Grizzlies’ Zach Kleiman, a Sports Lawyer, wins 2021-22 NBA Executive of the Year Award

May 20, 2022

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

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.

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.

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