Nobody expected the Los Angeles Lakers to be where they currently are. Los Angeles is in the second round of the NBA Playoffs and has a series lead over the defending champion Golden State Warriors. It has been a miraculous turnaround that is worth praise.
Granted, a lot of the team’s issues to start the season were self-inflicted and that left a horrible mark on the front office. But that is when Rob Pelinka went to work and did what any good general manager would do: he made the moves necessary to improve the roster.
Now there is a chance that the Lakers could be one of the final four teams standing in the NBA Playoffs. You would think that this kind of turnaround by the Lakers — from league laughing stock to Finals contender — would warrant some love for Pelinka in Executive of the Year voting.
It didn’t. Pelinka finished 11th in Executive of the Year voting, receiving just one second-place vote and one third-place vote.
Lakers bias is on full display after Rob Pelinka gets disrespected in Executive of the Year voting
Look, we get it. The Lakers had a bad roster and bad outlook to start the season and that definitely should weigh into the equation in this voting. Lakers fans were not happy with Pelinka to start the season and that absolutely does matter.
But at the end of the day, Pelinka did what he had to do to not only reinvent the roster, not only make it more talented, not only make it younger but to extend the championship window past this season with the pieces put in place. He did all of that and essentially only gave up a protected first-round pick (that rolls over into a second-round pick if it does not convey) and some second-round picks.
That deserves huge praise. How many executives would have jumped at the Buddy Hield/Myles Turner trade from before the season and traded both the 2027 and 2029 first-round picks to do so? A lot. Pelinka deserves credit for having a game plan and seeing it through.
Should Pelinka have won the award? Maybe not, but he definitely should have placed much higher than 11th and should have at least been in the top three. Just look at some of the names ahead of him, who all have pretty easy cases to tear down.
Sean Marks placed ahead of Pelinka (getting a first-place vote!) for not being able to handle Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving and having to blow it all up. Jon Horst finished above Pelinka for doing little to nothing to the Bucks, who didn’t even make it past the first round (voting takes place before the playoffs but still, Horst did nothing to this roster).
Zach Kleiman at least got one win over Pelinka as the Grizzlies’ exec ranked above Pelinka. And why exactly? Because the Grizzlies have built a bad culture that led to them losing in round one to LA?
Brad Stevens ranked higher than Pelinka for… adding Malcolm Brogdon? That was a good trade but he already had the deepest roster in the league. Did he really do anything this season to warrant ranking higher on this list? The same can be said for Calvin Booth as the Nuggets did better because they got healthy, not because of anything Booth did this season.
Monte McNair is a deserving winner for the turnaround that the Sacramento Kings experienced. Kolby Altman, despite losing in the first round, deserves to be a finalist for pulling off the Donovan Mitchell trade and starting a championship window (even if they disappointed this season).
Does Utah’s Justin Zanik belong in the top three over Pelinka? Sure, the Jazz got a haul for Rudy Gobert but they also were trying to tank for Victor Wembanyama this season and couldn’t do that properly. In terms of doing his actual job, Pelinka had the better year.
It is all semantics at the end of the day and it doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. But it is painful to see that the Lakers bias is still very obviously present in the media. If Pelinka did this same job for the Los Angeles Clippers he 100% would have been a finalist.