On Thursday, the NBA announced that Zach Kleiman, the executive in charge of the Memphis Grizzlies, had won this season’s Executive of the Year award.
The Grizzlies had an impressive season, winning 56 games, and even without their superstar, Ja Morant, they routed the Golden State Warriors in Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals, 134-95.
Kleiman is just 33 years of age, making him the youngest ever recipient of the award, which makes what he did for his team all the more impressive.
But in Northeast Ohio, some Cleveland Cavaliers fans feel that President of Basketball Operations Koby Altman got shortchanged in the voting.
#Cavs President of Basketball Operations Koby Altman finished in second place for NBA Basketball Executive of the Year.
The honors went to Memphis Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations and General Manager Zach Kleiman.
— Evan Dammarell (@AmNotEvan) May 12, 2022
Was Altman and not Kleiman deserving of the Executive of the Year honor?
The Grizzlies Have Greatly Overachieved
After finishing 38-34 last season and getting handled in the first round of the NBA playoffs by the Utah Jazz, Memphis was expected to reach the playoffs in 2022, but most didn’t expect them to do as well as they have.
Morant went from good to great, averaging 27.4 points and 6.7 assists per game and earning the Most Improved Player award, while getting his first selection to the All-Star team.
But the most impressive thing about what the Grizzlies did was centered around Morant’s supporting cast.
Coming into this season, many still regarded them as a one-man band, but as the year went on, they chipped away at that reputation.
When Morant missed two different stretches of action due to injury, they won most of their games without him, and a few of those wins were against very good or great teams.
In the postseason, they overcame multiple double-digit deficits versus the Minnesota Timberwolves in the first round, and now the Grizzlies are hanging tough with a much more experienced and successful Warriors team.
Men such as Desmond Bane, Jaren Jackson Jr and Dillon Brooks have proven that they’re good players and not mere also-rans.
Cleveland Also Overachieved
Very few people picked the Cavs to reach the playoffs this season, and in fact, plenty felt they would finish with one of the NBA’s worst records.
Instead, Cleveland just missed out on making the playoffs outright, and its unexpected success (much like Memphis) was largely based on its defense.
The Cavs finished seventh in defensive rating and fifth in points allowed, and that type of defensive production is very rare for a team that is as young as them.
It’s one thing to have the fortune to draft Darius Garland and Evan Mobley, but the team did a good job of developing some of its less-heralded players.
Big man Jarrett Allen improved his offensive game a bit and made it to the All-Star game for the first time, while wing Isaac Okoro, the fifth overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, showed some noticeable improvement.
Even Kevin Love, a veteran whom many Cavs fans had given up on, had a resurgent year, playing in 74 games and improving his 3-point shooting percentage.
Year 14 ❤️🔥@kevinlove | #LetEmKnow pic.twitter.com/QCjB3plnCc
— Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) May 4, 2022
Which Team Surpassed Expectations More?
While the Grizzlies were expected to be a good team and ended up as a very, very good team, the Cavs went from being picked to win 20-something games to finishing 44-38.
Had they held onto their lead versus the Atlanta Hawks in the play-in tournament, the Cavs would’ve faced the Miami Heat in the first round of the postseason.
Kleiman may have gotten the award because of the regal glow of the second seed in the Western Conference, but between the two squads, Cleveland had a bigger gap between its expectations and how it actually did.
Altman certainly had a very strong argument for winning the Executive of the Year award.
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