NBA GMs Survey: What They Got Right, What They Got Wrong

Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

The NBA’s General Managers Survey was released earlier this week, revealing some surprises but mainly obvious superlative choices for the 2012-13 season. I’m no GM, so it’s really not my place to say they got it wrong, but I certainly would go as far as to say I disagree with a lot of the sentiments of the men behind trading, drafting and signing players in the league.

I mean, the Oklahoma City Thunder have done nothing but get scarily better by the season and 63.3% of GMs think they won’t repeat as conference champs? Are Dwight Howard and Steve Nash really enough to make a team that has looked old and dysfunctional better than a team that’s looked young and starving for greatness?

At the same time, yes, I agree that the Miami Heat and LeBron James will take the Eastern Conference by storm, I think Klay Thompson will break out and I think Kevin Love is the best power forward in a league filled with talented big men. Alright, alright…without further ado, let’s examine some of the questions asked on the survey and where I stand on the issues:

Which Team Will Win the 2013 NBA Finals?
GMs: Miami Heat

This I have no problem with. Since LeBron took his talents to South Beach, the Heat have had the Eastern Conference on lock-down, and without any formidable power houses in the conference this season, the Heat should be able to cruise to the NBA Finals for a third straight season. They managed to drub the Thunder in the finals last season despite putting the pieces together late in the playoffs and I can’t see why the same results shouldn’t be expected in 2013.

Which Team Will Win the Eastern Conference?
GMs: Miami Heat

See above.

Which Team Will Win the Western Conference?
GMs: L.A. Lakers

As I’ve already mentioned, I just don’t see how almost twice as many GMs think the Lakers are already better than the Thunder. Yes, I recognize that the two best players to relocate this offseason both ended up in L.A., I also think each of those players give the team an advantage on both ends of the court. I just don’t see how it makes them a better team than Oklahoma City. Dwight Howard‘s an upgrade over Andrew Bynum down-low, but the Thunder big men are tough enough defensively that it shouldn’t make that much of a difference. I also think the Thunder have L.A.’s number because of their three-headed perimeter monster, which I believe the Lakers have less of a chance of stopping this season with the slower Nash on the perimeter.

Don’t get me wrong, I think both teams are incredible, two of the top three in the league even. I just am so impressed with how much the Thunder have grown from year to year, and there’s no reason to think they can’t continue moving towards the top of the league this season.

Which Team Will Win the Atlantic Division?
GMs: Boston Celtics

Listen: until you see the Knicks or the Nets come out and actually win 50 games, it’s awfully difficult to disrespect the Celtics. This is the most competitive the Atlantic will be in over a decade, as not only will the two New York teams be better than they were last season, but the 76ers should be a playoff team as well. With all of that said, Boston’s been together the longest, has the best head coach and was a game away from making the NBA Finals for the third time in five seasons this past June. Until they’re actually surpassed by one of their divisional up-and-comers, they have to be the favorites to win the Atlantic.

Which Team Will Win the Central Division?
GMs: Indiana Pacers

I’m not necessarily surprised that the Pacers are the favorite to win the Central. I am, however, surprised that 80% of GMs are counting out the Chicago Bulls just because they won’t have Derrick Rose until around the all-star break. If anything, we saw the Bulls go 18-9 in regular season games without their star player in the 2011-12 season, which if they can maintain this year, should be good enough to win their division for a third straight year.

To step away from playing devil’s advocate for a minute, the Pacers are one of the league’s fastest rising teams and they definitely convinced a lot of people that they were better than advertised when they gave the Heat a scare in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. The gang is back for another season together and should be the cream of the crop in a very mediocre division.

Which Team Will Win the Southeast Division?
GMs: Miami Heat

My only problem with this is that Pat Riley should’ve broken the survey’s policy that you can’t vote for your own team by voting for the Heat. This is the weakest the division has been in years, and I do not expect any teams other than Miami to make the playoffs. Keep building, Washington and Charlotte.

Which Team Will Win the Southwest Division?
GMs: San Antonio Spurs

The Spurs were the unanimous choice to repeat as Southwest Divisional champs and they should have been. Gregg Popovich has his players drinking from the fountain of youth, but in all seriousness, he just finds a way to adjust and adapt season-by-season. Pop knows his guys well enough to know who to be able to shift the focus towards on the offensive end, and has role players like Kawhi Leonard and Thiago Splitter who are on the verge of breaking out. Don’t count the Spurs out to finish the season with the best record in the league again, as their only legitimate divisional competition is Memphis.

Which Team Will Win the Northwest Division?
GMs: Oklahoma City

You already know I’m pro OKC and I just expect them to keep plowing their way through the league throughout the 2012-13 season. Not only is Kevin Durant the second best player in the league, but he’s still getting better! The scariest part is not only is he still improving as a player, but Russell Westbrook, James Harden and even Serge Ibaka are getting better every season. Want to get scarier? The four players I just mentioned are a combined 93 years old! There are two players on the Knicks who are almost that old combined!

I do think the Denver Nuggets could be one of the conference’s elite this season, but as long as you have Durant, Westbrook and Harden in OKC, that team has the division – and the conference, in my opinion – on lock.

Which Team Will Win the Pacific Division?
GMs: Los Angeles Lakers

Yes, the Lakers had the two biggest pick-ups of the offseason, and not only will Steve Nash make life easier for Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol (as well as everyone else in purple and gold) on offense, but Dwight Howard will make it easier for his older teammates on defense. As I’ve mentioned, I do have my doubts about the Lakers because I think they’re still a little slow (and not overly deep) at the guard position, which I think isn’t a place you can afford to be slow in today’s NBA. However, I don’t see another team in the Pacific division finishing within the top half of the conference and the Lakers should be a top-3 team by season’s end. They’ll definitely have to adjust to playing together, but the talent is unarguably there.

Who Will Win the 2012-13 MVP?
GMs: LeBron James

Remember earlier when I called Kevin Durant the second best player in the league? The only person who makes him look like there’s still room to improve is the league’s best, LeBron James. James was also voted first as the player most GMs would build a team around and the player who causes the most adjustments, and it’s because he could potentially rattle off the next five MVPs (and championships). He’s been the most dominant player in the league for the last five seasons, and again, playing in a less than stellar Eastern Conference, he should have his way with the league yet again this season. The Heat are reportedly going to be ignoring positional duties this season, and plan on spacing their offense out based on their most talented players and their strengths, which will unquestionably favor the do-it-all James. I agree with the league’s GMs, and expect another monster year out of him.

It’s LeBron’s world, we’re just living in it.

Which Player is Most Likely to Have a Breakout Season in 2012-13?
GMs: Klay Thompson

This one was close, with Klay Thompson leading the way, and Kyrie Irving and Kawhi Leonard not too far behind him. Thompson is a scoring machine who will be mentioned in the conversation for best shooter in the league for the next decade-plus. Thompson averaged 18.1 points per game in 29 games as a (rookie) starter, and if he’s ever allowed to play with the injury plagued Stephen Curry, he should see looks he’s never gotten in his life. Mark Jackon’s building something special in Golden State and Thompson is a big part of it.

Who is the Best Point Guard in the NBA?
GMs: Chris Paul

There’s isn’t a point guard in the league whose play is as infectious as Chris Paul. As much as he’s shown he can score, Paul gets his teammates prime opportunities and took the Clippers from ashy to classy in just one season. It’s arguable that the point guard position is the deepest, most competitive in the NBA, but since entering the league, Paul has been one of the best. Now that he’s on a team that’s being built around him, with athletic big men and terrific shooting reserves, we should get to see exactly how good Paul is.

Who is the Best Shooting Guard in the NBA?
GMs: Kobe Bryant

It was between Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade, and I think until he shows signs of really slowing down, it’s gotta be Kobe. While Wade has been bitten by the injury bug, the 34-year old Bryant seems to be getting stronger as he gets older. Despite having a relatively poor shooting season, Bryant improved his scoring, rebounding, and assists last season. Not always known for his leadership skills, it’ll be interesting to see how he responds to playing with the most talented scoring point guard he’s ever played with, as well as how he’ll respond to Nash getting the ball to his other talented teammates and ignoring his need for the ball.

As great as Bryant has been up to this point in his career, he may have the right pieces in place to take a step towards a new level of greatness.

Who is the Best Small Forward in the League?
GMs: LeBron James

Who else?

Who is the Best Power Forward in the League?
GMs: Kevin Love

This I absolutely have to agree with. It’s really easy to get lost in a player’s stats, but that’s about as far as I have to go with Kevin Love. And before I delve deeper, no, he’s not the best power forward in the league because he can knock down threes with ease, but because he’s averaged 12 rebounds per game over his 4-year career and has been the most or second most efficient non-perimeter player in the league the last two seasons. Love is dangerous from everywhere on the court and is a rebounding machine. When the guys around him start to get better - or stay healthy – the T’Wolves will be a force to be reckoned with.

Who is the Best Center in the League?
GMs: Dwight Howard

Healthy or not, demanding trades or not, there isn’t a center in the league even close to as talented and athletic as Dwight Howard. A guy capable of leading the league in blocks and rebounds every season, Howard has been the top rebounding center in the league the last seven seasons and top scoring center for the last five. We knew he’d be playing for a new team sooner or later, it just so happens he’s playing on the Western Conference favorites with some of the best talent in the league. Howard’s never been in a situation like this, and I think one of the top storylines in the league this season will be how he responds. Either way, he’s still undeniably the best center in the NBA.

Which Team Made the Best Overall Moves This Offseason?
GMs: Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers also nabbed the top two selections for “Which One Player Acquisition will Make the Biggest Impact?” What’s there to say that hasn’t been said? Howard and Nash were probably the two most coveted players this offseason and they went to the same team. Sorry Joe Johnson and Brooklyn, chalk this one up for L.A.

Cary Edmondson-US PRESSWIRE

What Was the Most Underrated Player Acquisition?
GM’s: Andre Iguodala to Denver

There wasn’t any other under-the-radar type of player to change scenery this offseason that will end up playing as significant of a role in the league next season as Iguodala. He had been involved in trade rumors for the past several years, and should be a great fit going from one up-tempo offense in Philadelphia, to a different, more refined one in Denver. The Nuggets have plenty of talent in place for Iguodala to come in and be the man, including floor general Ty Lawson, and defensive workhorses Kenneth Faried and Javale McGee. Whereas in Philadelphia, Iggy was one of several players with a similar game and a lack of a defined role, he’ll have a collection of terrific role players who thrive on being underdogs. Get ready for the Nuggets, world.

Which Team Will Be Most Improved in 2012-13?
GMs: Brooklyn Nets

Adding a healthy Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson to a team with Deron Williams, Kris Humphries and Gerald Wallace should definitely equate to winning more than a third of the team’s games. The Nets have been atrocious pretty much since Jason Kidd left them, and with a move to Brooklyn and a new look roster, they should be able to win some games this season. I’m not going to thoroughly believe it until I see it, but Williams and Johnson might be the most dynamic backcourt in the league, and with the West being so tough, I don’t see either New Orleans, Denver, Minnesota or Golden State being too much better than they were last season.

Ball’s in your court, Brooklyn.

What was the Most Surprising Move of the Offseason:
GMs: Steve Nash to the Lakers

Yes, I was shocked that Steve Nash ended up going to the Lakers when it seemed the Knicks, Heat and Raptors were the only legitimate players for him, but I think the surprise of the offseason was Jeremy Lin not being re-signed by the Knicks. The man who saved the season, ended the cable TV holdout, sold more jerseys than any player in 2012 and was a young promising point guard who the team’s owner, coach and general manager assured would be back, wasn’t brought back. The Knicks told Lin to go test his value and predict the market and never came back to the table for their guy. I guess it wasn’t surprising that James Dolan blew what seemed to be a no-brainer, or maybe most GMs just didn’t feel Lin was worth paying a whopping $15 million in his third season. Either way, I’m shocked he isn’t a Knick.

Who Will Win 2012-13 Rookie of the Year?
GMs: Anthony Davis

I think the GMs nailed this one. Davis already looks like a rebounding machine, and on a Hornets team that will need scoring, he’ll be able to show his well-rounded skill set that he selflessly held in as a freshman at Kentucky. I think Davis is the favorite for Rookie of the Year, and I think the GMs were right to vote Damien Lillard next. Lillard’s a straight gunner, which is why I’m assuming Portland drafted him so high. This year’s rookie class is filled with talent, Bradley Beal’s a special player, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will get a ton of looks playing for the Bobcats, and don’t forget about Harrison Barnes playing with Klay Thompson and (hopefully) Stephen Curry in what will be one of the most fun offenses in the league. Either way, I’d be shocked if Davis isn’t the standout of the group, especially right away.

Which Rookie Will Be The Best Player in Five Years?
GMs: Anthony Davis

Again, Davis is ready to come into the league and make an impact from day one. He’s averaging a double-double during the preseason, and according to ex-almost every team in the NBA coach Larry Brown, he brings such a strong defensive presence with him that he would immediately make any team he’s with a 50-win team. I highly doubt the Hornets will win 50 games this season, but with Davis and Eric Gordon, they should win 50 games at some point soon. Davis has a chance of being top 5 in the league in both blocks and rebounds as a rookie, and he’s going to be a force to be reckoned with for years to come.

Which Rookie is Most Likely to be a Sleeper Success?
GMs: Jared Sullinger

I don’t really understand how a guy who would have unarguably been a top-3 pick had he come out a season earlier could be a sleeper. When I think sleeper, I think Andrew Nicholson. Nicholson received the second most votes, so I’ll throw some credit back to the GM’s, but he has a chance to quietly have a very nice season on a pretty devastated team. Nicholson wasn’t drafted to fill Dwight Howard’s shoes, but his talent and determination will go a long way with a great opportunity to play big minutes.

Who is the Best International Player in the NBA?
GMs: Dirk Nowitzki

After carrying the Dallas Mavericks to the NBA Championship just two seasons ago, Nowitzki took the throne as best international player in the league, possibly of all-time even. Yes, he struggled with the lockout shortened season, and is coming into this season with a knee injury, but is still the most talented foreign player in the league. Pau Gasol and Steve Nash may change some people’s minds about that this season, but as of now, Nowitzki still gets the nod.

Which International Player is Most Likely to Have a Breakout Season in 2012-13?
GMs: Jonas Valanciunas

While I’ll admit to being on the Valanciunas bandwagon along with a lot of NBA-heads, I don’t see how Goran Dragic isn’t the obvious choice here. In 28 games as a starter last season, Dragic averaged over 18 points and 8 assists per game, and he knows a lot is being asked out of him to replace the legendary Steve Nash in Phoenix. Dragic was a stat stuffer with minimum help in Houston, and things shouldn’t be all that different for him this season.

Who is the Best Defensive Player in the NBA?
GMs: Dwight Howard

The guy’s won three of the last four Defensive Player of the Year awards, who else should be named best defensive player in the league? With plenty of weapons on offense, Howard will get a chance to prove how great of a defensive player he is on the slow (and old) Lakers. He’s one of the most feared shot blockers in league history, and should still feast in the paint out west.

Who is the Best Perimeter Defender in the NBA?
GMs: Tony Allen

As great as I think LeBron James is in the passing lanes and even in one-on-one situations, Tony Allen is one of the grittiest defenders I’ve ever seen. Allen happily puts his hard hat on and focuses on defense, defense and more defense on a nightly basis. He’s the type of guy that exemplifies the saying all guts no glory. I have to say, I expected Iman Shumpert to get a little more love in this category, but there’s always next year.

Who is the Best Interior Defender in the NBA?
GMs: Dwight Howard

Again…duh?

Who is the Best Defensive Team in the NBA?
GMs: Chicago Bulls

This was really difficult between Chicago, Miami, and even Boston still, but few teams find a way to win as often as they do with less offensive fire power than Chicago. Tom Thibodeau came to Chicago known as a defensive mastermind, and he hasn’t let anyone down. It was arguable that he could’ve won Coach of the Year (again) last season, considering how well the Bulls did without Derrick Rose. The Bulls may not have much talent this year, but don’t expect them to lie down on defense for anyone.

Due to the fear that I’ve already lost many of you, I don’t want to turn you off now, so I will skip the coaching categories but will say this: Thibs, Pop, and Doc oh my!

Which Team is the Most Fun to Watch
GMs: Oklahoma City Thunder

This one was pretty evenly split between the Thunder and Heat, and I have to agree. I enjoy watching the best players in the league more than anything, because I find guys like LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Russell Westbrook to be incredibly exciting to watch. In my opinion, this is the least negotiable category, not because one team or player stands out more than the rest, but because this is merely an opinion.

Which Player is the Most Athletic
GMs: LeBron James

The man does things that nobody to play the sport has ever done. Not since Magic Johnson has a player been able to really play any and every position at a high level, and James is probably better even at all of those positions but the point guard. One of the fastest, as well as strongest players in the league, James is unstoppable more because of his physical attributes than his skill-set, but he puts the two together to make him what can only be described as a filthy animal.

Which Player is the Best Pure Shooter?
GMs: Ray Allen

At the tender age of 37, Jesus Shuttlesworth is probably still the best pure shooter in the NBA. As much fun as it is to do the “discount-doublecheck” every time Steve Novak drills a three, Allen’s still got it from deep, as well as mid-range, and there are few guys I’d rather have with the ball in their hands shooting a big free-throw. This season will be a great way to measure Allen’s shooting prowess, as he should get plenty of great looks playing in Miami.

Which Player is the Fastest With the Ball?
GMs: Russell Westbrook

This is a tough one, but I think every player to receive a vote deserved it. As fast as guys like Ty Lawson, John Wall, and even LeBron James are, Russell Westrbook’s one of the scariest players on the break as he uses his speed and insane hops to throw it down with authority – regardless of who’s in his way – 10 out of 10 times. Westbrook’s almost entering the realm of James as his athleticism makes him rather unstoppable.

Which Player is Best at Moving Without the Ball?
GMs: Ray Allen

I like how Ray Allen and Rip Hamilton are the two leaders for this category, as they both have years upon years of running through screens and making life miserable for the opponent with the unlucky and cardiovascular challenging task of keeping up with them. Allen’s incredible work ethic has allowed him almost tireless legs, and his ability to remain so consistent despite aging and playing lesser roles on his team over the last few seasons shows how he’s mastered the art of moving without the ball.

Which Player is the Best at Getting His Own Shot?
GMs: Kobe Bryant

Alright, here’s where I call BS. What actually qualifies Kobe Bryant to win this category? Because he’s more willing than anyone else in the league to take off balance shots while being double, sometimes even triple-teamed? Yes, he’s talented. Yes, he’s deadly from anywhere on the court. But is he a better shooter than Kevin Durant? Is he more athletic than him? How about quicker? Is his ball handling as good or better than Durant’s? His ability to finish? I get we still want to keep Kobe in the “best players in the league” conversation, but don’t besmirch Durant while doing it. *Drops mic*

Which Player is the Best Offensive Rebounder?
GMs: Kevin Love

I think Kevin Love is the best rebounder in basketball, offensive or defensive end. I don’t think Kris Humphries, Dwight Howard, or DeMarcus Cousins are too far behind him, but Love has a knack for the ball and the highest basketball IQ of the aforementioned players. Those attributes usually make for great offensive rebounders, as they have with Love.

Which Player is the Best Passer?
GMs: Steve Nash

I would have accepted Nash, Chris Paul, or Rajon Rondo as answers, but want to put Paul above the rest. The things he was able to do for the Clippers this season, and maybe more impressively for a less than stellar Hornets team for so many years, shows how incredible of a point guard he is. While I don’t ever get tired of seeing Nash make incredible finds while penetrating, or hitting no look passes like his name’s Jason Williams, Chris Paul is always just so well composed.

Which Player is the Most Dangerous in the Open Court?
GMs: LeBron James

Again, having LeBron James, Russell Westrbook, and Derrick Rose as the 3 top vote-getters is fine by me, but the way LeBron finishes with contact makes him the standout pick. I’ve already mentioned his deadly combination of strength and speed, factor in his point guard mentality and he’s the last guy you want leading a break against you or your team.

Which Player is the Best Finisher?
GMs: LeBron James

Yes LeBron’s a beast and as I just mentioned, can still finish with contact, but so can Blake Griffin. In fact, how can you say Griffin doesn’t LOVE to finish when he’s hit? Ask Pau Gasol, Kendrick Perkins, and Timofey Mozgov to answer this question and they’ll give you the dirtiest look you’ve ever received. If there’s anything Griffin’s good for it’s making posters out of opponents.

Which Player Makes the Most of Limited Natural Ability?
GMs: Kevin Love

Kevin Love has absolutely risen to superstardom in the NBA, and he’s done it without jumping out of the building or blowing people away with his size or speed. Love is the epitome of killing them softly, as his touch and knowledge of the game are his two greatest attributes.

Who is the Toughest Player in the NBA?
GMs: Kobe Bryant

How many Kobe Bryant led superlatives can I disagree with before being labeled a hater? Alright, so Kobe is definitely one of the toughest players in the league. The guy suits up when he’s injured, never stops working out and practicing, and wants to play his best in big moments. He’s tough, but when I think of real tough NBA players, I think Kenneth Faried and Reggie Evans, guys who THRIVE on doing the dirty work.

Which Player is the Best Leader?
GMs: Chris Paul

How can you disagree with a guy who’s making the stinkin’ Clippers a winner? I know, CP3 wasn’t the only offseason acquisition for the Clips last year, but the fact that they went from a team 18 games under .500 to a team 14 games OVER .500 has to be worth some kind of love that gets sent back to Paul. A great scorer, passer, and defender, Paul hits big shots as well as he hits his teammates to finish big plays, and has always made his teams overachieve.

Which Player has the Best Basketball IQ?
GMs: Steve Nash

While Kevin Love won the “does the most with the least” award, Steve Nash has been one of the best point guards in the league for almost the last decade despite being slower and less athletic than the majority of the guys who play his position. Nash is still an elite point guard, but he does it with YMCA-game, making everyone around him better than they are in the process. Jason Kidd isn’t too far behind him.

Which Player Would You Want Taking a Shot with the Game on the Line?
GMs: Kevin Durant

Durant’s probably the most talented scorer in the league, but I think I might have to take either Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant (see I’m not a total hater), or even Dirk Nowitzki for this one. All four live for big moments, and all four are terrific at creating their own shots, but I don’t think any of them have the confidence, as well as the ability to forget if they miss like Bryant does. Anthony’s the type of player that thinks he should take every shot, clutch or not, and Durant plays with other talented players and has already caught flack for not taking over games. Nowitzki didn’t enter the clutch conversation until dominating the 2011 playoffs. So then there’s Kobe. You happy?

If you stuck with me through this entire report on the GM Survey, I thank you immensely, and hope you agree in some way, shape, or form with my picks.

For hoops, hip-hop and other random sports and pop culture commentary, follow Jared Mintz on Twitter @JaredMintzTruth

Around the Web