GM Survey Says...Kobe is Still #1In the annual preseason survey of NBA General Managers, 66.7% of the respondents said that LeBron James would be their first pick to start a franchise today, with Kobe Bryant finishing second (18.5%)--but that voting clearly is more of a reflection of James' age than of a skill set comparison between James and Bryant, because those same respondents selected Bryant over James (63.0% to 25.9%) as the player who forces coaches to make the most adjustments.
Stat gurus, members of the media and fans all say that James is having a season for the ages; there is no doubt that he is playing at an MVP level. So, considering James' outstanding statistics and undeniable impact, do the league's General Managers now believe that 2008 MVP Bryant has passed the torch to James? USATODAY recently polled all 30 NBA General Managers and asked them that exact question. Although 11 of them declined to respond, of the 19 who replied 12 chose Bryant as the NBA's best player and seven selected James, which is not a significantly different voting margin than the one that existed before the season began. While stat gurus are slaves to their numbers and the media and fans alike are wowed by highlights of dunks and blocked shots, the General Managers look at the game more clinically and objectively. Bryant and James are clearly the two best players in the NBA and expert opinion still gives Bryant the edge over his younger rival.
Speaking of polls, Sports Illustrated asked 190 NBA players who they would want to take a last second shot and Bryant won in a landslide, taking 76% of the votes. Chauncey Billups, LeBron James and Paul Pierce received 3% each, while Dwyane Wade got 2%. I have repeatedly said that I think that last second shots are overrated as a statistical category because the sample size is small and most such shots are low percentage attempts anyway; I am much more impressed by a player who can take over a game for an extended period of time in clutch moments, such as scoring 12 points in the fourth quarter or making a series of big plays when the outcome of the game is in doubt. I am much more certain that Bryant is the best player in the NBA in that regard than I am that he is the best last second shot maker but the fact that the overwhelming majority of his peers rank him first in the latter category cannot be lightly dismissed.
The February 16, 2009 issue of the Sporting News contains a brief article in which an anonymous NBA scout ranks the league's top five playmakers. Not surprisingly, Chris Paul tops the list, with Steve Nash and LeBron James placing second and third and Jason Kidd fifth. Kobe Bryant is fourth and the scout declares, "He has always been a good passer. There's no one I would rather have with the clock running out and you need someone to make a play under pressure."
posted by David Friedman @ 3:50 AM