2016 PBT Awards: Executive of the Year

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Kurt Helin

1. R.C. Buford

2. Neil Olshey

3. Stan Van Gundy

This award feels like it’s often won the previous July, and that’s when the Buford won this — he had created the flexibility to bring in a max player, then he went out and convinced LaMarcus Aldridge to come home to Texas. The Spurs just keep on being the Spurs. A number of other executives had good years, but Olshey deserves credit for putting together a roster that works in Portland, and SVG is building something for the future in Detroit that could be very good.

Sean Highkin

1. Neil Olshey

2. R.C. Buford

3. Pat Riley

Olshey lost four starters, including LaMarcus Aldridge, and somehow the Blazers are still in position to get the fifth seed in the Western Conference. He signed good role players like Al-Farouq Aminu and Ed Davis to reasonable contracts and reshaped the roster around Damian Lillard without sacrificing future flexibility. Buford got Aldridge, re-signed Danny Green for below market value and somehow convinced David West to take the minimum, while making solid in-season additions like Kevin Martin and Andre Miller. Riley deserves a lot of credit for his moves on the fringes, including finding Josh Richardson in the second round and signing Joe Johnson and now Dorell Wright during the year.

Dan Feldman

1. R.C. Buford

2. Neil Olshey

3. Stan Van Gundy

Buford lured LaMarcus Aldridge to the Spurs, who haven’t even felt the downside of clearing cap space to sign him. That’s because Buford convinced Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Danny Green and David West to accept below-market deals and Kawhi Leonard to delay signing his max contract. Buford also unearthed Boban Marjanovic and added Kevin Martin and Andre Miller after buyouts. As far as producing immediate results – which the aging Spurs needed – this was an all-time great year by a general manager.

On the flip side, Olshey lost Aldridge but showed an impressive ability to reinvent on the fly. He locked up Damian Lillard on a long-term extension that is somehow slightly less than the 30% max if Lillard makes an All-NBA team and surrounded his new franchise player with similarly aged talent. Al-Farouq Aminu and Ed Davis signed reasonable deals, and Mason Plumlee and Maurice Harkless came fairly cheap in trades. Even while building this younger playoff team after also losing Wesley Matthews, Robin Lopez and Arron Afflalo in free agency and trading Nicolas Batum (for good value in Noah Vonleh), Olshey left open enough cap room to add a first-round pick in exchange for taking Anderson Varejao before the trade deadline. This is why someone like the Hornets’ Rich Cho didn’t make my list. Not only did Olshey help his team’s competitiveness this season, he improved its long-term outlook.

Van Gundy made the heist of the season when he got Tobias Harris without giving up a draft pick or core player, and Marcus Morris also gave the Pistons value on their cap space. Reggie Jackson and Aron Baynes have also lived up to their initially criticized contracts. Plus, Van Gundy convinced Andre Drummond not to accept a contract extension, which will give the Pistons millions of extra cap space next summer. Van Gundy slightly edged Pat Riley, who nailed both his draft picks (Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson), navigated tricky free agencies with Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic, got the Heat under the luxury-tax line and lured Joe Johnson after his buyout.