1. Daryl Morey, Houston Rockets
2. Danny Ainge, Boston Celtics
3. Dennis Lindsey, Utah Jazz
This award is usually won in July, and that’s when Morey won it — not with simply the Chris Paul trade, but with the moves around it, such as getting P.J. Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute, that fit perfectly around the stars to create a deep team that could challenge the Warriors. Danny Ainge looks brilliant now with the roster he put together, despite injuries (although the book is still out on some of his moves, such as how good Markelle Fultz will be and what happens with the Brooklyn pick). Also, the Jazz lost Gordon Hayward for nothing in free agency, yet smart moves (led by the Donovan Mitchell trade, and moving on from Rodney Hood and getting Jae Crowder, who has played well in Utah) means they will win just about as many games as they did the season before.
1. Daryl Morey, Rockets
2. Dennis Lindsey, Jazz
3. Kevin Pritchard, Pacers
Daryl Morey lured Chris Paul in a creative opt-in-and-trade that required the 32-year-old to delay locking into a long-term deal – an incredible accomplishment in its own right. The Rockets general manager also convinced James Harden, this season’s clear MVP, to sign a contract extension (easier, considering the price). To top it off, Morey rounded out a roster capable of challenging the Warriors with the savvy signings of Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and P.J. Tucker. In one summer, Houston went from a good team to a championship contender.
Dennis Lindsey found a franchise-changer in Donovan Mitchell with the No. 13 pick in the draft, which alone might have earned second place here. But Lindsey’s other additions – Ricky Rubio, Thabo Sefolosha, Jonas Jerebko, Ekpe Udoh, an unearthed-out-of-nowhere Royce O’Neal and Jae Crowder – have helped build a team capable of making Utah forget about Gordon Hayward.
Kevin Pritchard was dealt a tough hand when Paul George made clear his desire to leave Indiana, and Pritchard got someone who might be even more valuable in Victor Oladipo. Even if he didn’t realize how good Oladipo would be, Pritchard chose to bet on Oladipo. So, Pritchard gets the credit for how that has paid off.
The Celtics’ Danny Ainge did well to acquire stars Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward and potential future star Jayson Tatum – even if Boston won’t reap the rewards this year. Aron Baynes and Daniel Theis were strong under-the-radar signings. But Ainge was operating from a position of strength entering the summer, so his moves must be judged accordingly when assessing only this year. Tom Thibodeau got a massive head-start with the Jimmy Butler trade, but the Andrew Wiggins extension is enough to keep the Timberwolves president off the ballot.