2020-21 Kia Season Preview

2020-21 Kia Season Preview

NBA.com 2020-21 GM Survey

The NBA's decision-makers tap the defending champion Lakers to repeat and Giannis to win a third straight Kia MVP.

John Schuhmann

John Schuhmann

GM Survey: Giannis Antetokounmpo & Luka Doncic are predicted to finish 1-2 in the Kia MVP balloting this season.

We don’t often see a defending champion reshape its roster as much as the Los Angeles Lakers did this offseason. They’ve secured long-term commitments from Anthony Davis and LeBron James, but the Lakers aren’t just running it back in pursuit of banner No. 18. And with their upgrades, they’re the clear favorites to win the 2020-21 NBA championship, according to the league’s decision makers.

In the 19th annual NBA.com GM Survey, 81% of responding general managers picked the Lakers to repeat. That is the third highest rate in the history of the survey, trailing only the Golden State Warriors in 2017-18 (93%) and 2018-19 (87%). Set to turn 36 at the end of December, James continues to earn the respect of GMs, named as the league’s best small forward (for the 14th time in the last 15 years), its best passer (for the fourth straight season), and its most versatile player. A handful of GMs also think he can win a fifth MVP award.

With the plurality of the votes, Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo is favored to become just the fourth player in NBA history to win the award three straight years. But that race appears wide open. And if they were starting a new franchise, as many GMs would pick 21-year-old Luka Doncic.

With the abbreviated offseason, we have a (somewhat) abbreviated GM Survey, along with one question about the unique challenges presented by the current environment. The GMs responded to 33 different questions about the best teams, players, coaches and offseason moves. General managers were not permitted to vote for their own team or personnel. Percentages are based on the pool of respondents to that particular question, rather than all 30 GMs.

Predictions | Players | Offseason Moves | Rookies & International | Coaches | Miscellaneous



A. PREDICTIONS

Which team will win the 2021 NBA Finals?
1. Los Angeles Lakers – 81%
2. LA Clippers – 11%
Also receiving votes: Brooklyn Nets, Miami Heat
Last year: LA Clippers – 46%

Rank the top four teams in the Eastern Conference:

2020-21 GM Survey, Eastern Conference Rankings
Team 1st 2nd 3rd 4th %Total
1. Milwaukee 64% 29% 4% 35%
2. Brooklyn 25% 32% 21% 4% 24%
3. Miami 7% 25% 46% 11% 21%
4. Boston 4% 7% 25% 30% 11%
5. Philadelphia 7% 7% 30% 6%
6. Toronto 19% 2%
7. Indiana 4% 0%

%Total = Percentage of total points (4 for 1st place vote, 3 for 2nd, 2 for 3rd, 1 for 4th)

> Last year: 76% picked Milwaukee to win the East. Order after the Bucks was Philadelphia, Boston, Brooklyn/Toronto, Indiana, Miami and Orlando.

Rank the top four teams in the Western Conference:

2020-21 GM Survey, Western Conference Rankings
Team 1st 2nd 3rd 4th %Total
1. L.A. Lakers 86% 11% 38%
2. LA Clippers 11% 61% 25% 28%
3. Denver 4% 21% 50% 7% 19%
4. Dallas 4% 11% 33% 6%
5. Portland 4% 4% 26% 4%
6. Utah 7% 22% 4%
7. Golden State 4% 7% 1%
8. Phoenix 4% 0%

%Total = Percentage of total points (4 for 1st place vote, 3 for 2nd, 2 for 3rd, 1 for 4th)

> Last year: 66% picked the Clippers to win the West. Order after the Clippers was Denver, the Lakers, Utah, Houston, Golden State, Portland and San Antonio.



B. PLAYERS

Who will win the 2020-21 Kia MVP?
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee – 32%
2. Luka Doncic, Dallas – 21%
3. Anthony Davis, L.A. Lakers – 18%
LeBron James, L.A. Lakers – 18%
5. Kevin Durant, Brooklyn – 7%
6. Nikola Jokic, Denver – 4%
> Last year: Giannis Antetokounmpo – 52%

If you were starting a franchise today and could sign any player in the NBA, who would it be?
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee – 43%
Luka Doncic, Dallas – 43%
3. Anthony Davis, L.A. Lakers – 7%
> Also receiving votes: LeBron James, L.A. Lakers; Zion Williamson, New Orleans
> Last year: Giannis Antetokounmpo – 86%

Which player forces opposing coaches to make the most adjustments?
1. James Harden, Houston – 32%
2. LeBron James, L.A. Lakers – 29%
3. Stephen Curry, Golden State – 11%
4. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee – 7%
Luka Doncic, Dallas – 7%
Nikola Jokic, Denver – 7%
> Also receiving votes: Anthony Davis, L.A. Lakers; Damian Lillard, Portland
> Last year: James Harden – 48%

Which player is most likely to have a breakout season in 2020-21?
1. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Oklahoma City – 15%
Michael Porter Jr., Denver – 15%
3. De’Aaron Fox, Sacramento – 12%
4. Devin Booker, Phoenix – 8%
Zion Williamson, New Orleans – 8%
> Also receiving votes: Deandre Ayton, Phoenix; Bol Bol, Denver; Mikal Bridges, Phoenix; Luka Doncic, Dallas; Kevin Durant, Brooklyn; Gordon Hayward, Charlotte; Tyler Herro, Miami; Lauri Markkanen, Chicago; Ja Morant, Memphis; Jamal Murray, Denver; Jayson Tatum, Boston
> Last year: De’Aaron Fox – 19%

Who is the best point guard in the NBA?
1. Stephen Curry, Golden State – 30%
2. Damian Lillard, Portland – 22%
3. Luka Doncic, Dallas – 19%
4. Chris Paul, Phoenix – 15%
5. LeBron James, L.A. Lakers – 11%
6. James Harden, Houston – 4%
> Last year: Stephen Curry – 90%

Who is the best shooting guard in the NBA?
1. James Harden, Houston – 68%
2. Bradley Beal, Washington – 11%
Luka Doncic, Dallas – 11%
4. Jimmy Butler, Miami – 7%
5. Devin Booker, Phoenix – 4%
> Last year: James Harden – 86%

Who is the best small forward in the NBA?
1. LeBron James, L.A. Lakers – 57%
2. Kawhi Leonard, LA Clippers – 25%
3. Kevin Durant, Brooklyn – 11%
> Also receiving votes: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee; Luka Doncic, Dallas
> Last year: Kawhi Leonard – 62%

Who is the best power forward in the NBA?
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee – 46%
2. LeBron James, L.A. Lakers – 25%
3. Anthony Davis, L.A. Lakers – 21%
4. Kevin Durant, Brooklyn – 7%
> Last year: Giannis Antetokounmpo – 59%

Who is the best center in the NBA?
1. Nikola Jokic, Denver – 50%
2. Anthony Davis, L.A. Lakers – 43%
3. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee – 7%
> Last year: Nikola Jokic – 48%

Who is the best defensive player in the NBA?
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee – 46%
2. Anthony Davis, L.A. Lakers – 21%
3. Kawhi Leonard, LA Clippers – 18%
4. Rudy Gobert, Utah – 7%
> Also receiving votes: Bam Adebayo, Miami; Jimmy Butler, Miami
> Last year: Kawhi Leonard – 45%

Who is the best international player in the NBA?
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee –68%
2. Luka Doncic, Dallas – 29%
3. Nikola Jokic, Denver – 4%
> Last year: Giannis Antetokounmpo – 79%



C. OFFSEASON MOVES


Which team made the best overall moves this offseason?
1. Los Angeles Lakers – 37%
2. Phoenix Suns – 22%
3. Oklahoma City Thunder – 15%
4. Atlanta Hawks – 7%
Milwaukee Bucks – 7%
Philadelphia 76ers – 7%
7. Portland Trail Blazers – 4%
> Last year: LA Clippers – 82%

Which one player acquisition will make the biggest impact?
1. Chris Paul, Phoenix – 44%
2. Jrue Holiday, Milwaukee – 33%
3. Serge Ibaka, LA Clippers – 7%
> Also receiving votes: Bogdan Bogdanovic, Atlanta; Kevin Durant, Brooklyn; Gordon Hayward, Charlotte; Russell Westbrook, Washington
> Last year: Kawhi Leonard – 67%

What was the most underrated player acquisition?
1. Serge Ibaka, LA Clippers – 15%
2. Steven Adams, New Orleans – 11%
Robert Covington, Portland – 11%
4. Seth Curry, Philadelphia – 6%
> Also receiving votes: Nicolas Batum, LA Clippers; Bogdan Bogdanovic, Atlanta; DeMarcus Cousins, Houston; Kris Dunn, Atlanta; Derrick Favors, Utah; Marc Gasol, L.A. Lakers; Montrezl Harrell, L.A. Lakers; Jrue Holiday, Milwaukee; Derrick Jones Jr., Portland; Luke Kennard, LA Clippers; Kelly Oubre Jr., Golden State; Josh Richardson, Dallas; Rajon Rondo, Atlanta; Dennis Schroder, L.A. Lakers; Tristan Thompson, Boston; John Wall, Houston
> Last year: Mike Conley – 36%

What was the most surprising move of the offseason?
1. Gordon Hayward to Charlotte – 54%
2. John Wall-Russell Westbrook trade – 18%
3. Jerami Grant to Detroit – 11%
4. Montrezl Harrell to the Lakers – 7%
Also receiving votes: Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka leaving Toronto; Jrue Holiday to Milwaukee; Chris Paul to Phoenix
Last year: Paul George to LA Clippers – 52%



D. ROOKIES & INTERNATIONAL

Who will win the 2020-21 Kia Rookie of the Year?
1. LaMelo Ball, Charlotte – 39%
2. James Wiseman, Golden State – 29%
3. Obi Toppin, New York – 18%
4. Anthony Edwards, Minnesota – 7%
> Also receiving votes: Deni Avdija, Washington; Isaac Okoro, Cleveland
> Last year: Zion Williamson – 68%

Which rookie will be the best player in five years?
1. James Wiseman, Golden State – 36%
2. LaMelo Ball, Charlotte – 25%
3. Anthony Edwards, Minnesota – 14%
4. Patrick Williams, Chicago – 11%
5. Isaac Okoro, Cleveland – 7%
> Also receiving votes: Onyeka Okongwu, Atlanta; Obi Toppin, New York
> Last year: Zion Williamson – 68%
> Five years ago: Karl-Anthony Towns – 62%

Which rookie was the biggest steal at where he was selected in the Draft?
1. Tyrese Haliburton (12), Sacramento – 43%
2. Saddiq Bey (19), Detroit – 11%
3. Kira Lewis Jr. (13), New Orleans – 7%
Tyrese Maxey (21), Philadelphia – 7%
Obi Toppin (8), New York – 7%
> Also receiving votes: Precious Achiuwa (20), Miami; Cole Anthony (15), Orlando; Vernon Carey Jr. (32), Charlotte; Theo Maledon (34), Oklahoma City; Skylar Mays (50), Atlanta; Jaden McDaniels (28), Minnesota; Devin Vassell (11), San Antonio
> Last year: Nickeil Alexander-Walker – 32%



E. COACHES


Who is the best head coach in the NBA?
1. Erik Spoelstra, Miami – 46%
2. Nick Nurse, Toronto – 18%
Gregg Popovich, San Antonio – 18%
4. Brad Stevens, Boston – 11%
> Also receiving votes: Rick Carlisle, Dallas; Steve Kerr, Golden State
> Last year: Gregg Popovich – 55%

Which head coach is the best manager/motivator of people?
1. Erik Spoelstra, Miami – 32%
2. Gregg Popovich, San Antonio – 21%
3. Steve Kerr, Golden State – 18%
4. Doc Rivers, Philadelphia – 11%
5. Michael Malone, Denver – 7%
> Also receiving votes: Billy Donovan, Chicago; Tom Thibodeau, New York; Frank Vogel, L.A. Lakers
> Last year: Gregg Popovich – 41%

Which head coach makes the best in-game adjustments?
1. Erik Spoelstra, Miami – 26%
2. Rick Carlisle, Dallas – 19%
3. Nick Nurse, Toronto – 15%
Brad Stevens, Boston – 15%
5. Gregg Popovich, San Antonio – 7%
> Also receiving votes: Mike Budenholzer, Milwaukee; Michael Malone, Denver; Quin Snyder, Utah; Stan Van Gundy, New Orleans; Frank Vogel, L.A. Lakers
> Last year: Rick Carlisle – 28%

Which new or relocated head coach will make the biggest impact on his new team?
1. Steve Nash, Brooklyn – 28%
2. Doc Rivers, Philadelphia – 24%
3. Tyronn Lue, LA Clippers – 16%
Stan Van Gundy, New Orleans – 16%
5. Billy Donovan, Chicago – 8%
Tom Thibodeau, New York – 8%
> Last year: Monty Williams – 43%

Who is the best assistant coach in the NBA?
1. Mike D’Antoni, Brooklyn – 18%
2. Chris Finch, Toronto – 14%
Darvin Ham, Milwaukee – 14%
4. Jason Kidd, L.A. Lakers – 7%
Charles Lee, Milwaukee – 7%
Wes Unseld Jr., Denver – 7%
> Also receiving votes: Kenny Atkinson, LA Clippers; Mike Brown, Golden State; Dan Burke, Philadelphia; Dan Craig, LA Clippers; Brian Keefe; Mike Longabardi, Washington; Jamahl Mosley, Dallas; David Vanterpool, Minnesota; Jacque Vaughn, Brooklyn
> Last year: Dan Burke, Chris Finch and David Vanterpool – 11%

Which active player will make the best head coach someday?
1. Chris Paul, Phoenix – 36%
2. Rajon Rondo, Atlanta – 29%
3. Udonis Haslem, Miami – 7%
Garrett Temple, Chicago – 7%
> Also receiving votes: Malcolm Brogdon, Indiana; Stephen Curry, Golden State; Jared Dudley, L.A. Lakers; Kyrie Irving, Brooklyn; T.J. McConnell, Indiana; Donovan Mitchell, Utah
> Last year: Mike Conley – 26%



F. MISCELLANEOUS

Which team has the most promising young core?
1. New Orleans Pelicans – 41%
2. Memphis Grizzlies – 22%
3. Atlanta Hawks – 11%
Boston Celtics – 11%
Denver Nuggets – 11%
6. Dallas Mavericks – 4%
> Last year: New Orleans – 28%

Which player is the best passer?
1. LeBron James, L.A. Lakers – 46%
2. Nikola Jokic, Denver – 25%
3. Luka Doncic, Dallas – 14%
Chris Paul, Phoenix – 14%
> Last year: LeBron James – 57%

Who is the toughest player in the NBA?
1. Steven Adams, New Orleans – 32%
2. P.J. Tucker, Houston – 25%
3. Jimmy Butler, Miami – 14%
Marcus Smart, Boston – 14%
> Also receiving votes: Draymond Green, Golden State; Montrezl Harrell, L.A. Lakers; LeBron James, L.A. Lakers; Kawhi Leonard, LA Clippers
> Last year: Steven Adams – 32%

Who is the most versatile player in the NBA?
1. LeBron James, L.A. Lakers – 61%
2. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee – 14%
3. Anthony Davis, L.A. Lakers – 7%
Kawhi Leonard, LA Clippers – 7%
> Also receiving votes: Luka Doncic, Dallas; Ben Simmons, Philadelphia; Jayson Tatum, Boston
> Last year: Giannis Antetokounmpo – 46%

Which player would you want taking a shot with the game on the line?
1. Damian Lillard, Portland – 32%
2. Stephen Curry, Golden State – 25%
3. Kevin Durant, Brooklyn – 18%
4. Luka Doncic, Dallas – 11%
5. Chris Paul, Phoenix – 7%
> Also receiving votes: Devin Booker, Phoenix; Jamal Murray, Denver
> Last year: Stephen Curry – 44%

What’s the biggest pandemic-related challenge facing your team this season?
1. Travel (protocols and safety on the road) – 21%
2. Staying healthy – 18%
3. Compliance and responsibility – 7%
Lack of fans – 7%
Lack of group interaction – 7%
Mental health – 7%
Unpredictability – 7%
> Also receiving votes: Impact on standings from games missed, Lack of continuity and practice time, Limits on personnel, Managing family, Quick transition from the offseason, Relocation, Soft tissue injuries

 

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John Schuhmann is a senior stats analyst for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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