Ranking! Who are the 10 best basketball general managers in the NBA right now?

Ranking! Who are the 10 best basketball general managers in the NBA right now?

Lewis Injai
updated at May 7, 2023 at 5:39 PM

From making trade decisions, identifying the right talent, keeping the team competitive both in the short term to long term, being in charge of the team's spending to knowing the inner workings of the league's collective bargain agreements, the NBA's general managers have challenging jobs. But who amongst them are the best?

Best basketball general managers in the NBA
Photo: canva.com (modified by author)
Source: UGC

As demonstrated above, NBA basketball managers have a job that requires responsibility and diversified objectives while operating under intense pressure. Some GMs execute their duties effortlessly and make their jobs seem like a walk in the park, which has enabled them to attain success. Who are these managers?

Who are the best General Managers in NBA history?

This edition ranks ten of the best basketball general managers in the NBA right now and of all time based on credible online publications and fan polls.

10. Rob Pelinka- LA Lakers

Rob joined the Lakers in 2017, taking over from Magic Johnson. Before that, he served as a sports agent, where he represented some of the biggest names in the NBA, such as Kobe Bryant. His tenure at the club saw a complete transformation of the club's DNA, which included constructing a new roster and staff. This led to the club earning its 17th NBA title in 2020.

Best basketball general managers- Rob Pelinka
Rob Pelinka speaks during the celebration of Life for Kobe and Gianna Bryant at Staples Center on 24 February 2020. Photo: Kevork Djansezian
Source: Getty Images

Rob is also credited for making some of the most significant trade signings the club has seen in recent history. Some of the signings are notable names like Lebron James and Anthony Davis, who were franchise players at their respective clubs at the time of the trade.

Profile summary

  • Name: Robert Todd Pelinka Jr.
  • Date of birth: 23 December 1969
  • Age: 52 as of September 2022
  • Tenure at the club: 2017- date

9. Sean Marks-Brooklyn Nets

In February 2016, Sean Marks was named the Nets' general manager in an almost surprising move. Earlier, the club had declared the position vacant and was reportedly accepting bids from anyone who felt like they were up for the job. Eventually, the club's owners were convinced. Marks' vision for transforming the club was the best.

Up to that point, Marks had been in the NBA for nearly two decades, starting as a player to a coach to the general manager of San Antonio Spurs, where he led them to win the 2014 NBA Championship.

Best basketball general manager in the NBA right now- Sean Marks
Sean Marks (in black) with Rob Pelinka before a Brooklyn Nets game against the LA Lakers on 23 January 2020. Photo: Matteo Marchi
Source: Getty Images

His tenure at the club has seen it come from being the league's laughing stock to a viable contender while registering the best winning streak in the club's league history.

Profile summary

  • Name: Sean Andrew Marks
  • Date of birth: 23 August 1975
  • Age: 47 as of September 2022
  • Tenure at the club: 2016 - date
  • Social media: Twitter

8. Daryl Morey-Houston Rockets

Daryl stayed with the Rockets for thirteen seasons. His tenure at the club saw them reach the playoffs 10 times, the NBA's western twice, and record the second-most wins in the NBA. However, his most impactful decision at the club for which he is credited was acquiring James Harden, who grew to become the club's franchise player and was named to the NBA All-Star eight times. He currently serves as the president of basketball operations at the Philadelphia 76ers.

Best basketball general manager in the NBA right now-Daryl Morey
Daryl Morey, during a past press conference. Photo: Tim Nwachukwu
Source: Getty Images

Profile summary

  • Name: Daryl Morey
  • Date of birth: 14 September 1972
  • Age: 50 as of September 2022
  • Tenure at the club: 2007- 2020
  • Social media: Twitter

7. Pat Riley- Miami Heat

Very few individuals have achieved the level of success Pat Riley has achieved in his six decades in the NBA as a Player, assistant coach, head coach, and finally, as a GM. Before joining the Miami heat as a head coach and general manager in 1995, he was regarded as one of the greatest coaches in NBA history, having won four championships with LA Lakers.

Best basketball general managers in the NBA right now-Pat Riley
Pat Riley addresses the press at a past event. Photo: Michael Reaves
Source: Getty Images

His tenure in the club has become one of the only 10 franchises in the NBA to win multiple championships, which they won in 2006, 2012, and 2013.

Profile summary

  • Name: Patrick James Riley
  • Date of birth: 20 March 1945
  • Age: 77 as of September 2022
  • Tenure at the club: 1995-date

6. Masai Ujiri-Toronto Raptors

Masai, a Kenyan- Nigerian, had one of the most unlikely paths to the NBA. Though his prospect of becoming a League player did not bear fruit, he had a successful career as a scout for teams like Orlando Magic, Denver Nuggets, and eventually Raptors. In 2010 he was named the Nuggets' general manager and VP of basketball operations. His tenure there saw him turn the club's tide, leading to them reaching the 2013 playoffs.

Best basketball general managers in the NBA right now-Masai Ujiri
Masai Ujiri celebrates on his way to receive his ring during the 2019 open season on 22 October 2019. Photo: Steve Russell
Source: Getty Images

He returned to the Raptors as a GM but has since held numerous titles within the club over the years. He was instrumental in bringing in the much-needed change that led to the franchise's first Championship title in 2019.

Profile summary

  • Name: Masai Ujiri
  • Date of birth: 7 July 1970
  • Age: 52 years
  • Tenure at the club: 2014-to date

5. Jerry Krause- Chicago Bulls

Though portrayed as a villain in the infamous docuseries Last Dance, his tenure with the club is one of the most successful in the franchise's history. He was at the club's helm from 1985-2003 and was responsible for some of its critical decisions that eventually led to them clinching the championship six times from 1991-1998, led by their star player Micheal Jordan.

Best basketball general managers in the NBA right now-Jerry Krause
Jerry Krause speaks to reporters during a press conference before a playoff game against the Utah Jazz at the Delta Center in Sall Lake City, Utah. Photo: Brain Bahr
Source: Getty Images

His efforts led to him being twice the NBA Executive of the year, in 1988 and 1996.

Profile summary

  • Name: Jerome Richard Krause
  • Date of birth: 6 April 1945
  • Date of death: 21 March 2017
  • Age: 77 as of the time of death
  • Tenure at the club: 1985-2003

4. R.C. Buford-San Antonio Spurs

Buford first joined the Spurs in 1988 for a short stint, left before coming back in 1994, and held a couple of positions before becoming a gm in 2002. His time with the club saw them clinch five NBA titles, four of which he was the one at the helm. In addition, he has won twice the NBA Executive Basketball of the Year award in the 2014 and 2015/16 seasons.

Best basketball general managers in the NBA right now-R.C. Buford
R.C. Buford (right) shakes hands with NBA Commissioner David Stern (left) while receiving his 2007 NBA Championship ring on 30 October 2007. Photo: Ronald Martinez
Source: Getty Images

He is also credited for signing one of the club's biggest players in its history, Tim Duncan, Who is considered the NBA's greatest power forward of all time.

Profile summary

  • Name: Robert Canterbury Buford
  • Date of birth: May 1960
  • Age: 62 as of September 2022
  • Tenure at the club: 1994-2002 (executive), 2002-date (GM)

Regarding who is the greatest GM ever before we get our top three, here are some notable names of managers who were considered impactful in their rights.

  • Jerry Colangelo- Phoenix Suns
  • Wayne Embry- Milwaukee Bucks, Cleveland Cavaliers
  • Gregg Popovich-San Antonio Spurs
  • Jerry West- Los Angeles Lakers
  • Geoff Petrie-Sacramento Kings
  • Wayne Embry- Milwaukee Bucks, Cleveland Cavaliers, Toronto Raptors
  • Larry Bird- Indiana Pacers
  • Bob Weinhauer- Houston Rockets, Milwaukee Bucks
  • Don Nelson-Milwaukee Bucks, Golden State Warriors, Dallas Mavericks
  • Jack Ramsay- Philadelphia 76ers

3. Sam Presti- Oklohama City Thunder

At 29, Sam became the youngest GM in 2007 when he was appointed to Oklahoma City Thunder's helm. In just three years, he transformed the team from terrible and underperforming to one of the best in the league.

Best basketball general manager in the NBA right now-Sam Presti
Sam Presti (in suit) and Steven Adams speak to the press during the New Zealand Basketball Academy Launch on 17 August 2014. Photo: Hagen Hopkins
Source: Getty Images

He is most famous for drafting and trading some of the biggest names we have in the NBA now. Names like: Kevin Durant, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Sage Ibaka, and Jeff Green.

Profile summary

  • Name: Samuel Presti
  • Date of birth: 1 November 1977
  • Age: 44 as of September 2022
  • Tenure at the club: 2007-date
  • Social media: Instagram, Twitter

2. Danny Ainge- Boston Celtics

Before joining Celtics as a GM, Ainge had been a player and coach. He joined the club in 2003 and served it for 18 years, becoming the third longest-tenured executive and one of the greatest general managers in the NBA.

Best basketball general manager in the NBA right now-Danny Ainge
Danny Ainge during the first quarter of the NBA game against the LA Clippers on 13 February 2020. Photo: Matt Stone
Source: Getty Images

While at the helm, the Celtics appeared in 15 playoffs, seven Eastern Conference Finals, two NBA finals championships, and eventually won the league in the 2007/08 season. Likewise, at the club, he made two significant purchases, that of All-Stars Ray Allen and Kevin Garnet.

Profile summary

  • Name: Daniel Ray Ainge
  • Date of birth: 17 March 1959
  • Age: 63 as of September
  • Tenure at the club: 1981-1989 (as a player) and 2003-2021 (as a GM)
  • Social media: Instagram, Twitter

1. Red Auerbach-Boston Celtics

Regarding who is the greatest general manager of all time, it does not get any bigger than Red Auerbach. He is considered the best NBA general manager of all time. His career at the Celtic started as a coach, winning nine titles. After he retired from active coaching in 1966, he took the role of GM, where he went on to win seven more titles.

Best basketball general manager in the NBA right now-Red Auerbach
Red Auerbach is considered the greatest GM of all time. Photo: Focus on Sport
Source: Getty Images

He is credited for introducing new concepts in the game, bringing about modern basketball concepts. Likewise, he has been credited for breaking the race barrier when he drafted Charly Cooper, the first African-American to play in the NBA, and Bill Russell as the first black coach.

Profile summary

  • Name: Arnold Jacob "Red" Auerbach
  • Date of birth: 20 September 1917
  • Date of death: 28 October 2008
  • Age: 89 as of the time of death
  • Tenure at the club: 1950-1966 ( as a player) and 1966-1984 (as a GM)

Frequently asked questions-FAQs

Below are frequently asked questions about the best basketball general managers in the NBA.

Which NBA GM has the most rings?

With 16 rings, Red Auerbach is the GM with the most rings in the history of the NBA.

How many NBA general managers are there?

Currently, the NBA has 30 general managers, and the best 10 are ranked here.

As is quite evident from the above list, NBA basketball managers have some of the most demanding jobs, and being considered the best is an incredible feat.

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Lewis Injai