Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Brad Stevens named NBA's Executive of the Year

The Celtics will finally receive some recognition and a piece of hardware this year as far as end of the regular season awards go -- with Brad Stevens being named the 2023-24 NBA's Executive of the Year.

Stevens, who took over as the team's president of basketball operations back in 2021, had finished in the top six when it comes to voting over the past two seasons. He becomes the first C's executive to take home the honor since Danny Ainge did during the 2007-08 campaign -- which was the last time the franchise won a championship -- and the third recipient overall along with basketball icon Red Auerbach.

Following an upset at the hands of the eighth seeded Miami Heat in seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals -- where they initially trailed 0-3 -- Stevens pulled the trigger on two future altering moves by first trading away Marcus Smart, who many considered the "heart and soul" of the Celtics after nine years in Boston, for a wild card in Kristaps Porzingis three weeks after their 2022-23 season ended.

After the initial three-team trade for Porzingis fell through with the Los Angeles Clippers, Stevens was able to still make the June 21st deadline by including the Celtics' longest tenured player in Smart as part of deal at the last minute. While Stevens had a hand in drafting Smart as the No. 6th overall pick back in 2014 and coached him for the first seven years of his professional career, it's safe to say the risk thus far has been well worth it.

Four days after Jrue Holiday was traded to the Portland Trail Blazers for Damian Lillard by the Milwaukee Bucks, Stevens packaged together another fan favorite in Robert Williams III and the reigning Sixth Man of the Year in Malcolm Brogdon in the second biggest trade of the off-season for the C's by acquiring Holiday just 24 hours prior to the start of training camp.

With the additions of Porzingis and Holiday to the roster along with bringing in Charles Lee and Sam Cassell as a overhaul to head coach Joe Mazzulla and his staff -- plus Jeff Van Gundy joining as a senior consultant -- Stevens had hit a home-run with one goal in mind of winning banner 18 for the most-storied franchise in basketball.

In the meantime, the Celtics finished the regular season first in offensive (122.2) ratings and second in defensive rating (110.6) on their way to an NBA-best 64-18 record --  the fourth-most in franchise history. With 42 of their wins coming by way of double-digits, with Boston outscoring their opponents by a margin of 11.3 per game, setting a franchise record and ranking fifth-best in league history.

Boston also clinched the Eastern Conference's best record with a 14-game win gap over the New York Knicks -- the only other team in the East to win 50 games -- making it the most differential in victories between the top two teams since 1975-76.

When asked about Stevens being the recipient of the Executive of the Year award, Derrick White had nothing but high praise for the man that brought him in to be one of the team's main contributors.
"Definitely well-deserved. He obviously brought in a lot of us. He's a big part of a lot of our stories. I'm thankful for him and it's definitely well-deserved," White said in his post-practice presser.
White was acquired by Stevens and the Celtics at the 2022 NBA trade deadline and has only improved to become one of the league's best two-way players.
"He told me he's looking forward to having me here. He said he's liked my game for a while now and he's excited to see what I can bring to this team," White recalled when asked about what Stevens told him upon his arrival just over two years ago.
With winning what would be the most titles of any NBA team come June if the Celtics actually  accomplish that feat, it would definitely be a fitting way to cap off a near perfect season for Stevens -- who's put so much stock into building a championship roster that will contend for years to come.

To think there are only three players on this current team (Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Payton Pritchard) that remain from when Stevens took over, the term "shake-up" has taken on a whole different meaning for this season's Executive of the Year.   

Joel Pavón

Photo used courtesy of Getty Images

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