Posted Apr 12 2011 9:12AM
It isn't easy being a general manager in the NBA. You must draft the right player, trade for the right player, hire the right coach and, especially, ace the NBA.com preseason GM survey. You know, to prove you know what you're doing.
Meanwhile, you're being second-guessed by millions of fans because it's not their jobs or reputations on the line. Plus, they have the power of hindsight. This all brings us back to the survey.
We never disclose who voted which way, just how the group voted collectively. That's for the protection of the individuals. So without further hesitation, we revisit a handful of the questions we posed last fall, and how the GMs voted, and compare their answer to reality, eight months later:
Eastern Conference winner: Miami (70 percent of the vote) -- The GMs were smitten by Miami's offseason -- just like a number of folks. But apparently the regular-season dynasty will have to wait. The Heat lost any chance at a conference title when they tripped over themselves in starting the season 8-7 and also when they lost five straight in early March, causing folks in the basketball world to lose their minds in the process. The Heat never really had Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller on the floor at the same time, which didn't help. Still, give credit to the Bulls, who did clinch the East. From an injury standpoint (losing Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah at times), Chicago overcame more than Miami.
Western Conference winner: Lakers (63 percent) -- The Spurs put this contest away early, going 13-1 and then 25-3 to sprint past the pack. The Spurs avoided injury and successfully navigated the Tony Parker-Eva Longoria TMZ turbulence to keep their season mostly stress-free. Even better, the smooth run allowed Tim Duncan to hibernate; nobody does auto-pilot like he does. He's rested and ready for the postseason. So winning the West served two purposes, then. The bad news: Only once, in the strike-shortened 1998-99 season, did the Spurs win the West outright and also the NBA title. The Lakers blew a shot at the conference title with a sloppy finish, but that's not the title they're chasing.
MVP: Kevin Durant (66.7 percent) -- Derrick Rose, a strong candidate, didn't get a single preseason vote. That tells you he caught even the talent experts by surprise. It happens; Back in 2004-05, Steve Nash went from very good to great and won his first of back-to-back MVPs. Durant was the popular preseason candidate mostly because of the momentum he carried into the season. The way he and the Thunder made the Lakers sweat in the 2010 playoffs was still fresh on the minds of the voters. Also, he did set a blistering scoring pace for himself the last three seasons -- therefore, much was expected. Circumstances ultimately hurt Durant and helped Rose. Durant was "punished" for having All-Star Russell Westbrook as a teammate, while Rose was "rewarded" when Boozer and Noah were hurt.
Breakout season: Blake Griffin and Russell Westbrook (14.8 percent) -- No love for Kevin Love, who didn't get any votes, and yet will win the rebounding title in a surprise. The other preseason favorites turned out fine, just not very consistent: the Pacers' Darren Collison and the Wizards' JaVale McGee.
Best point guard: Deron Williams (50 percent) -- Once again, Rose didn't fetch any confidence from the GMs in what admittedly is a tough category to score. There are at least a half-dozen solid point guards in circulation right now (with Chris Paul foremost among them). While on the subject of point guards, chew on this: Jason Kidd has averaged at least 8.0 apg in 17 of his 18 seasons.
Rookie of the year: John Wall (67.9 percent) -- Once Blake Griffin became a fixture on YouTube, this contest was over. The sad truth, however, is neither player was good enough to lead his team anywhere. What Griffin and Wall need is to be joined by next season's Rookie of the Year winner, a tougher task for Griffin, since the Cavs own the Clippers' lottery pick from the Baron Davis trade.
Rookie sleeper: Luke Harangody and Patrick Patterson (11 percent) -- Buried in Boston, then traded to the Cavs, Harangody never really made his sneakers squeak. Patterson, at least, has become a role-playing reserve in Houston. Knicks rookie Landry Fields was completely snubbed by GMs, which makes sense given that they let him slip to the No. 39 overall pick.
Best defensive team: Celtics (75 percent) -- It'll be the Celtics by a nose hair over the Bulls, curiously coached by Tom Thibodeau, who helped Doc Rivers get the Celtics' defense on track.
Underrated off-season addition: Al Jefferson (21.4 percent) -- Not so sure Jefferson was under the radar, but whatever. No mention of Tyson Chandler, who has done wonders for Dallas' defense after arriving from Charlotte, or Kyle Korver, part of a solid Bulls' bench.
Most improved team: Heat (39.3 percent) -- Well, we sort of saw this coming, but in terms of unexpected improvement, Miami has nothing on the Sixers, who have already upped their win total by 14 from 2009-10. The Heat, thus far, have only improved by 10 wins.
Most surprising offseason move: LeBron James signing with the Heat (67.3 percent) -- The real surprise was Wesley Matthews' contract with Blazers placed second. Apparently, the only GM who thought the Blazers were getting a good deal was Rich Cho.
Best head coach: Phil Jackson (39.3 percent) -- You'll get a kick out of this: the runner-ups were Jerry Sloan and Larry Brown, both gone before the All-Star break.
Which coach runs the best offense: Jerry Sloan (35.7 percent) -- Deron Williams didn't get to vote.
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DeMarcus Cousins gets the feed on the block, pivots, and knocks down the turnaround jumper.
|Williams Gets Crafty|
Derrick Williams goes up and under to convert the reverse layup and draws the foul.
Aaron Brooks runs the play driving and dumping it off to Joakim Noah who flushes home the two-hander in traffic.
|Cousins Blocks Noah|
Joakim Noah sizes up DeMarcus Cousins then drives in, but is rejected with authority.
|Clippers Get Season-High 31 Assists|
The Clippers kept the ball in motion resulting in Los Angeles notching a season-high 31 assists.