2021-22 NBA Awards

Grizzlies' Zach Kleiman wins 2021-22 NBA Executive of the Year Award

Zach Kleiman, 33, has overseen Memphis' basketball operations for the last 3 years and becomes the youngest winner of the award.

Grizzlies GM Zach Kleiman oversaw the team’s rise as they finished No. 2 in the West in 2021-22.

NEW YORK — NBA team basketball executives have selected Memphis Grizzlies Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations and General Manager Zach Kleiman as the winner of the 2021-22 NBA Basketball Executive of the Year Award, the NBA announced today.

This is the first NBA Basketball Executive of the Year Award for Kleiman, who has led Basketball Operations for Memphis for the last three years.  Kleiman, 33, is the youngest recipient of the award, which has been presented annually since the 1972-73 season.  He also becomes the second person to earn the honor with the Grizzlies, joining Jerry West (2003-04).

Kleiman received 16 of 29 first-place votes and earned 85 total points from a panel of team basketball executives across the NBA.  Cleveland Cavaliers President of Basketball Operations Koby Altman and Chicago Bulls Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Artūras Karnišovas tied for second place with 27 points each.  Phoenix Suns General Manager James Jones and Miami Heat President Pat Riley tied for fourth place with 26 points each.  Executives were awarded five points for each first-place vote, three points for each second-place vote and one point for each third-place vote.

As Memphis’ lead personnel decision maker, Kleiman assembled a roster that finished with the second-best record in the NBA this season (56-26) and matched the franchise single-season record for victories.  The Grizzlies secured the No. 2 playoff seed in the Western Conference, their highest seed ever.

This season, Grizzlies guard Ja Morant was named a starter for the 2022 NBA All-Star Game and the winner of the 2021-22 Kia NBA Most Improved Player Award, and head coach Taylor Jenkins finished in second place in the voting for the 2021-22 NBA Coach of the Year Award.  In 2019, Kleiman selected Morant with the second overall pick in the NBA Draft and hired Jenkins to his first NBA head coaching position.  The same year, Kleiman acquired forward Brandon Clarke and guards Tyus Jones and De’Anthony Melton, three valuable contributors to the 2021-22 team.

Memphis guard Desmond Bane, the 30th overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, finished in fifth place in the voting for the 2021-22 Kia NBA Most Improved Player Award after averaging 18.2 points and ranking second in the NBA in three-point field goal percentage (43.6).  In November 2020, Kleiman acquired Bane’s draft rights as part of a three-team trade with the Boston Celtics and Portland Trail Blazers.

Under Kleiman, the Grizzlies also signed guard-forward Dillon Brooks and forward-center Jaren Jackson Jr. to multiyear contract extensions in February 2020 and October 2021, respectively.  Brooks averaged 18.4 points this season.  Jackson averaged 16.3 points and an NBA-high 2.27 blocks, finishing in fifth place in the voting for the 2021-22 Kia NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award.

In August 2021, Memphis acquired center Steven Adams and the draft rights to guard-forward Ziaire Williams, the 10th overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, as part of a three-team trade with the Charlotte Hornets and New Orleans Pelicans.  Adams started 75 of his 76 games this season and ranked 12th in the NBA in rebounding (10.0 rpg).  Williams started 31 of his 62 games as a rookie and averaged 8.1 points.

Kleiman joined the Grizzlies in 2015 as their in-house legal counsel.  He served as assistant general manager during the 2018-19 season and was promoted to his current role in April 2019.  Prior to joining Memphis, Kleiman worked as an associate at the international law firm Proskauer Rose LLP.

Kleiman will be presented with a special edition 75th Anniversary commemorative trophy today in celebration of the honor, gifted in addition to the NBA Basketball Executive of the Year Award trophy, which he will receive later.  The commemorative trophy, composed of a solid crystal basketball, features the NBA 75 logo 3D laser etched and suspended within its center.

The voting results for the 2021-22 NBA Basketball Executive of the Year Award are below.  The balloting was tabulated by the independent accounting firm Ernst & Young LLP.

Voting results: 2021-22 NBA Basketball Executive of the Year Award
Name (Team) 1st place votes (5 pts) 2nd place votes (3 pts) 3rd place votes (1 pt) Total points
Zach Kleiman (Memphis) 16 1 2 85
Koby Altman (Cleveland) 2 5 2 27
Arturas Karnisovas (Chicago) 1 6 4 27
James Jones (Phoenix) 3 3 2 26
Pat Riley (Miami) 3 3 2 26
Brad Stevens (Boston) 1 4 3 20
Masai Ujiri (Toronto) 1 1 5 13
Jon Horst (Milwaukee) 1 0 1 6
Sachin Gupta (Minnesota) 1 0 0 5
Nico Harrison (Dallas) 0 1 2 5
Daryl Morey (Philadelphia) 0 1 2 5
Tim Connelly (Denver) 0 1 0 3
Lawrence Frank (LA Clippers) 0 1 0 3
Mitch Kupchak (Charlotte) 0 1 0 3
Brian Wright (San Antonio) 0 1 0 3
Rafael Stone (Houston) 0 0 2 2
David Griffin (New Orleans) 0 0 1 1
Jeff Weltman (Orlando) 0 0 1 1

A year-by-year list of the NBA Executive of the Year Award Winners:

2020-21 — James Jones, Phoenix Suns (Voting)

2019-20 — Lawrence Frank, LA Clippers (Voting)

2018-19 — Jon Horst, Milwaukee Bucks (Voting)

2017-18 — Daryl Morey, Houston Rockets (Voting)

2016-17 — Bob Myers, Golden State Warriors (Voting)

2015-16 — R.C. Buford, San Antonio Spurs

2014-15 — Bob Myers, Golden State Warriors

2013-14 — R.C. Buford, San Antonio Spurs

2012-13 — Masai Ujiri, Denver Nuggets

2011-12 — Larry Bird, Indiana Pacers

2010-11 — Gar Forman/Pat Riley, Chicago Bulls/Miami Heat

2009-10 — John Hammond, Milwaukee Bucks

2008-09 — Mark Warkentien, Denver Nuggets

2007-08 — Danny Ainge, Boston Celtics

2006-07 — Bryan Colangelo, Toronto Raptors

2005-06 — Elgin Baylor, Los Angeles Clippers

2004-05 — Bryan Colangelo, Phoenix Suns

2003-04 — Jerry West, Memphis Grizzlies

2002-03 — Joe Dumars, Detroit Pistons

2001-02 — Rod Thorn, New Jersey Nets

2000-01 — Geoff Petrie, Sacramento Kings

1999-00 — John Gabriel, Orlando Magic

1998-99 — Geoff Petrie, Sacramento Kings

1997-98 — Wayne Embry, Cleveland Cavaliers

1996-97 — Bob Bass, Charlotte Hornets

1995-96 — Jerry Krause, Chicago Bulls

1994-95 — Jerry West, Los Angeles Lakers

1993-94 — Bob Whitsitt, Seattle SuperSonics

1992-93 — Jerry Colangelo, Phoenix Suns

1991-92 — Wayne Embry, Cleveland Cavaliers

1990-91 — Bucky Buckwalter, Portland Trail Blazers

1989-90 — Bob Bass, San Antonio Spurs

1988-89 — Jerry Colangelo, Phoenix Suns

1987-88 — Jerry Krause, Chicago Bulls

1986-87 — Stan Kasten, Atlanta Hawks

1985-86 — Stan Kasten, Atlanta Hawks

1984-85 — Vince Boryla, Denver Nuggets

1983-84 — Frank Layden, Utah Jazz

1982-83 — Zollie Volchok, Seattle SuperSonics

1981-82 — Bob Ferry, Washington Bullets

1980-81 — Jerry Colangelo, Phoenix Suns

1979-80 — Red Auerbach, Boston Celtics

1978-79 — Bob Ferry, Washington Bullets

1977-78 — Angelo Drossos, San Antonio Spurs

1976-77 — Ray Patterson, Houston Rockets

1975-76 — Jerry Colangelo, Phoenix Suns

1974-75 — Dick Vertlieb, Golden State Warriors

1973-74 — Eddie Donovan, Buffalo Braves

1972-73 — Joe Axelson, Kansas City-Omaha Kings