A Potential Executive of the Year

How do you personally define a successful executive? This question was posed to me by my mentor. I thought for a few seconds and gave my mentor a serious look. I then told him the following answer. When I look at a successful executive, I look for someone who has set up their organization for long term success with the potential for near term success. This person is also willing to make bold moves that can be viewed as risky.

Recently I set out to find an executive who is currently in the news, who could potentially be an executive of the year. You can easily go to the bookstore and find books about successful executives. You can also easily conduct a Google search and find many successful executives. The stories are captivating indeed and can provide motivation to help the reader do better. Several names came to mind, but one stood out to me. The name of this executive is Flip Saunders. Saunders is the head coach, President of Basketball Operations, and part-owner of the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) Minnesota Timberwolves. I will now explain how I came to develop this opinion.

On August 23, 2014, a major trade was finalized in the NBA. Minnesota Timberwolves star Forward Kevin Love was traded to the Cleveland Cavs in a three team trade that included the Philadelphia 76ers. The Timberwolves received Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, Thaddeus Young and a $6.3 million trade exception. The Timberwolves also gave up a first round draft pick and two reserve players. This all started when Kevin Love stated that he would not sign a long term deal with the Timberwolves. This trade prevents the Timberwolves from losing Love and not getting anything in return. I believe the Timberwolves hit the jackpot with this trade. They receive the #1 overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft Andrew Wiggins. I’ve seen him play and I believe he could be a Tracy McGrady/Lebron James type of player. They also receive Thaddeus Young who was a very solid player for the 76ers last season. He can score and rebound and should perfectly be able to replace Kevin Love in the starting lineup. They also receive the #1 overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft Anthony Bennett. He had a tough rookie year, but he could turn things around and realize his potential. The Timberwolves also received a $6.3 million trade exception that could be valuable down the road. Trading a proven star in sports is always risky, but the potential reward in this case could be great. The Timberwolves aren’t totally starting over. They still have point guard Ricky Rubio, who is a great passer and is capable of running the offense. They have a solid center in Nikola Pekovic and a proven shooting guard in Kevin Martin. The team also drafted guard Zach LaVine in the 2014 NBA Draft. I saw him play during the Summer League and he has the potential to be an exciting player.

I believe these are the moves that would qualify a person for executive of the year consideration. It will take time for this team to jell. The Timberwolves have a lot of young players and a good coach who can help them in their development. The Timberwolves likely won’t be NBA title contenders or even playoff participants during the 2014-2015 NBA Season, however throughout the season I suspect that we will see strides towards the Timberwolves becoming a better team. Perhaps in another two or three seasons, the Timberwolves will be the talk of the NBA as the team to beat. At that point in time I believe people will look back to August 23, 2014 as a turning point in not only the history of the Minnesota Timberwolves franchise, but also as the date of the signature move that led to Flip Saunders becoming NBA Executive of the Year.



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