseason, Presti started the Thunder’s rebuild in the best way possible. He got a ton of future assets for the players he traded and set the Thunder up well for the long-term.
On the balance of a season’s work by both executives, I genuinely feel that Sam Presti outperformed Lawrence Frank and he should have won Executive of the Year. Presti delivered on all expectations and then some. I cannot say the same for Lawrence Frank.