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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Some Interesting Nuggets from the Annual NBA GM Survey

Much like the 2011-12 NBA season, the annual survey of NBA General Managers arrived late--but the results have now been posted at NBA.com and it is interesting to see how the league's 30 top executives answered some of the 57 questions posed to them (the NBA.com report mentioned that not every GM answered every question, so the percentages listed below are based on the responses received).

The Miami Heat are the landslide choice (74.1%) to win the 2012 championship--but the L.A. Lakers (who finished a distant third at 7.4%) were the landslide choice last season (63.0%) and got swept in the second round. The Oklahoma City Thunder received 14.8% of the vote to win the 2012 championship but are the overwhelming pick (67.9%) to win the West, followed by the Lakers (17.9%).

Kevin Durant is once again the preseason choice to win the regular season MVP (55.6% this time, a decline from the 66.7% of the vote he received last year), with LeBron James garnering the rest of the votes.

The GMs split on who they would choose to start a franchise today, with Durant and James each receiving 37.0% of the votes. However, Dwight Howard finished first (29.6%) as the player who forces opposing coaches to make the most adjustments, topping Durant, James, Dirk Nowitzki and Derrick Rose. Kobe Bryant dropped from first (35.7%) in this category to "also receiving votes," an indication of how much Bryant's injuries last season lowered his perceived value (if that poll had been taken after Bryant's recent string of four straight 40-point games I suspect Bryant would easily make the top five again).

Bryant still tops the GM vote for best shooting guard in the NBA (55.6%), outdistancing Dwyane Wade (40.7%) and Ray Allen (3.7%). Bryant retained the title as the player who is best at creating his own shot but his vote total dropped from 70.4% to 35.7%; Durant finished second (21.4%), while James and Wade tied for third (14.3% each). Bryant unseated Ron Artest (now known as Metta World Peace) as the GMs' choice for toughest player in the league (32.1%), beating out Rajon Rondo (10.7%).

The vote that is sure to provoke the most grumbling from "stat gurus" is the one that once again selected Bryant as the best player to take a shot with the game on the line; Bryant received 48.1% of the vote, down from 78.6% last year, but still enough to easily outdistance Durant (30.8%). Ray Allen, Carmelo Anthony, Manu Ginobili, Dirk Nowitzki, Chris Paul and Dwyane Wade fell into the "also receiving votes" category. In a much publicized recent GQ magazine interview, Chris Bosh unhesitatingly selected Wade over James in this category. I have made my position about this entire discussion very clear: Being a Clutch Player is More Significant than Just Making Clutch Shots. "Clutch shots" can be defined by a variety of different parameters but regardless of the criteria used the discussion boils down to a small sample size of plays that lump together shots hit in transition when the defense is not set, tip ins, half court heaves and open jump shots for role players created after a great player forced a double team (like the three pointer that Derek Fisher hit to beat Dallas the other night after Kobe Bryant drew two defenders). There is not much analytical value in comparing a transition jumper in a three on two fast break, a wide open Derek Fisher jump shot, a tip in and a desperation heave launched just before the final buzzer goes off. The best thing for a team to do is to play well enough down the stretch that a last second shot is not necessary; failing that, the logical thing to do is to put the ball in the hands of the team's best player and hope for the best while understanding that even great players are not going to have a great success rate in a compressed time frame while facing a set defense.

The GMs tapped Derrick Rose (59.3%) as the top point guard over Chris Paul (37.0%) and Russell Westbrook (3.7%). Strangely, even though Durant received the most MVP consideration the GMs selected James (77.8%) as the best small forward ahead of Durant (18.5%) and Carmelo Anthony (3.7%). This is a classic example of the kind of flawed reasoning described by Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman in his book Thinking, Fast and Slow; it does not make much sense for the same group of voters to tap Durant as the MVP but choose James as the best small forward--unless the GMs are saying that they expect the media to choose Durant as the MVP even though they (the GMs) still think that James is the better player.

Dirk Nowitzki (41.1%) topped the power forward voting, ahead of Blake Griffin (17.9%), Kevin Love (14.3%), LaMarcus Aldridge (10.7%) and, oddly, small forward Durant (7.1%). Last year, Pau Gasol and Nowitzki tied for first (28.6%) but this year Gasol dropped into the "also receiving votes category."

Dwight Howard received 96.3% of the votes for best center, while 3.7% chose Pau Gasol; frankly, Marc Gasol would be a better choice at center than Pau Gasol, who seems to have developed an allergy to the paint dating back to last season. Howard also easily won the vote for best defender in the NBA.

Tony Allen received the nod as the best perimeter defender (26.9%), outdistancing a crowded field that included second place finisher Rajon Rondo (15.4%) and a tie for third (11.5%) among Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Russell Westbrook. Bryant won this category with 35.7% of the vote last year.

The GMs selected Gregg Popovich (42.3%) as the best coach, ahead of Doc Rivers (23.1%), Rick Carlisle (11.5%) and Mike Brown (7.7%). Phil Jackson, now retired, won this category last year (39.3%).

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posted by David Friedman @ 5:04 AM



At Thursday, January 19, 2012 6:24:00 AM, Blogger Matt said...

Maybe the the apparent contradiction of the GMs on the question of MVP and best small forward can be explained by the Keynesian Beauty Contest :

"It is not a case of choosing those [faces] that, to the best of one’s judgment, are really the prettiest, nor even those that average opinion genuinely thinks the prettiest. We have reached the third degree where we devote our intelligences to anticipating what average opinion expects the average opinion to be. ."

At Thursday, January 19, 2012 4:06:00 PM, Anonymous boyer said...

Obviously, the durant/lebron voting is confusing. This voting was down before the season, right? I wouldn't pick lebron to win MVP just because I don't think he'll win, for much the same reasons that voters had last year, which is why rose won, even though lebron might deserve it. The voters are strange and change how they vote every year, it seems. I don't necessarily agree with their thought process, but just predicting how the media will vote. Lebron was the most talented player during the 2011 reg. season, but I still don't think he understands how to truly play team ball, failed in crunch time over and over, and his team was terrible against the nba's top teams. Rose, while not as talented, led his team to the nba's best record with no other AS, followed his coach's plays, and plays good team ball, which is one major reason why the bulls were the east's top reg. season team. It's a good story, too, so naturally Rose won. This year it looks like durant's thunder will be the good story, should they at least win the west. But, kobe and lebron look to be separating themselves from the rest of the nba at this juncture of the season, so maybe not. If wade is out for awhile, and the heat continue to do well, then voters will be thinking that lebron should maybe win, and most of them love lebron as it is, even though I've been reading over and over of how to not be misled that the heat are actually better without wade, even though they seem to be.

I noticed Ray Allen got 1 vote for top SG. How is that? Did the boston GM vote for him?

Also, quite interesting that GMs thought Mike Brown was the 4th best coach, and he didn't even coach last year. And the 3 guys ahead of him all have rings. And he was supposedly a terrible coach in cleveland, or was painted that way by many media members after lebron's meltdown.

At Thursday, January 19, 2012 7:20:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Typically, the survey is done before the season. Individual votes are not revealed, so I don't know who selected Ray Allen as the top shooting guard. You would think that the GMs are not allowed to vote for players on their own teams but I am not sure if that rule is in effect in this case.

Mike Brown is a lot more highly regarded by people who understand the sport than he is by people who do not understand the sport (i.e., many media members and many fans whose opinions are influenced by those media members).


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