NBA general managers predict the Lakers will three-peat and that Kevin Durant will take league MVP over Kobe Bryant
This news may be met in this corner of the blogosphere with a collective "tell me something I didn't know" attitude, but I'll tell you anyway: According to a preseason survey, the majority of NBA general managers predict that the Lakers will three-peat.
Granted, the fine print makes it clear that not all 30 general managers voted. The percentages are based on a pool of respondents to each question. But it's not as if the results come from Mitch Kupchak voting repeatedly, like Yao Ming's fan base relentlessly votes for him to be in the All-Star game. General managers were not permitted to vote for their own team or personnel.
There are plenty of the GMs that like Miami's chances (33.3% say the Heat will win the title), and there are serious doubts about Boston's chances to offset their 2010 NBA Finals loss (3.7% say they believe the Celtics will return to the Finals and win).
Among the other findings (below the jump):
--This nugget won't sit well with Lakers fans, but it's actually something I also predicted would happen: Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant is favored to win the league MVP over Kobe Bryant. Although I'm sure Bryant will use this as motivation, I don't think his abilities have anything to do with why he won't win the honor.
In 2009-10, he lost to LeBron James for the NBA's top honor after going through an injury-riddled season. Obviously, Bryant still has a rehab process to go through with his knee, but I don't see injuries negatively affecting his game, as they did last year.
No, Durant will get the MVP for other reasons: Bryant won't need to carry a heavy load. He has tremendous talent around him, and I presume he and other starters will get more rest this season because the Lakers upgraded their bench. Also, even the most passionate Lakers fan respects how Durant dominated the show during the 2010 FIBA World Championships. Last season, he became the youngest player ever to lead the league in scoring. His Team USA experience will certainly bolster his upside.
--While we're on the topic of Durant and Bryant, it's interesting to see how the GMs hold a big-picture view on both players. When asked which player they would choose to start a franchise, 55.6% selected Durant and only 7.4% selected Bryant. But 35.7% say Bryant causes opposing coaches to make the most adjustments, while only 10.7% say Durant does that. This survey recognizes a clear reality: Bryant is on the tail end of his career, while Durant is at the beginning of his. But at this moment in time, the GMs still recognize and appreciate Bryant's skill set. Case in point, 85.7% tabbed him as the league's best shooting guard (89.7% voted him as such last year), while Dwyane Wade (10.7%) and Durant (3.6%) were way behind. Additionally, league GMS tabbed Bryant as the best player at getting his own shot (70.4%) and the player you'd want to attempt the game-winner.
--The contention from Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban that his team has the depth and talent to beat the Lakers was met with a collective eye-roll. Only 3.6% say Dallas will win the Western Conference, while 96.4% say the Lakers will take that honor. Consider that in last season's survey 75.6% of voters predicted that the Lakers would win the West, meaning that being a two-time defending champion really does make you more dangerous and that the Lakers made some good moves this offseason. Nonetheless, it should be fun to watch the Lakers and Mavericks match up, particularly because Pau Gasol and Dirk Nowitzki are tied for first when the GMs were asked who is the league's best power forward, with each of them getting 28.6% of the vote.
--Don't call the Lakers "soft." OK, so that label has been overblown for quite some time now. But it's safe to describe the Lakers as "tough." Bryant and Ron Artest garnered plenty of pre-season defensive accolades. They were tied for second as the league's best defensive player (7.4%). Bryant (35.7%) and Artest (21.4%) finished first and second, respectively, as the NBA's top perimeter players. And Bryant (17.9%) and Artest (14.3%) were considered second and third, respectively, for best on-ball defenders. Add all those ingredients up and you have the Lakers as the second best defensive team (10.7%), trailing only the Boston Celtics (75%).
----Very few doubt Jackson's coaching credentials. But there always seems to be a contention that Jackson won 11 titles mostly because he had good players. The league's general managers rightfully don't think that way, though.
Jackson was considered the NBA's best coach (39.4%) and best at managing players and motivating them (46.4%). Jackson doesn't give himself much credit for in-game adjustments and drawing up plays, but the results from the league survey gives him kudos for those areas as well. He was voted third behind San Antonio's Gregg Poppovich and Charlotte's Larry Brown both for in-game adjustments (10.7%) and in managing the last two minutes of a game (17.9%). Clearly, Jackson's decision to stay for at least another year bolsters the Lakers' chance of three-peating, as league general managers tabbed Jackson second for boasting the best run offense (17.9%).
--NBA GMs see what Laker fans see in Derek Fisher: He will become a coach someday. Fisher earned the top spot (29.6%) as the active player that will make the best head coach someday
-- Mark Medina
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Photo: Ron Artest and Kobe Bryant react to the crowd along the route of the Lakers victory parade. Credit: Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times
Lakers guard Kobe Bryant is swarmed by reporters during media day at the Toyota Sports. Credit: Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times
Photo: Lakers Coach Phil Jackson is unhappy that the Lakers couldn't hold camp solely at their training facility in El Segundo. Credit: Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times>