Chris Wallace as NBA Executive of the Year is about as unsexy of a pick as you can get. That's not a comment on the man's attractiveness, rather it is commentary on the nature of the voters. When it comes to managment awards (Exec of the Year and Coach of the Year), the most likely winners are always those who have made high-profile moves or dramatically reversed their team's fortunes. We can argue all day about David Stern's involvement, but, ultimately, the Chris Paul trade was a sexy trade, and that makes Clippers' GM Neil Olshey a sexy pick. Likewise, the fact that the Minnesota Timberwolves were unexpectedly in the playoff hunt until Ricky Rubio got hurt also makes David Kahn a sexy candidate. Actually, hold on for a moment. because that bears repeating: David Kahn could actually make a case for the Executive of the Year. What a funny world we live in.
In any case, Chris Wallace is a thoroughly unremarkable candidate, except for one thing: he probably did a better job this year than anyone aside from Spur's GM R.C. Buford and Larry Bird of the Pacers. After the jump, we'll evaluate each of his moves:
Drafted Josh Selby with the 49th pick of the NBA Draft
This move is difficult to assess as Selby was considered a project when he was drafted. Nevertheless, it should be mentioned that he was once considered to be a lottery talent. Anytime you get a prospect with lottery-potential in the mid-second round, that's considered a win to me. Yes, you could nitpick and argue that he should have drafted Isiah Thomas, but remember Thomas was drafted 60th. It's not an exact science. Grade: B
Resigned Marc Gasol for 4 years, $58 million
This was pretty much a no-brainer. Gasol is one of the five best centers in the NBA and the glue that holds the team together. Memphis didn't screw around and gave him the max. Marc Gasol rewarded the team with another fantastic season and an All-Star apperance. Grade: A+
Signed free-agent Jeremy Pargo for two years, $2 million dollars
Pargo had a strong overseas career playing in Israel, so this deal was basically a flyer. Thus far, his ability doesn't seem to have translated, but he showed flashes of promise at various points in the season. Regardless, he makes next to nothing relative to the NBA, so it can't hurt to keep him around for another year in the hopes that he develops into a decent backup. Grade: C+
Signed free-agent Dante Cunningham to three years, $6 million dollars
Cunningham was coming off a decent year with the Charlotte Bobcats, and despite being a restricted free-agent, the Bobcats made no attempt to retain his services. However, he became a key player for Memphis once Zach Randolph went down with an injury in December. In 17 minutes a game, he averaged 5.2 points and 3.8 rebounds, while playing solid defense. Considering that he only made $2 million, that's a good value deal. Grade: B+
This was a ballsy move considering Vasquez's postseason heroics, but it ended up being a good move. Although his numbers, especially his advanced numbers won't wow you, Pondexter is a solid player on both ends, and even started when Tony Allen was out. Further, Pondexter seems to have a real knack for coming up big in those situations when he's really needed, especially on the defensive end. Grade: B-
Although he was a lottery pick in 2010, Xavier Henry hadn't played particularly well and the team was stocked with wings. On the other hand, Memphis was desperate for bigmen. I won't lie it hurt to lose Henry (his rookie photo was my avatar after all), but Speights filled the greater need. In his 60 games with Memphis, he started 54 and averaged 8.8 points and 6.2 rebounds in 22 minutes. His ability to hit the midrange jumper reliably also fit nicely with Marc Gasol's low-post game. Grade: B+
This was a cost-saving move plain and simple. Although Sam Young was a starter on the previous year's playoff squad, he was in Coach Hollins' doghouse and had fallen out of the rotation completely. It would have been nice to get a real draft pick back, but, as stated previously, this move was all about cutting costs. Grade: --
Signed free-agent Gilbert Arenas on waivers
Heading into the postseason, the team was weak in 2 areas: backup point guard and outside shooting. Wallace sought to kill two bird with one stone by signing the recently amnestied Arenas. While there was some risk that the notoriously unsteady point guard might disrupt the team's chemistry, those fears proved to be unfounded as Arenas instead kept his head down. Like Pondexter, his numbers, especially his advanced numbers, weren't great, but there were several games in which he proved himself. His shooting has been streaky, but it's helped Memphis. Grade: B-
When you look over the Chris Wallace's transactions for the 2011-2012 season, none of them, other than resigning Gasol, which was a no-brainer, really stand out. However, that's the point. This is a team whose core players have been carefully assembled over several years. This year, Wallace faced a different challenge: improve upon the squad without increasing salary. His task got even more difficult once it was announced that Darrell Arthur, who had been a key rotation player, would miss the entire season. The brillance of Wallace was that he managed to acquire 4 rotation players (Cunningham, Pondexter, Speights, Arenas) while only giving up Xavier Henry, Greivis Vasquez, and a 2nd-round pick. Further, the aforementioned 4 players made a combined $6.15 million this season, or less than J.J. Reddick (or $2 million less than Caron Butler for that matter). Again, he's not the sexiest candidate, but this season no one got better value on their transactions than Chris Wallace.