The latest NBA award has been given out, and once again, the Los Angeles Lakers have come up empty. Clippers president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank has won the 2020 NBA Executive of the Year award, while Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka finished seventh.
Pelinka received just four total votes from his fellow executives, and only one first-place vote:
Rob Pelinka, who built the team that is up 3-1 in the NBA Finals, finished seventh in Executive of the Year voting pic.twitter.com/U5fXJPz4u3— Finals Faigen (@hmfaigen) October 8, 2020
This award is by far the most political of all the ones the NBA gives out, in large part because it is the only one voted on by an executive’s peers. Given that Pelinka’s reputation is that he is generally not super well-liked by other front offices dating back to his days as a player agent, and the jealousy those front offices have over Klutch Sports helping spearhead the Lakers’ team-building process, this is not that surprising of a result.
Still, it is a fairly hilarious and hypocritical one, both at the time the votes were collected when the regular season ended, and especially in retrospect. Let’s take down some of the least-educated and most bad faith counterpoints to Pelinka’s candidacy.
The results were taken when the regular season ended!
Oh, you mean when the Lakers were ahead of every team other than Milwaukee in the standings? Back then?
He had LeBron James and Anthony Davis, and together they and Rich Paul ACTUALLY built the Lakers!
Doesn’t Pelinka deserve some credit for collaborating with his stars? For creating an environment where they want to go and build a contender? Wouldn’t any smart GM do that? Why are we penalizing him for it (other than salty jealousy)? And even aside from that, while James and Davis may have helped — something Pelinka has been open about admitting — but they did not build this entire roster on their own.
Without gobs of cap room to work with and after waiting out Kawhi Leonard’s free agency, Pelinka still managed to build contingency plans and construct a roster that has supported his stars en route to a (likely) title. When DeMarcus Cousins got hurt, they took a chance on Dwight Howard, who has been one of the top-five or six most impactful players on the team for most of the year, and someone tons of other teams had given up on. When the buyout market came around, he signed Markieff Morris, who has been huge for the Lakers during this playoff run.
To further illustrate the absurdity of this talking point, Grizzlies executive Zach Kleiman bought out or traded four players that are currently participating in this NBA Finals (Andre Iguodala, Jae Crowder, Dion Waiters and Howard) and missed the playoffs, but finished ahead of Pelinka. What are we really defending here?
Are we really giving Pelinka credit for Anthony Davis wanting to play with LeBron in L.A.?
Are we really giving credit to Lawrence Frank for Kawhi Leonard wanting to play with Paul George in L.A.?
The Lakers gave up way too much for Anthony Davis when he wanted to go there. They got fleeced and anyone could have done that!
Oh, you mean less than what Magic Johnson was originally offering, and less than the Pelicans originally wanted?
According to the report, the Lakers changed their offer on Monday to include Josh Hart, Ivica Zubac and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope along with the previously reported trade package of Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma. They were also willing to offer two first-round draft picks and salary relief by taking on Solomon Hill’s contract, which is guaranteed through 2020.
The Lakers, in the end, traded:
The Pelicans have agreed to a deal to trade Anthony Davis to the Lakers for Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, and three first-round picks – including the No. 4 overall in 2019 Draft, league sources tell ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 15, 2019
Can confirm these are the picks as @TimBontemps had earlier & @taniaganguli just put out:— Andrew Lopez (@_Andrew_Lopez) June 16, 2019
2019 No. 4 pick
2021 pick goes to NOLA if top 8, L.A. if 9-30
2022 pick to NOLA unprotected if pick doesn't confer
2024 unprotected first BUT Pels get right to defer pick to 2025
Now, that is a lot, but it allowed the Lakers to keep Kyle Kuzma — who has helped them this year, something a future pick would not do — and not take on Solomon Hill’s contract, which allowed them to put a better team together.
You can say Pelinka still gave up too much, but then how is Frank’s deal for Paul George any better? Frank gave up “guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, forward Danilo Gallinari and the Clippers’ first round draft picks in 2022, 2024 and 2026, along with two first-round choices via Miami (2021 and 2023), and OKC obtained the right to swap first-round picks in 2023 and 2025.”
Yes, the Clippers were working against the clock, but they gave up more assets than the Lakers did for a far worse player. I get why Sam Presti got enough votes to finish second in this tally for that, but I’m not really sure why Frank is, if we’re still holding to the “any GM would have done that” line of thinking from the Davis trade.
And as if that weren’t enough, Frank also gave up Maurice Harkless, Jerome Robinson, a 2020 first round pick, a protected 2021 first round swap option, and Detroit’s 2021 second round pick for Marcus Morris, “outbidding” the Lakers who bowed out of the talks and then just signed the better Morris twin without giving up anything.
Wow, that Frank guy sure showed them, giving up far more picks for two players who are still far worse than Davis.
In the end, none of this really matters. The Clippers can raise a Lawrence Frank 2020 EOTY banner if they want to, but at the Lakers’ final practice before Game 5 of the NBA Finals, Davis himself said that the team knows they’re pretty close to getting the only award that matters.
“That’s kind of been a thing this year with myself with Defensive Player of the Year, LeBron with MVP, now Rob with Executive of the Year. But if we’re able to win one more game, then no one cares about those other awards. We’ll all be champions,” Davis said.
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