Should Houston Rockets' Rafael Stone have finished higher in Executive of the Year?

The Houston Rockets' Rafael Stone finished fifth in Executive of the Year for 2023-24.
The Houston Rockets' Rafael Stone finished fifth in Executive of the Year for 2023-24. / Alex Bierens de Haan/GettyImages

In some respects, nobody is more important to an NBA franchise than their general manager.

That's the primary decision maker. The general manager is supposed to be the brains of the operation. So, fans should pay close attention to the league's Executive of the Year award results.

The results of the 2023-24 voting suggest that the Houston Rockets are in good hands. Rafael Stone finished fifth in the voting.

Should he have finished higher?

Houston Rockets' Rafael Stone respected by peers

To answer that question, we need to look at who finished ahead of Stone.

Let's break this down on a case-by-case basis.

Stevens deserved the award because the Celtics were the best team in the NBA. That's simple enough. Fans were lining up to write the Timberwolves off, and they finished with 56 wins. Tim Connelly deserves his flowers.

So does Leon Rose - pun intended. The Knicks won 50 games this year. Rose has done a marvelous job of constructing a winning roster while preserving the Knicks' assets. This is a good team in a prime position to get better.

How about Nico Harrison?

Should Houston Rockets' Rafael Stone have finished fourth?

It's debatable.

The Mavericks had an up-and-down season. They finished with 50 wins. For a team with Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving on their roster, that doesn't qualify as exceeding expectations.

Heading into the trade deadline, Dallas was underwhelming. They responded accordingly. All told, they flipped an underperforming Grant Williams, two first-round picks (with extremely light protections), and filler for Daniel Gafford and P.J. Washington.

From a pure value perspective, that's...fine? Mediocre? Giving up a pair of first-rounders and a player who's supposed to be starting-caliber for two starting-caliber role players isn't optimal - in a vacuum.

In practice, Gafford and Washington have made the Mavericks substantially better. This team is in contention for the NBA title, so they can't afford to be stingy with their draft capital. These were solid moves.

Were they better than signing Fred VanVleet and Dillon Brooks? That's debatable. The Rockets improved their win total by 19 - more than any other team in the NBA.

VanVleet's two-year deal with a team option on a third year was brilliantly constructed. Brooks' four-year, $20 million a year deal could end up being a hindrance.

In the end, these rankings are subjective. They'll inspire debate - even between intelligent people. We think it was a close call between Stone and Harrison. Otherwise, the three GMs ahead of both were each architects of title contenders - they deserve their placements.

Rest assured that Rafael Stone will be coming for them in 2024-25.