Zach Kleiman wins 2021-22 NBA Executive of the Year

Zach Kleiman, who is also Memphis' general manager, recently signed an extension with the Grizzlies back in 2021.

Zach Kleiman in a file photo, Image credit: Twitter
By Amruth Kalidas | May 12, 2022 | 3 Min Read follow icon Follow Us

Memphis Grizzlies vice president Zach Kleiman has been voted as the 2021-22 NBA Executive of the Year. Kleiman ran away with the award against the field, receiving 85 total points. Cleveland Cavaliers president Koby Altman and Chicago Bulls vice president Arturas Karnisovas tied for 27 points, but Altman’s two first-place votes weighed more to place him second behind Kleiman. Unlike other NBA awards, Executive of the Year is voted on by the executives themselves, and this season they clearly thought it was an easy choice to award Kleiman with the honor.

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Kleiman received 16 first-place votes, far more than anyone else considered. The margin between second place and fifth place was far closer than second and first, as Miami Heat president Pat Riley finished just one point behind Altman with 26 points. In fact, Riley and Phoenix Suns general manager James Jones both received more first-place votes than Altman and Karnisovas, but it came down to second- and third-place votes to determine how each executive finished. Here’s how the voting broke down in the end.  

Kleiman, who is also Memphis’ general manager, recently signed an extension with the Grizzlies back in 2021. He first joined the franchise in 2015, and was promoted to general manager prior to the start of the 2018-19 season. Once he became GM, Kleiman immediately made an impact, trading away franchise centerpieces Marc Gasol and Mike Conley in order to stock up on draft picks. Kleiman turned those picks into the core of young talent that the Grizzlies have today centered around Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr., Desmond Bane, Brandon Clarke and several others. After making a trip to the playoffs last season for the first time since 2017, Memphis built upon that success and finished with the second-best record in the Western Conference (56-26) this year and made it past the first round of the playoffs for the first time since 2016.

The top three finishers for the award all belong to teams that had unexpected success this season. For Altman and the Cavaliers, after years of struggling following LeBron James’s departure in 2018, Cleveland finished with a winning record (44-38) for the first time since James left. Though the Cavaliers failed to make it out of the play-in round, there was legitimate improvement on this team of mostly home-grown talent. The same goes for the Bulls, who had one of the best offseasons last summer by adding DeMar DeRozan, Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso to pair with Zach LaVine. That was all the doing of Karnisovas, who helped built a team that made it to the playoffs this season for the first time in five years. If it weren’t for injuries to Ball and Caruso, the Bulls could’ve finished better in the regular season, and Karnisovas would’ve had a better shot at winning this award.