On Thursday, the NBA announced that Memphis Grizzlies General Manager Zach Kleiman won the 2021-2022 NBA’s Executive of the Year Award. The Grizzlies, who forced a Game 6 in their playoff series against the Golden State Warriors last night, finished the regular season with a record of 56-26. Kleiman, only 33, is the youngest recipient of the award that has been given out annually since the 1972-1973 season. Meanwhile, the Cleveland Cavaliers missed out on another award, as Koby Altman finished tied for second with Chicago Bulls Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Arturas Karnisovas. Bringing up the rear were Miami Heat President Pat Riley and Phoenix Suns General Manager James Jones.
This has been a long time coming for Altman. He proved his worth last year, somehow finding a way for the Cavs to get involved in the James Harden trade, and coming out with a stud like Jarrett Allen. On top of that, the Cavaliers lucked out and were awarded the third pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. The front office wisely locked in on former USC big man Evan Mobley, and made him the third pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. Still, going into the season, no one outside of the city of Cleveland really gave them any type of chance to be even remotely successful.
After shoring up his frontcourt, Altman, the Cavaliers President of Basketball Operations now, struck up a deal with Chicago to bring in 6’11” forward Lauri Markkanen. Markkanen had a solid year for the Cavaliers, and he was a very important part of their three-big lineup. However, Altman wasn’t done. He eventually brought in Ricky Rubio via trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves to back up Darius Garland in the second unit. Unfortunately, an injury cut Rubio’s season short, which was not a good thing for the Cavaliers. Then, as the trade deadline neared, Altman traded the Cavs’ 2022 lottery-protected first-round pick to the Indiana Pacers for Caris LeVert, with other minor pieces involved in the deal.
Not only was Altman a top executive, but he assembled a team that many assumed would win less than 27 games into a 44-win club as the season wore on. The Cavs far exceeded expectations. The Cavaliers often had a three-big lineup that gave opposing offenses a lot of trouble, and was very unique; this included Dean Wade at various times if players were out, too, for what it’s worth. In an era where NBA teams are going smaller and smaller, the Cavaliers went against the grain to field a team that was incredibly successful in only Year One in that sense.
Overall it was a great season for Altman. If any NBA GM told you before the season, that the Cavs would be contending for a playoff spot this season, you would have called them crazy. However, now the Cavaliers have a great young core going forward. With that being said, might Koby Altman need to be even a little bit better next year?
Questions loom ahead for Altman in a big offseason for the Cavs, but he’s proven he’s more than capable of keeping the team on the right track.
This is a pivotal offseason for the Cavaliers front office. After a late-season tumble dropped them into the play-in tournament, fans will be expecting a “real” playoff appearance next year. Going forward there are a lot of questions surrounding the Cavalier organization. The guy who was the first player drafted in the second post-LeBron James era, Collin Sexton, is due for a new deal this offseason, when he could be set for restricted free agency.
However, after missing nearly the entire season because of injury, how much are they willing to pay a player of Sexton’s caliber? Last offseason, Sexton and the Cavaliers could not agree on an extension, and that reportedly essentially came down to years of the deal, regarding both sides. Hopefully, the Cavs don’t have to pay huge money for Sexton in a potential new deal, particularly after this season. With all of that being said, it’s reportedly a “top priority” to keep Sexton around and extend him to help out Darius Garland, per Evan Dammarell of Fear The Sword and Right Down Euclid.
Getting a deal done with Sexton isn’t Altman’s only major decision this offseason, though. He will seemingly have to decide if the team wants to extend the man they traded for at the deadline, Caris LeVert. Personally, I would love to have LeVert back at a reasonable price. In any case, these are all things Altman will be asked to do this offseason, and he will be asked to do them well, but it might be tough to do with LeVert, too.
In the end it was a hugely successful season for the Cavaliers. They surpassed their projected win total months before the season ended. On top of that they drafted a player that could be on track to become one of the best big men to play the game in Evan Mobley. Finally, the third-year leap from Darius Garland was huge for the Cavaliers this season, and I’m sure the front office will be expecting more from him next season.
However, the best possible thing that can happen to Altman and the rest of his front office, is if the Cavs sneak up into the top 10 of the draft lottery next week.