Longtime San Antonio Spurs general manager R.C. Buford has been honored with the NBA Executive of the Year Award for his role in building a roster that compiled a league-best 62-20 record during the regular season. It's the first time he's won the award.
The Spurs made the announcement on their official site one the day after a dominant win over the Portland Trail Blazers in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals. Head coach Gregg Popovich praised Buford for his efforts during their years together:
I'm extremely happy for RC Buford to have won this award, which is both absolutely deserved and long overdue. His knowledge of the rules, basketball expertise and keen eye for talent have served the Spurs organization well for a very long time. It has been a personal pleasure to be at his side during this period.
Buford first joined the San Antonio staff in 1988. He eventually left for short stints with the Los Angeles Clippers and Florida at the collegiate level before returning to the organization in 1994, eventually working his way up to general manager in 2002.
He's played a key role in building one of the most consistently successful franchises in North American professional sports. The result has been four championships during his time with the team, including three since he took over the GM role.
So in many respects it's a surprise Buford hasn't won the award previously. In turn, many of the comments coming from people around the league echo that of Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:
Finally. Spurs GM R.C. Buford voted NBA Executive of the Year.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) May 7, 2014
Bleacher Report's Howard Beck notes that unlike voting for other key NBA awards, the Executive of the Year is chosen by executives around the league rather than the media:
Note: Executive of the Year is selected by a vote of NBA team execs, not media. So, no transparency on these ballots.— Howard Beck (@HowardBeck) May 7, 2014
Jessica Camerato of Comcast SportsNet New England provided the top-10 finishers in the voting, led by Buford at No. 1:
Top 10 NBA Executive of the Year voting: 1. Buford 2. McDonough 3. Olshey 4. Ujiri 5. Riley 6. Presti 7. Ainge 8. King 9. Morey 10. Grunfeld— Jessica Camerato (@JCameratoNBA) May 7, 2014
The biggest addition by Buford before the season was Marco Belinelli. He also signed Manu Ginobili and Tiago Splitter to extensions. But getting honored with the award is probably more for the collective effort of building the roster than any single move.
Buford was able to build a squad around the legendary trio of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Ginobili that's among the deepest in basketball.
Who would have received your Executive of the Year vote?
The team was able to rack up 62 wins and are well on their way to contending for another title despite no player averaging more than 30 minutes per game during the regular season. Kawhi Leonard, Patty Mills, Danny Green, Boris Diaw, Belinelli and Splitter all played key roles.
All told, the honor was definitely deserved. The Spurs organization from top to bottom is a blueprint for franchises across the sports spectrum, and Buford's terrific decision-making is a large part of that lasting success.
His biggest test is likely on the horizon, though. Duncan, Ginobili and Parker are still competing at a very high level, but they aren't going to play forever. Parker will likely be around longer than the others, but it's up to Buford to rebuild the roster.
But that's a concern for another day. For now, Buford and the rest of the Spurs organization is focused on chasing down another championship. After getting a scare from the Dallas Mavericks in the opening round, they seem to have righted the ship over the past two games and remain a top contender.