The NBA’s GM survey was released yesterday, and it shed some light on the opinions of the league’s general managers with regards to the upcoming season and future of the league. Some results aren’t very surprising: the Cleveland Cavaliers will win the East, Gregg Popovich is the best coach, the Oklahoma City Thunder will improve the most with Kevin Durant’s return, etc. While some of the results may not be surprising, we can glean some information about how the NBA’s GMs see the landscape of the league by looking at some of their answers.
One of the biggest things we learned from the league’s GMs is that they love Anthony Davis. Davis received the following honors in the poll: 25 percent of GMs think he’ll win the MVP next year, 86.2 percent would rather sign him to start their franchise than any other player (only Durant and LeBron James were other players to receive votes), 82 percent think he’s the best power forward in the league, 6.9 percent think he’s the best center, 17.2 percent think he’s the best defensive player and, most astonishingly, 6.9 percent think he has the biggest chance of having a “breakout season.”
Think about that last one for a second. After posting the 11th-best PER of all time, two non-Pelicans NBA GMs think Davis is going to get a lot better next season. This shows the value team managers put on having a bright future. Davis is going to be the future of the league, and it’s hard to blame GMs for wishing their futures aligned with that of the Pelicans big man.
Another interesting trend we can look at is on the defensive side of the survey. One thing I noticed was the value GMs put on perimeter defense when asked about the league’s best defenders. Three of the top four defenders identified by GMs as the league’s best are primarily perimeter players. Those three, Kawhi Leonard, James and Tony Allen, received a combined 51.7 percent of the vote, while the rest of the votes were split between several big men (Davis, DeAndre Jordan, Tim Duncan, etc.), Draymond Green (who plays both perimeter and interior defense) and Andre Iguodala (another perimeter defender).
What’s also interesting is that while Davis took second in the vote for the best overall defender behind only Leonard, he fell significantly behind Marc Gasol (not in the top five of overall defenders) as the league’s best interior defender. This shows that a good portion of Davis’s value as a defender is his mobility on defense and his ability to help out further from the basket. It makes sense that GMs would value perimeter defense more given the continued offensive emphasis on ball movement and spacing.
More than anything, though, this survey has told me that while the future may belong to Davis, the league’s GMs recognize that this season still belongs to LeBron. He’s their favorite to win MVP, and the player they feel most forces teams to adjust on a nightly basis. The Cavaliers are their favorite to win the NBA Finals, as well as their near-unanimous choice to win the Eastern Conference. As much as they may believe in Davis’s future or love the San Antonio Spurs’ signings of LaMarcus Aldridge and David West, NBA GMs have made it pretty clear that they think LeBron and the Cavaliers are going to make a strong run at the Finals.