Column: Breaking Down the GM Survey

Breaking Down the GM Survey

One of the most interesting days of the year is GM Survey Day—the day when we get to go on and read about how general managers across the league think this upcoming season will play out. You know, who will win the title, lead each division, take home the MVP. All that good stuff.

And there some that are even more entertaining, like which coaches run the best offense or have the best in-game adjustment skills. Which players have different degrees of talent. And the one know known as the Jason Kidd question: Which active player will make the best head coach someday?

So I browsed through this survey this week and I came up with a few points of emphasis that you should note—both here with the Wolves and around the league. Your Timberwolves did get some love in these surveys as individuals, but not so much as a team. Minnesota will try to use that as motivation this year as they try to crack into the top eight in the West.

Without further ado, here are a few observations I had about the survey broken into three categories: “NBA predictions,” “Timberwolves Love” and “The Good Stuff,” which are my personal favorites. Let’s roll….

NBA Predictions

Who will win the NBA Finals: Miami Heat – 75.9%

No surprise here. The Heat are the two-time defending champions and still have the best player on the planet teamed up with (when healthy) two other Top 20 players. The biggest concern with the Heat will be how do Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh hold up health-wise, and will they be able to fully account for losing Mike Miller’s 3-point presence off the bench. All of this can be covered up in the regular season by LeBron playing in “Hater’s gonna Hate, Slater’s gonna Slate” mode, where over the past calendar year he’s transcended all other active players into his own category of superiority. He’s won four of the last five MVPs for a reason. The GMs did also select San Antonio at 40.0% to win the West, so if this all holds up to be true, plan on seeing a rematch of last year’s Finals. One thing to note, though: The Pistons were a stone’s throw away from the Finals last year, and the Bulls were a fifth seed without Derrick Rose. Those two teams will not be easy to get through in May and June.

Who will win the Northwest Division: Oklahoma City Thunder-96.6%

Not a lot of debate on this one from GMs, either. And I’d suspect that the Thunder will once again get through this division on top—even though I’d argue that the parity between the Thunder, Nuggets, Wolves and Blazers is much more competitive than in years past. These teams could beat up on each other a little bit. Not to discredit the Jazz, but I think they’ll take a step back this year before they move forward. In this division, the biggest questions surround Russell Westbrook’s knee and OKC’s bench play. Will Westbrook be back at 100 percent this year? Probably, but we don’t know for sure when he’ll be back on the court just yet. And during this stretch of dominance the Thunder has either had James Harden or Kevin Martin providing a 2-guard punch off the bench. They don’t have that this year. How will this team’s bench perform? We know what to expect out of the starters.

Who will win MVP: LeBron James – 69.0%

No real surprise here. LeBron had 66.7 percent of the vote a year ago, and he’s up to nearly 70 percent now. That just shows where he’s at in his career. James also carried 89.7 percent of the “If you were starting a franchise today and could sign any player in the NBA, who would it be?” question. He carried 80 percent of the vote a year ago. LeBron had 66.7 percent of the vote on which player forces opposing coaches to make the most adjustments, too.

Who is the best power forward: Tim Duncan – 31.0%

I bring this one up for one because Kevin Love is in second at 27.0 percent. I also bring it up because Duncan was third on the “best center” list with 10.3 percent of the vote. I have lots of respect for Tim Duncan—one of the greatest power forwards of all time—but I’m very intrigued by how Love will bounce back this season after a lost 2012-13. I’m expecting big things from K-Love, and I’m excited to see how this vote might play out in May.

Most surprising offseason move: Nets-Celtics trade; Iggy to Golden State – 21.4%

I’ll buy this push. The Kevin Garnett/Paul Pierce/Jason Terry move to Brooklyn was an eye-opening move. Not only does it put a ton of All-Star appearances on the Brooklyn roster, but it also ends and era in Boston. And with Andre Iguodala going to Golden State, the darlings of last year’s Western Conference playoffs just got better. If they’re healthy, watch out.

Timberwolves Love

We already talked about Love being No. 2 on the power forward list, so let’s move on…

Best international player to break out in 2013-14: Ricky Rubio – second

Rubio took the No. 2 spot in this one with 17.9 percent of the vote, trailing only Toronto’s Jonas Valanciunas. Rubio, to Minnesotans, has been a sensation since he first came here in 2011 despite being derailed briefly by his ACL tear. Around the league, however, he still has some things to prove before he takes the next step. The biggest thing is improving his shooting percentage and limiting turnovers. I think if he does both of those things and stays healthy this year, he won’t be considered in this category next year.

Coach with the best offense: Rick Adelman – second

Adelman is praised for his offensive philosophy. His corner offense has changed a bit over time, but everywhere he’s gone he’s had success in large part because his teams can score. This year, he has more balanced personnel than in the past two seasons with Minnesota, so we’ll see how that translates into victories and possibly a playoff appearance. He trails Gregg Popovich in this category, who edged him in a 37.9 percent to 20.7 percent margin.

Best offensive rebounder: Kevin Love – first

Not a lot of shock here. Love is revered for being one of the best rebounders in the NBA, and that likely won’t change for some time. Opposing coaches have a hard time game-planning for Love and Nikola Pekovic under the glass, because they’re just so good at positioning themselves to grab the board. Love doesn’t play above the rim, but he certainly has the instincts and the positioning that are unmatched in the league right now. He’s got a very good chance to be a 25/13 guy again this year. We’ll see how it plays out.

The Good Stuff

Best home court advantage: Oklahoma City - 36.7%

I’ve been there. The best part of OKC’s in-arena entertainment (besides the Thunder Girls) is the way the crowd engages and sells out every night. They feed off the way the game operations crew uses the sound of rolling thunder in pregame. And on top of that, their talent-heavy team feeds off that energy. A true home court advantage.

Active player who would make the best head coach some day: Chauncey Billups

Mr. Big Shot has been around long enough to gain respect for his clutch shooting and his leadership ability. He’s now making his final couple loops around the NBA providing that veteran leadership at his stops with the Clippers over the last couple seasons and, this year, his reunion in Detroit. Chris Paul and Shane Battier round out the top 3.

Player who is the best passer: Chris Paul – 46.7%

Ricky Rubio tied with Rajon Rondo for No. 2 on the list with 16.7 percent.

Player who makes the most out of limited natural ability: Kevin Love – 24.1%

Really? I know he’s not a high-flyer, but Love is a big man who can rebound, hit free throws and connect from the 3-point line. Last time I checked, it takes ability to hit from 3. He won this particular area last year with 34.5 percent of the vote. Also on this list is J.J. Barea coming in fifth at 6.9 percent.

Player you’d want taking a shot with the game on the line: Kevin Durant – 39.3%

Durant won this one again this year (he won with 46.7 percent in 2012-13), edging out Kobe (32.1%) and Melo/LeBron (7.1%). I’d take any of those four, but Durant’s length and ability to hit the outside shot from pretty much anywhere on the court gives him the edge. He’s so very talented across the board, and he’ll likely be at or around the top of this list for several years to come.

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