Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images
We will see what happens to both the Clippers and Nuggets going forward
In a press release by the NBA, it was revealed that Lawrence Frank, President of Basketball Operations for the Los Angeles Clippers, won the 2019-20 NBA Executive of the Year award as voted upon by his peers in NBA front offices.
Denver Nuggets President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly finished in ninth place for the award.
Nuggets president of basketball ops. Tim Connelly finishes 9th in executive of the year voting, as voted on by his colleagues. pic.twitter.com/Qchh0203bD
— Mike Singer (@msinger) October 8, 2020
Frank is the leading voice in the Clippers front office that also features former NBA legend Jerry West. The pair were responsible for bringing Kawhi Leonard and Paul George to the Clippers last offseason, Leonard via free agency and George via trade.
The two stars were considered a package deal, and in order to ensure Leonard would sign with the Clippers, the team traded a bounty of assets to the Oklahoma City Thunder to acquire George. This included five first round picks, a young guard prospect in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and a solid starter in Danilo Gallinari. The Clippers were in position to make this deal after smart front office moves to bring in assets following the trades of Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, and Tobias Harris that netted the Clippers Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell, Patrick Beverley, Ivica Zubac, Landry Shamet, and multiple first round picks.
In the first year of their contention window, the Clippers looked to be a juggernaut at various stages of the season, but after entering the bubble, cracks began to show in the construction of the team. The talent level exceeded the chemistry accrued, and the lack of cohesiveness ultimately burdened the talent on the floor. Without an answer for the Denver Nuggets duo of Nikola Jokić and Jamal Murray, the Clippers blew a 3-1 lead and lost in the second round, well short of their title hopes.
Meanwhile, Connelly’s Nuggets methodically built chemistry through years of growing together and fulfilling each checklist item for franchise progression. They found their superstar early in Jokić, slowly built themselves into a championship contender with the accrual of talent that fit well together, and saw Murray grow into an All-Star caliber player in the bubble.
Two key moves that allowed the Nuggets to advance past the Clippers were made in the last two years. First, the Nuggets drafted Michael Porter Jr. 14th overall in the 2018 Draft. Porter averaged 10 points and seven rebounds in 23 minutes per game against the Clippers, finished with a positive plus-minus in five of the seven games. The Clippers owned the 12th and 13th overall picks and passed on Porter both times. Second, the Nuggets traded a 2020 first round pick for Thunder forward Jerami Grant who spent the entire playoff series harassing Leonard and George defensively. The Clippers certainly could have improved their trade haul by adding Grant to the package that saw them acquire George in the offseason. He would have fit nicely on the Clippers roster in place of Marcus Morris.
The Executive of the Year award is all about making the flashy offseason move that bears fruit in the regular season. Frank and the Clippers certainly got that with the additions of Leonard and George, and that sequence of moves certainly changed the dynamic of the entire league this season.
It is interesting though that the understated moves Connelly has made throughout his Nuggets tenure helped push the Nuggets over the top of the Clippers in the playoffs. None of the moves were flashy, but when summed up over time, they have turned the Nuggets from a rudderless organization to a championship contender in a six year span.
That turnaround is worth more than individual hardware.