Executive of the Year Honors
R.C. Buford has never won the NBA’s Executive of the Year honors. Morbid college professors who spend their days brooding over the unseemliness of existence begin their lectures with this fact. And they prattle on and on like a humorless Hitler Rant in search of a meme.
In last night’s Spurs win over the Warriors, Patty Mills put up 34 points and 12 assists. Patty Mills was playing in China earlier this season. Patty Mills is a great example of why the Spurs are the best led franchise in all of sports.
The Spurs and Warriors, in their own ways, each punted their way to victory last night. The Warriors won a lottery pick with their loss and the Spurs not only won a game, but San Antonio secured 50 wins for the 13th consecutive season.
R.C. Buford started with the Spurs as a scout in 1994. He’s put together a nice little run, and his feet have left tracks on each of those 13 50-win seasons.
And if there was ever a season when R.C. Buford really found his stride, it’s this season.
Patty Mills. Gary Neal. Danny Green. Boris Diaw. Tiago Splitter. Kawhi Leonard. Stephen Jackson. 50 wins.
Everybody knows what Buford has done this season, and everybody knows he’s done it for a long time. Timely free agent signings, savvy draft picks, adroitly executed trades, deep scouting of the international player pool, cap management, internal player development, a remarkable ability to match skills with system, and absolutely no trouble in the locker room. These are the things Buford does well.
And Patty Mills.
Late in this lockout shortened season, the Spurs signed Patty Mills, Stephen Jackson, and Boris Diaw. Each of these acquisitions corresponds to at least one item from the above list. But they also represent a kind of strategic precision most GMs never achieve.
You’ll remember, of course, that Mills, Jackson and Diaw have prior experience in the Spurs’ system, although only one of them had previously been Spurs.
Spurs assistant coach Brett Brown doubles as the head of the Australia’s national team. Brown uses Spurs sets while coaching the Boomers. Jackson is a former Spur, and one who not only understands San Antonio’s system, but is a proven fit within it. Diaw, along with Tony Parker, is a member of the French national team, which, under Parker’s leadership, also runs Spurs sets.
When the question is asked whether this is a matter of coincidence or an example of design, the smart students will answer “design”.
These players are known quantities who get along well with key members of the Spurs’ locker room. And they’ve been great since joining the team. Some nights, these players have powered the Spurs to victory.
In many ways, there is nothing remarkable about these pre-playoff personnel additions. Rotation players, sure. But it’s not as if, in adding these players, the Spurs added an All-Star to their roster.
But when put in broader perspective, these signings represent the uncommon brilliance Buford never seems to lack. Buford is a master of transforming pawns into knights. He is great at selecting common players and putting them in a position of achieving uncommon things.
Tony Parker deserves much praise for his play this season, but the story of the Spurs’ season comes down to three things: Gregg Popovich, R.C. Buford, and the Spurs’ bench. The last of these is really an extension of the first two.
R.C. Buford has never done a better job of assembling a roster. His work is as important to San Antonio’s success as Kevin Durant’s work is to Oklahoma City’s. That’s not hyperbole. Think about it.
I don’t have a vote in these things, but R.C. Buford is long overdue for Executive of the Year honors. And this season, he’s especially worthy.