A lot of people have disclaimed the first ever Executive of the Year award handed to San Antonio Spurs general manager R.C. Buford on Wednesday as more of a lifetime achievement nod. Buford, as I’ve noted in the past, has never won the NBA’s yearly trophy for the league’s best behind-the-scenes maneuvering even while keeping the Spurs in title-contention for more than a decade. While it’s been a long time coming, it should not take away from what he’s done (AGAIN) with this season’s Spurs collective.
Buford has been at the helm as San Antonio’s GM for 12 years, but it’s a historical puzzle he hasn’t won the award until now. R.C. jokingly attributed this year’s win to some cronyism after it was announced. His long and distinguished career has rippled outward as his former junior-level co-workers were (smartly) snatched up elsewhere around the league in a sort of Buford family tree with his tentacles seemingly reaching everywhere:
RC Buford joked he won Exec of the Year because he's finally got enough former staffers in GM posts to stuff ballot box.
— Jeff McDonald (@JMcDonald_SAEN) May 7, 2014
The man he replaced as GM 12 years ago, this season’s Coach of the Year and Dime’s own winner after an informal tally of our writers, Gregg Popovich, was happy for his ostensible boss’ win and acknowledged it had been a long time coming:
“I’m extremely happy for RC Buford to have won this award, which is both absolutely deserved and long overdue. His knowledge of the rules, basketball expertise and keen eye for talent have served the Spurs organization well for a very long time. It has been a personal pleasure to be at his side during this period.”
The NBA’s press release below goes into some specific moves Buford made over the summer and in year’s past, which led to a win that’s way behind schedule. Among the more recent moves that can be attributed to finally getting the hardware this year include the offseason signing of Marco Belinelli, the re-signings of Manu Ginobili and Tiago Splitter even as most thought they would be allowed to leave in free agency; and convincing Boris Diaw and Patty Mills to pick up their player options for this season. No Spurs player averaged over 30 minutes a game this season, an NBA first, but because of Buford’s wheeling and dealing, eight Spurs players averaged over 20 minutes a night. Finally, Buford and Pop should be applauded for keeping the primary San Antonio core intact even after coming just a Ray Allen 3-pointer away from clinching the NBA Title last season. Here’s the release:
San Antonio Spurs General Manager R.C. Buford is the recipient of the 2013-14 NBA Basketball Executive of the Year award, the NBA announced today.
Buford assembled a roster this season that featured six players averaging double figures in scoring and eight players averaging 20 or more minutes. The Spurs clinched homecourt advantage for the 2014 postseason by virtue of having posted the league’s best record at 62-20 (.756). San Antonio was the only team to record 30-plus wins both at home (32-9, .780) and on the road (30-11, .732), and the 2013-14 campaign marked the 15th consecutive season that the Spurs posted 50-plus wins – an NBA record.
The longstanding trio of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker has been fortified in recent years with the additions of Boris Diaw, Kawhi Leonard and Patty Mills (third seasons with the team), as well as Danny Green and Tiago Splitter (fourth seasons with the team). Buford added Marco Belinelli this past offseason, who fit seamlessly into the rotation, with averages of 11.4 ppg (fifth on the team) and 25.2 mpg (fourth on the team).
Unlike all the other NBA Awards, which are voted on by members of the Pro Basketball Writers Association, this award is voted on by executives, so it’s not viewable to the public.
Buford totaled 58 points and received nine first-place votes from a panel of his peers. The Phoenix Suns’ Ryan McDonough finished second with 47 points (five first-place votes) and the Portland Trail Blazers’ Neil Olshey finished third with 34 points (five first-place votes). Raptors bawse and Brooklyn antagonist Masai Ujiri finished fourth, and the Heat’s Pat Riley tied with Sam Presti of OKC for fifth.
Executives were awarded five points for each first-place vote, three points for each second-place vote and one point for each third-place vote.
Below are the results of the voting for the 2013-14 NBA Basketball Executive of the Year. The balloting was tabulated by the independent accounting firm of Ernst & Young LLP.
I speak for myself and several others around the Association when I write, it’s ’bout damn time. Congrats Mr. Buford, your excellence while running the Spurs is without equal.
How many more EOY wins should R.C. Buford have won by now?
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