Summer Dreaming: Who will win Executive of the Year in 2017-18?

Summer Dreaming: 2017-18 Executive of the Year
Danny Ainge, Boston Celtics president of basketball operations, smiles as he addresses reporters at the team's training facility in Waltham, Mass. The Celtics won the NBA draft lottery, capitalizing on a trade they made with the Brooklyn Nets four years ago. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

By Fran Blinebury, NBA.com

Everybody has their roles. Players play. Coaches coach. But before anybody can get out onto the floor to make shots, grab rebounds and chase down loose balls, somebody has to put the team together and, hopefully, keep things moving forward with a solid, consistent organizational goal.

It’s summertime, when the lion’s share of the work is done and there has been plenty of heaving lifting this offseason. So that has prompted us to begin our annual Summer Dreaming Series, where we get way ahead of the calendar and pick our 2018 NBA award winners, beginning with our top choices for Executive of the Year.

Daryl Morey, Houston Rockets

No, he hasn’t yet won a championship and has been to the conference finals only once. But there comes a time when you have to admire the sheer relentlessness of the guy. Each time his Rockets come up short in the playoffs, Morey dives back into the pool head-first and keeps churning. Putting big man Dwight Howard alongside James Harden didn’t work? No problem. Bring in Mike D’Antoni as coach and let Harden go it alone for 55 wins. When that’s still not enough, pull the lever on the trade machine until Chris Paul falls out. And he’s still in there pitching for Carmelo Anthony. What the Rockets -- thanks to the admirable philosophy of outgoing owner Leslie Alexander -- don’t do is tank. Don’t underestimate the second-tier moves of P.J. Tucker and Luc Mbah A Moute for defense. While many other organizations have thrown up their hands at the Golden State juggernaut, Morey fearlessly keeps the Rockets in pursuit.

Danny Ainge, Boston Celtics

He ignored all of the talk and the prodding that said he should have been much more pro-active peddling those lottery picks, focused on his primary goal and landed the prime free-agent target of Gordon Hayward to fit into the lineup that’s been systematically assembled. It was a bonus that Hayward’s old college coach, Brad Stevens, is calling the shots on the bench. Ainge was shrewd enough to identify Stevens as one of the best young minds in the game and locked him into place long before that. Ainge turned the No. 1 pick in the Draft into Jayson Tatum, the player he wanted all along at No. 3 and added an additional first round pick in 2018. He couldn’t swing a deal for Paul George. But in a summer when things are showing signs of unraveling in Cleveland, Ainge took another step closer to ruling the East.

Bob Myers, Golden State Warriors

What was left to do after a 67-win regular season, a 16-1 romp through the playoffs and a second championship in three seasons for the Warriors? Well, keep them all happy and together, of course. That’s not as easy as it sounds when it comes to professional egos (see: Irving, Kyrie; Cavaliers, Cleveland).  After giving Stephen Curry the moon in the form of a $201-million deal, Myers worked the numbers with Finals MVP Kevin Durant to come up with a less-than-max deal that enabled the Golden State to re-sign it’s top two reserves: Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston. Omri Casspi was an under-the-radar pickup for the bench and you have to give Myers props just for the sheer fun of adding Nick “Swaggy P” Young to the fun bunch.

Magic Johnson, Los Angeles Lakers

He’s already won three MVP awards and five championships. So would putting the broken pieces of the Lakers franchise back together actually be the greatest Magic trick of all? Based on Summer League, the Lakers icon is off to a roaring start with Lonzo Ball. Pair him with second-year forward Brandon Ingram and there’s something to work with for the president of basketball operations who wants to “call the shots.” A move up to respectability would be an achievement. Reports and results say he isn’t shy about making moves and that nifty maneuver that unloaded the ugly contract of Timofey Mozgov for Brook Lopez and Kyle Kuzma was a winner. Now if only Magic could make Luol Deng’s deal disappear. Not much risk at all in the Kentavious Caldwell-Pope signing. Of course, the real heavy lifting comes next summer when he tries to work the Magic touch on LeBron James, Paul George and maybe Russell Westbrook.

Sam Presti, Oklahoma City Thunder

That’s right. The guy that watched the best player in the history of his franchise lead the Warriors to the 2017 championship makes the list. Because he’s bold. He’s daring. He doesn’t dwell on misfortune or prior moves that didn’t pan out. Just when the prime contenders in Cleveland and Boston were circling around Paul George, along came Presti to swoop in and grab him up for a song. Sure, it’s a huge one-year gamble. But free agents don’t often choose to go to OKC and this was Presti’s chance to add another an elite player on the roster alongside reigning Kia MVP winner Russell Westbrook and then spend a year teaching him about the Thunder way with a long-shot chance to keep him. And the price was quite reasonable. Victor Oladipo has not lived up to his billing in the NBA and second-year man Domantas Sabonis is still all potential. It was a home run swing to admire.

Fran Blinebury has covered the NBA since 1977. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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