The 2019 NBA season has seen a lot of excellent general managers turn their franchises around with key roster acquisitions and smart salary cap management. The NBA Executive of the Year Award is an annual award given to the GM who the media believes did the best job managing their team during the regular season.
This year includes great candidates, none of whom lead the worst front offices in the NBA. Let’s look at the five executives with the best shot to win the award.
Jon Horst, Milwaukee Bucks
Horst has been an essential part of the Bucks’ franchise turnaround. He became GM before the start of the 2017 season, and he has helped lead the Bucks to the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference this season.
One key acquisition was point guard Eric Bledsoe, who left Phoenix and has become a quality pairing with the Greek Freak Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Horst also hired Mike Budenholzer, who became the first coach in NBA history to coach two teams to 60 or more wins. The wins, the smart moves, and the success during the 2018-19 season are enough to make Horst a front runner for NBA Executive of the Year.
Masai Ujiri, Toronto Raptors
When Ujiri traded DeMar DeRozan to San Antonio for one year (at the least) of Kawhi Leonard, fans around Canada were outraged. DeRozan had been an excellent part of the Toronto culture, but it’s clear Ujiri’s move paid off.
He’s not among the finalists, but Leonard played like an NBA MVP candidate this season, and he stakes a claim as the best player in the conference. The Raptors went up 2-1 on the Golden State Warriors in their first NBA Finals appearance, and acquiring Leonard is one of the main reasons for the success.
Bob Myers, Golden State Warriors
How much success can you give to a GM during a dynasty run? Plenty in the case of Bob Myers. Landing DeMarcus Cousins on a mid-level exception was a smart move before the season. Myers worked feverishly to sign Kevin Durant, a move that is still paying off. The Warriors made five straight finals, won back-to-back championships, and could three-peat as NBA champions in 2019.
Neil Oshley, Portland Trail Blazers
The Trail Blazers turned things around after their debacle in the 2018 postseason (swept as a No. 3 seed by the New Orleans Pelicans) and made it all the way to the Western Conference Finals. The Warriors swept Portland out of the playoffs, but Neil Olshey still has a shot at winning NBA Executive of the Year.
Damian Lillard played at an All-NBA level during the postseason, and along CJ McCollum, the Blazers will be one of the best teams in the West for years to come. That’s due in no small part to Olshey’s efforts.
Elton Brand, Philadelphia 76ers
The 76ers went all in for a run to the NBA Finals and fell short, but that doesn’t mean Elton Brand doesn’t deserve to be NBA Executive of the Year.
The first-year GM traded for Jimmy Butler a few games into the season. Butler meshed well with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, averaging 18 points, five rebounds, and four assists, so that was a shrewd move.
Brand also worked a deal with the Clippers to land Tobias Harris. Harris was a potential All-Star this season, putting up 20 points and almost eight rebounds per contest.
Philadelphia finished with the No. 3 seed in the East, losing a heartbreaking seven-game series to the Toronto Raptors on a last-second Kawhi Leonard dagger.
Our pick — Masai Ujiri
Although all of these candidates are worthy of the award, we are going to say that Masai Ujiri will walk away with the NBA Executive of the Year award. The gamble to add Kawhi Leonard paid off with the Raptors’ first NBA Finals trip, so the way we see things, it’s Ujiri or bust.