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Spurs’ R.C. Buford wins Executive of the Year

May 7, 2014, 10:25 AM EST

2013 NBA Finals - Practice and Media Availability 2013 NBA Finals - Practice and Media Availability

How has Gregg Popovich won only one Coach of the Year award? How has R.C. Buford never won Executive of the Year?

Consider those perceived Spurs-related slights fixed and fixed.

After Popovich earned his second Coach of the Year in the last three seasons (bringing his total to three), longtime Spurs general manager Buford won the 2013-14 Executive of the Year.

Consider this a lifetime achievement award. Buford’s key moves in the last year – signing Marco Belinelli, re-signing Manu Ginobili, re-signing Tiago Splitter, drafting Livio Jean-Charles – are pedestrian relative to Buford’s years of team-building.

Seventeen general managers – most of the league – received votes, and 11 received first-place votes. That parity created an opening for Buford to win in a season his biggest accomplishment was keeping in tact everything he’d assembled previously.

I feel bad for the Suns’ Ryan McDonough, who was my choice for the honor and finished second. In his first year on the job, he made the Suns better in the short term and set them up beautifully for the long term by acquiring multiple first-round picks. I believe he did the best job this year, which is what the award is literally supposed to honor. It’s just bad luck to do so in a year voters – the NBA’s 30 top executives themselves – decide to honor someone’s entire career.

But in that sense, the whole award is a little silly. Being a good general manger requires long-term strategizing, and good moves often don’t reveal themselves in the year they occur. Maybe they should hand out this award each year based on the previous five seasons. That would at least more accurately reflect the job these executives are doing.

Buford is one of the NBA’s best – maybe even the best – general manager, and he deserves some type of recognition for that. The 2013-14 Executive of the Year probably isn’t the most appropriate choice, but it’s all there is to give, and in that sense, it’s well-earned.

Full voting (first-, second-, third-place votes, total points)

1. R.C. Buford, San Antonio (9-3-4-58)

2. Ryan McDonough, Phoenix (5-6-4-47)

3. Neil Olshey, Portland (5-2-3-34)

4. Masai Ujiri, Toronto (3-3-4-28)

5. Pat Riley, Miami (1-3-1-15)

5. Sam Presti, Oklahoma City (1-3-1-15)

7. Danny Ainge, Boston (1-2-2-13)

8. Billy King, Brooklyn (2 -0-1-11)

9. Daryl Morey, Houston (0-3-1-10)

9. Ernie Grunfeld, Washington (1-1-2-10)

11. Rod Higgins, Charlotte (1-0-1-6)

11. Larry Bird, Indiana (0-2-0-6)

11. Doc Rivers, L.A. Clippers (0-1-3-6)

14. Bob Myers, Golden State (1-0-0-5)

15. Danny Ferry, Atlanta (0-1-0-3)

16. Gar Forman, Chicago (0-0-2-2)

17. Donnie Nelson, Dallas (0-0-1-1)

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