For the second season in a row Cleveland Cavaliers’ President of Basketball Operations Koby Altman finished second in 2022-23 NBA Executive of the Year voting. This award is voted on exclusively by other executives.
Altman was behind only Monte McNair of the Sacramento Kings. Justin Zanik of the Utah Jazz finished third. Calvin Booth of the Denver Nuggets finished fourth. Brad Stevens of the Boston Celtics finished fifth.
It’s not surprising Altman finished this high once again. The Cavs have gone from the NBA Finals, through a full rebuild and emerged on the other side as a 50-win team during his stewardship the past six seasons without any major free agent signings.
Altman’s decision to cash in many of the team’s assets for Donovan Mitchell has paid off thus far. Mitchell completed the best season of his career and arguably the best in franchise history from a guard. More importantly, Mitchell has fit well with the core Altman previously assembled. This team’s best basketball should be ahead of them.
That said, not everything fell perfectly for Altman this season. It was reasonable to question the inactivity at the trade deadline in the moment, but it looks much worse after the fact as the Cavs were soundly defeated in five games by the New York Knicks in the first round.
On top of that, the Cavs were forced to buyout Kevin Love at the deadline. Love has been an impactful piece for a Miami Heat team poised to return to the Eastern Conference Finals. It’s tough to know what happened behind the scenes, but Love and Altman have had a rocky history throughout their time in Cleveland including multiple reported outbursts between the two dating back to the 2018-19 season. How much that played into Love’s midseason buyout or whether this could’ve been avoided is unknown. Either way, Love could’ve helped with the rebounding and shooting the Cavs desperately needed in the first round.
The offseason free agent acquisitions of Raul Neto, Robin Lopez and Ricky Rubio were also disappointing in various ways. None of those three were able to make a positive impact in the playoffs. The in season signings of Danny Green and Sam Merrill also didn’t move the needle this season.
One of the most difficult leaps to make in the NBA is going from a good to a great team. The Cavs have the nucleus to be a great team if they continue to grow together, but Altman will need to do a better job of finding pieces to compliment this group to take them to the next level.
This is a critical offseason. The Cavs will likely need to prove something in the playoffs next year if they want to convince Mitchell to stick around long term. To do that, Altman needs to put them in a better position to succeed. How he handles Caris LeVert’s free agency, the midlevel exception, their late second round draft pick and possible trades will go a long way in determining whether the Cavs are able to get over the hump next season.