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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

NBA General Managers Predict What Will Happen in 2007-08

For the sixth consecutive year, NBA.com polled NBA General Managers to get their predictions for the upcoming season. You can find the complete results here.

Hitting the highlights, 37% of the GMs picked the Spurs to repeat as champions. Phoenix (25.9%), Dallas (14.8%) and Detroit (7.4%) rounded out the top four, while Boston, Houston, Miami and Orlando received the remaining votes. I also like the Spurs to win it all but I am surprised to see Detroit in the top four and shocked to see Miami get even one vote.

The GMs equally like Boston and Detroit (25.9% each) to win the East, followed by Chicago (22.2%) and Miami (14.8%). Cleveland, Orlando and Washington also got votes. I still like Cleveland despite the two holdouts (unless Chicago gets Kobe Bryant without giving up half the team) but I am surprised to see Miami and Washington get any support.

The GMs like San Antonio (51.9%), Phoenix (29.6%), Dallas (14.8%) and Houston (3.7%) in the West.

LeBron James is the clear winner as the most athletic player in the NBA, getting 46.2% of the vote. Vince Carter (11.5%) finished second, while Kobe Bryant, Shawn Marion and Gerald Wallace (7.7%) tied for third. James seems to be the obvious choice here.

Ray Allen got the nod as the best pure shooter (59.6%), with Michael Redd (11.5%), Jason Kapono (7.7%) and Kyle Korver (5.8%) following distantly behind. Richard Hamilton, Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki and Peja Stojakovic also received consideration. I'd also go with Allen, whose shooting stroke is a thing of beauty just like Ken Griffey, Jr's swing. Something about Allen that does not really show up on TV but is very apparent if you watch him in person is that he has huge, well sculpted calves; I think that is a big reason that he can so effortlessly and quickly elevate from long distance. My second choice would be Nash, who not only makes a high percentage of shots but also has an assortment of off balance runners in his arsenal. Watching him in person while he warms up before a game is scary.

Kobe Bryant easily wins as the best player at getting his own shot (88.5%). Gilbert Arenas, LeBron James and Tracy McGrady each got 3.8% of the vote. Bryant also got 88.5% of the vote in the category of the best player taking the shot with the game on the line. Carmelo Anthony, Tim Duncan and Steve Nash each got 3.8% of the vote. Bryant is the obvious choice in both categories, as the voting reflected.

The interesting thing is that when the voting turns to defense we largely see a completely different set of names--except for Bryant and Duncan. Bruce Bowen gets the nod (38.5%) as the best defensive player, with Duncan (28.8%), Bryant (9.6%) and Ben Wallace (7.7%) getting most of the other votes. Bowen also is considered the best perimeter defender (53.8%), with Ron Artest (23.1%), Kobe Bryant (19.2%) and Raja Bell (3.8%) getting all of the other votes. Bowen is considered the best on the ball defender (46.2%), beating out Bryant (23.1%), Artest (7.7%) and Kyle Lowry (7.7%). Allen Iverson, who gets a lot of steals but is not universally considered a standout defender, is notably absent from the previous categories but came in first as the best at defending passing lanes (19.2%). Bryant and Caron Butler (11.5% each) tied for second. Duncan easily wins as the best interior defender (46.2%) over Marcus Camby (15.4%) and Ben Wallace (15.4%). These choices all seem reasonable to me.

The GMs think that LeBron James (29.6%) will win the MVP, with Tim Duncan (22.2%), Kobe Bryant (18.5%), Steve Nash (11.1%), Kevin Garnett (7.4%), Dwyane Wade (7.4%) and Yao Ming (3.7%) also receiving consideration. Notice whose name is missing? Dirk Nowitzki, the reigning MVP. That tells you how much his status fell after Dallas' first round loss to Golden State. James looks like a player who will win multiple MVPs and with two key reserves missing he may have to put up big numbers early like Bryant had to late last season. I expect that Bryant will again be the best player but whether or not he wins the award will depend on which team he ends up playing for and what kind of record that team has. If Boston wins at least 50 games then Garnett will get a lot of consideration. Duncan is a valid choice almost every year.

James is the hands down choice as the player who the GMs would pick first to build a team around (59.3%), with Dwight Howard (25.9%), Kobe Bryant (11.1%), Tim Duncan (11.1%) and Dirk Nowitzki (3.7%) getting fewer votes combined than he did. The thinking here obviously encompasses not just current value but also youth, which explains Howard finishing second and Garnett and Nash getting no votes. Wade's injury history probably discouraged voters. Bryant is the best player but if you are starting a team today then you have to choose James because he is so much younger.

Bryant is deemed the player who forces coaches to make the most adjustments (34.6%). Nash (15.4%), Duncan, James, Shaquille O'Neal (11.5% each) and Dirk Nowitzki (7.7%) got most of the remaining votes. O'Neal would have been the easy choice as recently as two years ago but Bryant's ability to seemingly score 40 or 50 points at will is unmatched in today's game.

The GMs largely agree that point guard Nash (85.2%), shooting guard Bryant (92.6%) and small forward James (74.1%) are the best players at their respective positions; point guard Jason Kidd (14.8%) and small forward Carmelo Anthony (14.8%) are the only other players to get more than 10% of the vote at those spots. Tim Duncan wins at both power forward (48.1% to 25.9% for Kevin Garnett and 18.5% for Dirk Nowitzki) and center (48.1% to 33.3% for Yao Ming and 7.7% each for Dwight Howard and Shaquille O'Neal). I agree with the first four choices but would select Yao as the best center.

posted by David Friedman @ 3:23 AM



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