Chicago Bulls General Manager Gar Forman and Miami Heat President Pat Riley are co-recipients of the 2010-11 NBA Executive of the Year award, the NBA announced today.
In his 13th season with Chicago and second as its general manager, Forman saw the Bulls win a league-best 62 games, rookie coach Tom Thibodeau earn the Red Auerbach Trophy as the 2010-11 NBA Coach of the Year, and Derrick Rose become the youngest player to win the Maurice Podoloff Trophy as the 2010-11 Kia NBA Most Valuable Player. Forman transformed a 41-win Bulls team by signing free agents Carlos Boozer, Ronnie Brewer, and Kyle Korver among others.
Forman and Riley received each received 11 of a possible 30 votes from a panel of their fellow team executives throughout the NBA. The Bulls’ John Paxson finished third with three votes and San Antonio’s R.C. Buford finished fourth with two votes. Oklahoma City’s Sam Presti, New Jersey’s Billy King and New York’s Donnie Walsh received one vote each.
I don’t mean to take anything away from Pat Riley. He cleared a lot of cap space to sign Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James last summer. But he was also exceptionally fortunate that those guys wanted to play together. And, as far as we can tell (although it may never be proven), that had much more to do with the players than it did with Riley.
Meanwhile, Forman cleared cap space just like Riley did, only he had to endure and recover from rejection by all three of those players. Seriously, Forman (with Jerry Reinsdorf and John Paxson) went all in to sign James, Wade and/or Bosh…and got none of them. Yet he still managed to go out and acquire exactly the right mix of players to surround MVP Derrick Rose with. Oh, and he also brought in Tom Thibodeau, who won the Coach of the Year award.
The numbers don’t lie: 62 wins. Best in the league. Despite losing out on Options A, B and C. What’s more, with the way some of the new contracts were structured — specifically Brewer’s, Korver’s and Watson’s — Forman gave the team future cap flexibility (in theory depending on the new CBA).
Gar also made a midseason trade (James Johnson to the Raptors for a future round draft pick) so he could go after O.J. Mayo before the trade deadline. That deal didn’t pan out, apparently because Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley doesn’t like doing business with the Bulls, but it shows the kind of savvy team building Forman is trying to accomplish.
Forman’s moves have been both good for the team and smart from a financial standpoint. Again, no offense to Riley, but having three great players (and two of the top five in the game) decide they want to team up in one of the country’s most beautiful (and party-centric) cities is at least part luck. And a big part. Forman’s job was much more difficult.
Whatever the case, at least Gar gets a share of the award. It’s well deserved.