1. Neil Olshey- Los Angeles Clippers (WINNER)
- The Clippers are not only relevant, they are downright good and this is because of the incredible job by GM Neil Olshey. Olshey truly deserves the award, as he has been by far the top executive of the 2011-12 season. The Chris Paul trade has turned out beautifully and even though they may have given up a lot, they now have one of the eight best players in the world on their team. Paul has made a massive difference on this team and has made every player Clipper player better, just by being there. If Paul were to leave after the 2012-13 season, Olshey’s great season would be forgotten, but considering how good the Clippers look, this seems doubtful. It is safe to assume that Paul will resign with the team long-term, as they look to be contenders now and for many years to come. Besides the Paul move, Olshey has done a wonderful job bringing the depth back that the team lost in the aforementioned Paul trade. Signing Caron Butler has been a solid move as he has brought scoring and defense to the team on the perimeter and although he is not the player he once was, he has had a fine year. The Kenyon Martin pickup was a great move, as he has brought his signature defense and intensity off their bench. Olshey was also able to steal talented shooting guard Nick Young for only Brian Cook and a second round pick. Young has done well and has brought extra scoring off the bench. Most thought that the team spent far too much money, resigning center Deandre Jordan, however he has improved immensely this season and is now one of the best defensive big men in the NBA. Lastly, the Chauncey Billups post-amnesty signing looked great until he was injured, as he brought leadership and experience to a team that truly needed it. So overall, Olshey has had an absolutely stellar season, and the fact that he has been able to succeed under the Clippers’ notoriously cheap owner Donald Sterling, makes this all the more amazing. Make room on the mantle Mr. Olshey, because the award is yours.
2. Glen Grunwald- New York Knicks
- Second place is pretty amazing work for an interim GM, which is what Grunwald’s official title has been, after he took over for Donnie Walsh. Walsh must also be given due credit as he created the foundation of the team, but Grunwald has done the little things to fill in the gaps. The team’s signing of center Tyson Chandler has been a franchise-altering move for them, as he has led the team out of the bottom in defensive efficiency and into the top half of the league. Many were skeptical at the amount of money Chandler was given, but he seems to be worth every penny and has been arguably the team’s most valuable player all season long. Chandler should win the league’s Defensive Player of the Year award and is far and away number one in the NBA in field goal percentage. Of course, the move that has grabbed every fan’s attention was the signing of point guard Jeremy Lin to be the team’s fourth point guard and glorified cheerleader, which turned out spectacularly. The successes of Lin are well known and documented, but it all started with a gamble, one that has paid off and has finally found the team it’s franchise point guard that they have long sought after. The Knicks also had a great draft landing Georgia Tech guard, Iman Shumpert and Kentucky big man, Josh Harrellson, who have both made the rotation. Shumpert has the makings of an elite defender and has the athleticism and talent to become a great offensive player as well. Harrellson has added needed size off the bench and has showed a very solid all-around game. They may not have drafted a star, but the draft has improved their depth and talent on the roster. Also, the mid-season signing of JR Smith was a low-risk, high-reward move that has worked out beautifully. He did struggle some at first, but has come alive as of late and has been electrifying off the Knick bench. Even the signing of Baron Davis has worked out, although not as much as the team hoped. He has been awful shooting the ball, but has distributed well and has been passable as the starting point guard, with Lin injured. The Knicks may not be a championship caliber team, but their talent level has risen immensely since last season, which means that management has done a great job, especially Glen Grunwald.
3. Chris Grant- Cleveland Cavaliers
- The Cavs needed to hit a home run with their number one pick, in an effort to start over after losing King James and they did just that. They took a chance on point guard Kyrie Irving, who because of injury missed most of his freshmen season, but he has been phenomenal all year and seems to be the franchise player the team sorely needed after losing Lebron. He is the sure-fire Rookie of the Year and looks to be an All-Star for many years to come. The Cavaliers then surprised many by drafting raw forward Tristan Thompson fourth overall. He may never be a star, but he is a great athlete and has the potential to be a dynamic defensive presence and has showed more on offense than expected. With these two extremely young building blocks, the team has started their rebuilding process with a bang. Grant and the Cavaliers also wisely stayed clear from free agency and will have a lot of cap space to work with over the next few years, to help them continue to rebuild the roster. It is safe to say that the future in Cleveland is much brighter then it was a year ago and this is because of the work of Chris Grant and his staff.
4. RC Buford- San Antonio Spurs
- Buford has been arguably the NBA’s top executive over the last decade and has once again had a great year. No one expected the Spurs to be championship contenders, but they have a chance to obtain the number one seed in the Western Conference for the second straight year. Buford has done a wonderful job of adding young talent around their big three, which has kept their championship window open for at least this season. The draft day trade that landed them forward Kawhi Leonard for guard George Hill has been a coup, as he looks to be one of the best players in the draft and a possible lockdown defender, with the potential to grow on offense. They were also somehow able to move Richard Jefferson and has monstrous contract for Stephen Jackson who is a better fit on the roster and has one year and over 10 million less on his contract. The low-key move to acquire guard Danny Green has paid massive dividends, as he is starting for the team and is playing great two-way basketball. Buford may not have made a big splash and dramatically changed the team, but he has made numerous solid moves that have truly improved the team. Another good year, from one of the all-time great executives in the league’s history.
5. Pat Riley- Miami Heat
- With the big three already in place, Riley had the difficult challenge to fill out the team around his stars and with little cap space to do so. The biggest move for the Heat was their cap friendly signing of do-everything forward Shane Battier. An outstanding defender, passer, shooter and teammate, Battier has brought sorely needed leadership to the team, as well as a winning mentality. The only problem with Battier has been that his offense has been less than spectacular and he has struggled with his shot all season long. Luckily for the Heat, his intangibles and character have more than made up for his offensive problems. The team drafted Norris Cole, a gifted scorer and speedster, who has filled the role of backup point guard and bench scorer quite well. He may struggle with turnovers and a somewhat questionable shot selection and has not built off of his fantastic first month in the NBA, but he is an asset to the team. Also, the mid-season pickup of Ronnie Turiaf has proved successful, as he has brought his usual energy and defense to the team, which will help come playoff time. Finally, the resigning of starting point guard Mario Chalmers has been an underrated move, as he has finally become worthy of being an NBA starter, as he has improved his already stellar defense and has become an elite shooter. He may not be a great distributor, but with Lebron and Wade, the team does need that out of their point guard in order to be successful. Riley may not have had as outstanding a year as last year, when he signed the big three, but he was successful none-the-less.
6. Larry Riley- Golden State Warriors
- It is safe to say that in the span of six months, the Warriors have changed the dynamic of the team and have finally attempted to improve the team’s culture and defense. This came in three separate, but successful moves. The team finally traded scoring savant, but defensive sieve, Monte Ellis and in turn received a top-five NBA center in Andrew Bogut, who is one of the best defensive players in the NBA. Bogut may be chronically injured and currently out, but if healthy, will improve the team dramatically on defense. They then traded Stephen Jackson (who was also in the Bogut deal) for Richard Jefferson, who despite being more expensive, is the superior player and a much better defender. The final trade was acquiring shooting guard Brandon Rush for Lou Amundson. Rush has had his best season to date and has been a solid two-way player for the team and their top player off the bench. Also, the Warriors’ lottery pick, Klay Thompson has taken off since entering the starting lineup for Monte Ellis and looks to be one of the best rookies in his draft class. Overall, a very solid year for Larry Riley and new owner, Joe Lacob.
7. Larry Bird- Indiana Pacers
- Larry Bird has once again added great pieces to the Pacers in an effort to turn them into contenders. The Pacers are currently the 3 seed in the Eastern Conference, so they seem to be well on their way to becoming one of the NBA’s best teams. The big move was the signing of veteran and former 2-time All-Star, forward David West. Although he has struggled to regain some of his past glory after coming off of a serious knee injury, West has provided veteran leadership and has been an effective starter, averaging over 12 points and 6 rebounds while playing just under 30 minutes a night. As detailed in the Spurs’ section, the team traded the draft rights of Kawhi Leonard to the Spurs for George Hill and it has worked out just as well for the Pacers as it has for the Spurs. Hill has provided great scoring off the bench and has been an excellent backup point guard, while playing his normal solid defense. The team’s midseason pickup of Leandro Barbosa has also worked out well as he has brought his own scoring talents off the bench and has improved the team’s depth considerably. Larry Bird has proven that he is one of the best executives in the NBA and has once again brought his team closer to contention.
8. Dell Demps- New Orleans Hornets
- The amount of work put in by Demps in the Chris Paul trade is commendable and despite the failed trade attempt with the Lakers, he got the best possible deal he could. Now that the team finally has a new owner in Saints’ owner Tom Benson, Demps should be able to actually get some work done and not have to appease David Stern anymore. The haul in the Chris Paul trade was quite substantial, a young budding superstar in Eric Gordon, a massive expiring contract in Chris Kaman, a talented, but raw forward named Al Farouq Aminu and Minnesota’s unprotected first round pick, currently expected to go in the top ten. Demps also pulled off three lesser, but successful moves in acquiring talented backup point guard Grevious Vasquez, high potential shooting guard Xavier Henry and rookie Gustavo Ayon from Mexico. All in all, Demps did a great job, considering the obstacles in his way. It will be interesting to see how Demps does under the new owner and if he will be given the freedom to rebuild the team on his own terms.
9. Danny Ainge- Boston Celtics
- This is not as much about what Ainge has done, but what he didn’t do. After massive pressure from the media and fans, Ainge chose to stay the course and not trade away any of his Big Four. It is safe to say that this strategy has definitely paid off, as the Celtics are one of hottest teams heading into the playoffs. He has made a few very wise personnel moves this season, mainly trading Glen Davis for Brandon Bass. Bass, despite making two million a year less, has been the far superior player throughout the year. Also, the pickup of undrafted rookie Greg Stiemsma has panned out, as he has proven to be a very capable backup center and a handful on defense. Despite those quality moves, the Celtics’ season seems to be a classic example of the road not taken and the overall successes that can come from that choice.
10. Mitch Kupchak- Los Angeles Lakers
- Kupchak has made the list for one reason, his trade-deadline deal for Ramon Sessions, who has filled the long-needed role of starting point guard for the team. Ramon Sessions has added fire to the team since the trade, as he is an elite distributor and a solid scorer. This move alone has once again made the Lakers championship caliber and has finally given them a productive player other than Bryant, Gasol and Bynum. The other moves this season included, trading for Jordan Hill, signing Josh McRoberts and Troy Murphy and drafting Andrew Goudelock and Darius Morris, but none of these moves have exactly panned out. To be fair, Goudelock has showed promise as a scoring guard off the bench and has the talent to become an elite three-point shooter. Regardless, the Sessions move has greatly improved the teams’ chances of winning a title and sometimes one move is all that it takes for a GM to have a successful year.