NBA PM: NBA GMs Anoint HEAT as Favorites
Who will win the 2012 NBA Finals? The Miami HEAT, of course.
Best offseason acquisition? No doubt, Chris Paul to the Clippers.
The NBA’s best defensive player? You’re in the extreme minority if you didn’t say “Dwight Howard.”
These are just some of the overwhelming responses submitted by 30 NBA general managers in NBA.com’s 10th annual GM Survey.
The executives weren’t permitted to vote for their personnel or teams and every GM didn’t necessarily answer every question. Instead, answers are “based on the pool of respondents to each question of the survey, rather than all 30 GMs.”
What’s particularly interesting about this year’s survey was the frequency with which a near consensus was garnered.
Last year only 63% of respondents believed the Los Angeles Lakers—the top vote getter—would win the NBA Finals. This year, however, the Miami HEAT pulled in a whopping 74.1% of the vote, followed by the Oklahoma City Thunder (14.8%), Lakers (7.4%) and Chicago Bulls (3.7%). (Ironically, last year’s champions, the Dallas Mavericks, didn’t register on either survey)
And the hegemony only grew from there.
The HEAT were picked by 96.3% of respondents to win the Eastern Conference. A whopping 55.6% more respondents picked the Lakers to win the Pacific Division than the dramatically improved Los Angeles Clippers. LeBron James had a 59.3% advantage over Kevin Durant for the “best small forward” superlative.
Polling any number of different NBA fans would assuredly yield more-diverse results, but the GMs surprisingly found a lot of common ground this year.
And no opinion was more cemented than those pertaining to Dwight Howard.
Orlando’s big man was voted as the NBA’s best center by 96.3% of respondents. Second place went to Pau Gasol (3.7%) who also received votes as the best power forward. The fact that Howard best challenger isn’t unanimously thought of as a center speaks to just how great the gap is between No. 1 and No. 2.
The perception of Howard did take a slight hit in terms of interior defense, where he went from garnering 92.6% of the vote to 88.9% (Andrew Bogut, Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins also received votes as the best interior defender), but he’s still believed to be the NBA’s best overall defender by 76.9% of the voting executives.
There were also some new developments this year.
With Phil Jackson out of the picture, San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich is seen as the best coach by 42.3% of votes and the best motivator by 42.9% of voters—tops in both questions. He also pulled in a league-best 35.7% of the vote in reference to “Which coach makes the best in-game adjustments.”
Denver’s George Karl and Chicago’s Tom Thibodeau were seen as the coaches who run the best offense and defense (22.2% and 61.5% respectively).
A lot of names were tossed into the hat on the subject of best assistant coach, but Golden State’s Mark Malone edged Indiana’s Brian Shaw, 29.2% to 20.8%. This superlative opened up after long-time Jerry Sloan assistant Phil Johnson retired last season.
And if you’re looking for the next NBA-player-turned coach, 25.9% of respondents believe the Lakers’ Derek Fisher is the best man for the job. Shane Battier, Chauncey Billups, Grant Hill, Steve Nash and Chris Paul also received votes.
Perhaps the most-entertaining aspect of these surveys is when GMs try to predict future individual greatness.
For instance, back in 2005-2006, 37.5% of GMs predicted Atlanta’s Marvin Williams would be the best player from that rookie class five years down the road; Boston’s Gerald Green earned 12.5% of the vote and even Minnesota’s Rashad McCants and Portland’s Martell Webster got some nods. Meanwhile Milwaukee’s Andrew Bogut (16.7%) and New Orleans/OKC’s Chris Paul (8.3%) were barely registering. Worst of all, Indiana’s Danny Granger and Utah’s Deron Williams didn’t get a vote.
So, after noting that these predictions aren’t always accurate, which member of this rookie class will be the best player in five years?
Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving (whose 22.41 PER ranks 20th in the NBA) earned just over half the vote and was followed by Toronto’s Jonas Valanciunas (who is still playing in Lithuania) and Minnesota’s Derrick Williams and Ricky Rubio, all of who took in 11.1% of the vote. Utah’s Alec Burks and Enes Kanter as well as Cleveland’s Tristan Thompson and Charlotte’s Kemba Walker also received votes.
Valanciunas was also voted as the best international player not currently in the NBA (36%). He was followed by Juan Carlos Navarro (32%) and former Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko (20%).
Finally, everyone’s favorite question elicited a less-dominant response this year. Kobe Bryant is still the guy GMs want taking the final shot, but his approval fell from 78.6% last year to 48.1% this year. Kevin Durant was second with 30.8% of the vote.
Right or wrong, the opinions of GMs tend to shape the league, so it’s definitely worth the attention of any NBA fan.
Farmar Loves Israel, But He’s Not Ready to Commit to National Team
Nets backup point guard recently overcame an early season slump to average 10.6 PPG and 3.8 APG while shooting 41.2% from 3-point range and 88.2% from the line in the month of January.
His paltry December numbers (he made two field goals in four games) could easily have been written off as rust from the extended offseason, except for one thing: For Farmar, who played with Maccabi Tel Aviv during the lockout, December was a mid-season swoon, not early season jitters.
“Time of my life, man,” Farmar told HOOPSWORLD about playing six Adriatic League games and seven Euroleague games with Tel Aviv. “I had a great time. I got to play. Fans there really love the game. European basketball and Euroleague, every game is life or death, so there’s no coasting through it. You really have to bring it every night. They play great basketball. I learned a lot. I’m a much better player coming back here from having that experience.”
For Farmar, a Jewish player who has applied for dual Israeli/American citizenship, the experience brightened what would have otherwise been a dreary lockout.
“(I) just called and told them I wanted to come out and we made something work,” he said. “Very familiar with the country, I have family there, so I had a great time. The deal worked out for both of us, and I think it was a great experience, and now I’m back.”
Farmar sank over 40% of his 3-point attempts with Tel Aviv while also averaging over five assists and 13 points per game. In fact, his numbers in Israel are corresponding to his impressive January marks with the Nets (his PER is at 19.89—4.89 over the league average).
His strong play on both sides of the Atlantic has prompted Israeli Basketball officials to ask for him to suit up for the national team—an offer he’s refused thus far.
“They ask me all the time,” he said. “It’s just a lot of basketball. “To be here and then I would basically have to live in Israel in the offseason. That’s a tough commitment for my family. (I’m) just starting a family, getting a married, but we just want to spend time together in the offseason and that’s a tough commitment. It’s something I want to do, maybe, if the team was a little better and it was guaranteed to go to the Olympics, and stuff like that, but it’s just a lot of basketball and it’s tough.
“And I’m already in New York now; far enough away from my family to (not) go to Israel in the summer time,” the Los Angeles native added.
Israeli fans might have to wait to see Farmar wearing the blue and white, but he seems to have enjoyed his time with Tel Aviv enough to consider playing for the national team down the road.
Horford has Successful Surgery
Hawks big man Al Horford had successful surgery to repair his torn left pectoral muscle, the team has announced. Horford suffered the injury in Indiana on January 11 and is expected to return in three to four months.
Check Out: Kendrick Perkins
As you probably know by now, Kendrick Perkins returned to Boston Monday night to play his old team, the Celtics, in front of a city that is still very much in love with the big guy.
ESPNBoston.com’s Chris Foresberg wrote an interesting piece on the things the Celtics are missing since Danny Ainge dealt Perkins to Oklahoma City for Jeff Green. It’s definitely worth a read.
More Twitter: Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to inn sure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @AlexKennedyNBA, @jfleminghoops, @TheRocketGuy, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @alexraskinNYC, @TommyBeer and @YannisHW.
NBA Chats: If you are looking for the next NBA Chat, you can find them here: Upcoming NBA Chats.