2021-22 Kia Season Preview

NBA.com 2021-22 GM Survey

The NBA's decision-makers tab the deep and talented Nets to win the title and Kevin Durant to win his second career Kia MVP.

John Schuhmann

John Schuhmann

Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and the Nets are who NBA GMs have tabbed as the title-favorites in 2021-22.

It’s not often that the defending NBA champions, still mostly intact, aren’t the favorite to win their own conference. But such is the case with the Milwaukee Bucks, who won their first title in 50 years behind a superstar — Giannis Antetokounmpo — who’s still just 26 years old.

When it comes to predicting the 2021-22 season, there’s just no denying the talent on the Brooklyn Nets. In the 20th annual NBA.com GM Survey, both Kevin Durant and James Harden were named the best players at their position, and 72% of responding decision makers picked the Nets to win their first NBA championship.

Decision makers liked the summer moves made by the Miami Heat, with more than three quarters of them calling the Kyle Lowry addition the most impactful transaction of the offseason. But, along with the Heat, 12 other teams received at least one vote to be “most improved.”

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The Dallas Mavericks’ Luka Doncic edged out Antetokounmpo as the player GMs would most like to build a new franchise around. But at the age of 36 and having lost in the first round of the playoffs for the first time in his career, LeBron James still has the respect of GMs. He was named both the league’s most versatile player and the player with the best basketball IQ, also tying Denver’s Nikola Jokic for the most votes for best passer.

The GMs responded to 48 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

NBA GMs see the Nets and Lakers squaring off in the 2022 Finals.

Which team will win the 2022 NBA Finals?

1. Brooklyn Nets — 72%
2. Los Angeles Lakers – 17%
3. Milwaukee Bucks – 10%
> Last year: L.A. Lakers – 81%

2021-22 GM Survey, Eastern Conference rankings

Team 1st 2nd 3rd 4th %Total
1. Brooklyn 83% 13% 37%
2. Milwaukee 17% 80% 31%
3. Miami 7% 50% 31% 15%
4. Philadelphia 33% 24% 9%
5. Atlanta 10% 21% 4%
6. Boston 7% 21% 3%
7. Indiana 3% 0%

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

> Last year: 64% picked Milwaukee to win the East. Order after the Bucks was Brooklyn, Miami, Boston, Philadelphia, Toronto and Indiana.

2021-22 GM Survey, Western Conference rankings

Team 1st 2nd 3rd 4th %Total
1. L.A. Lakers 80% 7% 4% 34%
2. Utah 13% 53% 20% 11% 26%
3. Phoenix 7% 23% 37% 14% 19%
4. Denver 3% 37% 25% 11%
5. Golden State 7% 3% 18% 4%
6. LA Clippers 7% 3% 3%
7. Dallas 21% 2%
8. Portland 7% 1%

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

> Last year: 86% picked the Lakers to win the West. Order after the Lakers was Clippers, Denver, Dallas, Portland, Utah, Golden State and Phoenix.


PLAYERS

To NBA GMs, Luka Doncic and Stephen Curry are among the best guards in the league.

Who will win the 2021-22 Kia MVP?

1. Kevin Durant, Brooklyn – 37%
2. Luka Doncic, Dallas – 33%
3. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee – 13%
4. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia – 7%
James Harden, Brooklyn – 7%
6. Stephen Curry, Golden State – 3%
> Last year: Giannis Antetokounmpo – 32%

If you were starting a franchise today and could sign any player in the NBA, who would it be?

1. Luka Doncic, Dallas – 43%
2. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee – 40%
> Also receiving votes: Anthony Davis, L.A. Lakers; Kevin Durant, Brooklyn; LeBron James, L.A. Lakers; Nikola Jokic, Denver; Zion Williamson, New Orleans
> Last year: Giannis Antetokounmpo and Luka Doncic – 43%

Which player forces opposing coaches to make the most adjustments?

1. Stephen Curry, Golden State – 27%
2. Kevin Durant, Brooklyn – 20%
3. LeBron James, L.A. Lakers – 17%
4. James Harden, Brooklyn – 13%
5. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee – 10%
6. Nikola Jokic, Denver – 7%
> Also receiving votes: Luka Doncic, Dallas; Joel Embiid, Philadelphia
> Last year: James Harden – 32%

Which player is most likely to have a breakout season in 2021-22?

1. Jaren Jackson Jr., Memphis – 17%
2. Anthony Edwards, Minnesota – 13%
3. Michael Porter Jr., Denver – 10%
4. Darius Garland, Cleveland – 7%
Keldon Johnson, San Antonio – 7%
Ja Morant, Memphis – 7%
Kevin Porter Jr., Houston – 7%
> Also receiving votes: Deandre Ayton, Phoenix; LaMelo Ball, Charlotte; Lonzo Ball, Chicago; Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Oklahoma City; De’Andre Hunter, Atlanta; Caris LeVert, Indiana; Terance Mann, LA Clippers; Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota; Devin Vassell, San Antonio; Zion Williamson, New Orleans
> Last year: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Michael Porter Jr. – 15%

Who is the best point guard in the NBA?

1. Stephen Curry, Golden State – 57%
2. Damian Lillard, Portland – 17%
3. Luka Doncic, Dallas – 13%
4. LeBron James, L.A. Lakers – 7%
Chris Paul, Phoenix – 7%
> Last year: Stephen Curry – 30%

Who is the best shooting guard in the NBA?

1. James Harden, Brooklyn – 63%
2. Devin Booker, Phoenix – 17%
3. Luka Doncic, Dallas – 10%
> Also receiving votes: Bradley Beal, Washington; Stephen Curry, Golden State; Kevin Durant, Brooklyn
> Last year: James Harden – 68%

Who is the best small forward in the NBA?

1. Kevin Durant, Brooklyn – 67%
2. LeBron James, L.A. Lakers – 17%
3. Kawhi Leonard, LA Clippers – 7%
> Also receiving votes: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee; Luka Doncic, Dallas; Khris Middleton, Milwaukee
> Last year: LeBron James – 57%

Who is the best power forward in the NBA?

1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee – 63%
2. LeBron James, L.A. Lakers – 27%
3. Kevin Durant, Brooklyn – 10%
> Last year: Giannis Antetokounmpo – 46%

Who is the best center in the NBA?

1. Nikola Jokic, Denver – 63%
2. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia – 23%
3. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee – 7%
Anthony Davis, L.A. Lakers – 7%
> Last year: Nikola Jokic – 50%


OFFSEASON MOVES

The Heat garnered attention from the NBA GM ranks with their offseason moves.

Which team made the best overall moves this offseason?

1. Miami Heat – 47%
2. Los Angeles Lakers – 17%
3. Brooklyn Nets – 7%
Houston Rockets – 7%
Washington Wizards – 7%
> Also receiving votes: Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks, Oklahoma City Thunder, Phoenix Suns, Portland Trail Blazers
> Last year: L.A. Lakers – 37%

Which one player acquisition will make the biggest impact?

1. Kyle Lowry, Miami – 77%
2. Russell Westbrook, L.A. Lakers – 17%
> Also receiving votes: Spencer Dinwiddie, Washington; Jonas Valanciunas, New Orleans
> Last year: Chris Paul – 44%

What was the most underrated player acquisition?

1. Larry Nance Jr., Portland – 28%
2. Patty Mills, Brooklyn – 17%
3. Spencer Dinwiddie, Washington – 14%
4. Lonzo Ball, Chicago – 10%
5. Kemba Walker, New York – 7%
> Also receiving votes: Alex Caruso, Chicago; DeMar DeRozan, Chicago; Andre Drummond, Philadelphia; Devonte’ Graham, New Orleans; Jeff Green, Denver; Dennis Schroder, Boston; Jonas Valanciunas, New Orleans
> Last year: Serge Ibaka – 15%

Which team will be most improved in 2021-22?

1. Chicago Bulls – 27%
2. Golden State Warriors – 13%
Los Angeles Lakers – 13%
3. Charlotte Hornets – 10%
4. New Orleans Pelicans – 7%
Toronto Raptors – 7%
> Also receiving votes: Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets, Memphis Grizzlies, Miami Heat, Minnesota Timberwolves, Sacramento Kings, Washington Wizards
> Last year: N/A

What was the most surprising move of the offseason?

1. Russell Westbrook to the Lakers – 50%
2. DeMar DeRozan to Chicago – 22%
3. Lonzo Ball to Chicago – 5%
> Also receiving votes: Danny Ainge stepping down in Boston; Zach Collins to San Antonio; Devonte’ Graham to New Orleans; Mason Plumlee to Charlotte; Ben Simmons not reporting to training camp; P.J. Tucker to Miami; Kemba Walker buyout
> Last year: Gordon Hayward to Charlotte – 54%


ROOKIES & INTERNATIONAL

Houston’s Jalen Green is among the favorites for Kia Rookie of the Year, per NBA GMs.

Who will win the 2021-22 Rookie of the Year?

1. Jalen Green, Houston – 47%
2. Cade Cunningham, Detroit – 40%
3. Jalen Suggs, Orlando – 7%
> Also receiving votes: Davion Mitchell, Sacramento; Alperen Sengun, Houston
> Last year: LaMelo Ball – 39%

Which rookie will be the best player in five years?

1. Evan Mobley, Cleveland – 33%
2. Cade Cunningham, Detroit – 30%
3. Jalen Green, Houston – 23%
4. Jalen Suggs, Orlando – 10%
5. Davion Mitchell, Sacramento – 3%
> Last year: James Wiseman – 36%
> Five years ago: Ben Simmons – 70%

Which rookie was the biggest steal at where he was selected in the Draft?

1. Jalen Suggs (5), Orlando – 23%
2. Alperen Sengun (16), Houston – 20%
3. James Bouknight (11), Charlotte – 7%
Jalen Johnson (20), Atlanta – 7%
Trey Murphy III (17), New Orleans – 7%
> Also receiving votes: Scottie Barnes (4), Toronto; Brandon Boston Jr. (51), LA Clippers; Jared Butler (40), Utah; Chris Duarte (13), Indiana; Luka Garza (52), Detroit; Isaiah Jackson (22), Indiana; Keon Johnson (21), LA Clippers; Kai Jones (19), Charlotte; Miles McBride (36), New York; Davion Mitchell (9), Sacramento; Cam Thomas (27), Brooklyn
> Last year: Tyrese Haliburton – 43%

Who is the best international player in the NBA?

1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee – 60%
2. Luka Doncic, Dallas – 27%
3. Nikola Jokic, Denver – 13%
> Last year: Giannis Antetokounmpo – 68%

Who is the best international player NOT in the NBA?

1. Nikola Mirotic – 53%
2. Vasilije Micic – 23%
3. Victor Wembanyama – 13%
> Also receiving votes: Marc Gasol; Mike James; Nikola Jovic
> Last year: N/A


DEFENSE

Rudy Gobert (left) and Giannis Antetokounmpo are among the top defenders, per NBA GMs.

Who is the best defensive player in the NBA?

1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee – 47%
2. Rudy Gobert, Utah – 17%
3. Jrue Holiday, Milwaukee – 10%
Kawhi Leonard, LA Clippers – 10%
4. Ben Simmons, Philadelphia – 7%
> Also receiving votes: Jimmy Butler, Miami; Anthony Davis, L.A. Lakers; Draymond Green, Golden State
> Last year: Giannis Antetokounmpo – 46%

Who is the best perimeter defender in the NBA?

1. Jrue Holiday, Milwaukee – 50%
2. Ben Simmons, Philadelphia – 17%
3. Jimmy Butler, Miami – 10%
Kawhi Leonard, LA Clippers – 10%
5. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee – 7%
> Also receiving votes: Patrick Beverley, Minnesota; Marcus Smart, Boston
> Last year: N/A

Who is the best interior defender in the NBA?

1. Rudy Gobert, Utah – 77%
2. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee – 13%
3. Anthony Davis, L.A. Lakers – 10%
> Last year: N/A

Who is the most versatile defender in the NBA?

1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee – 40%
2. Ben Simmons, Philadelphia – 27%
3. LeBron James, L.A. Lakers – 10%
4. Draymond Green, Golden State – 7%
Kawhi Leonard, LA Clippers – 7%
> Also receiving votes: Bam Adebayo, Miami; Jimmy Butler, Miami; Paul George, LA Clippers
> Last year: N/A

Which is the best defensive team in the NBA?

1. Milwaukee Bucks – 40%
2. Utah Jazz – 33%
3. Los Angeles Lakers – 10%
4. Miami Heat – 7%
> Also receiving votes: New York Knicks, Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns
> Last year: N/A


COACHES

NBA GMs doled out plenty of accolades to longtime Heat coach Erik Spoelstra.

Who is the best head coach in the NBA?

1. Erik Spoelstra, Miami – 55%
2. Monty Williams, Phoenix – 17%
3. Quin Snyder, Utah – 14%
4. Gregg Popovich, San Antonio – 10%
5. Mike Budenholzer, Milwaukee – 3%
> Last year: Erik Spoelstra – 46%

Which head coach is the best manager/motivator of people?

1. Monty Williams, Phoenix – 50%
2. Steve Kerr, Golden State – 10%
Tyronn Lue, LA Clippers – 10%
Gregg Popovich, San Antonio – 10%
Erik Spoelstra, Miami – 10%
> Also receiving votes: Nate McMillan, Atlanta; Steve Nash, Brooklyn; Doc Rivers, Philadelphia
> Last year: Erik Spoelstra – 32%

Which head coach makes the best in-game adjustments?

1. Tyronn Lue, LA Clippers – 37%
2. Rick Carlisle, Indiana – 27%
3. Erik Spoelstra, Miami – 10%
4. Nick Nurse, Toronto – 7%
Quin Snyder, Utah – 7%
> Also receiving votes: Mike Budenholzer, Milwaukee; Doc Rivers, Philadelphia; Tom Thibodeau, New York; Frank Vogel, L.A. Lakers
> Last year: Erik Spoelstra – 26%

Which head coach runs the best offense?

1. Quin Snyder, Utah – 27%
2. Steve Kerr, Golden State – 23%
3. Mike Budenholzer, Milwaukee – 17%
4. Steve Nash, Brooklyn – 10%
5. Erik Spoelstra, Miami – 7%
Monty Williams, Phoenix – 7%
> Also receiving votes: Rick Carlisle, Indiana; Chris Finch, Minnesota; Michael Malone, Denver
> Last year: N/A

Which head coach has the best defensive schemes?

1. Tom Thibodeau, New York – 37%
2. Mike Budenholzer, Milwaukee – 17%
3. Quin Snyder, Utah – 13%
4. Frank Vogel, L.A. Lakers – 10%
5. Nick Nurse, Toronto – 7%
Erik Spoelstra, Miami – 7%
> Also receiving votes: Tyronn Lue, LA Clippers; Doc Rivers, Philadelphia; Monty Williams, Phoenix
> Last year: N/A

Which new or relocated head coach will make the biggest impact on his new team?

1. Rick Carlisle, Indiana – 64%
2. Ime Udoka, Boston – 14%
3. Jason Kidd, Dallas – 11%
> Also receiving votes: Chauncey Billups, Portland; Jamahl Mosley, Orlando; Wes Unseld Jr., Washington
> Last year: Steve Nash – 28%

Who is the best assistant coach in the NBA?

1. Kenny Atkinson, Golden State – 17%
Darvin Ham, Milwaukee – 17%
3. Scott Brooks, Portland – 10%
David Vanterpool, Brooklyn – 10%
5. Nate Tibbets, Orlando – 7%
> Also receiving votes: Mark Bryant, Phoenix; Sam Cassell, Philadelphia; Mike D’Antoni, New Orleans; Alex Jenson, Utah; Jay Larranaga, LA Clippers; Charles Lee, Milwaukee; Mike Longabardi, Sacramento; John Lucas, Houston; Lloyd Pierce, Indiana; Damon Stoudamire, Boston; Jacque Vaughn, Brooklyn
> Last year: Mike D’Antoni – 18%

Which active player will make the best head coach someday?

1. Chris Paul, Phoenix – 34%
2. Rajon Rondo, L.A. Lakers – 14%
3. T.J. McConnell, Indiana – 10%
4. Mike Conley Utah – 7%
Udonis Haslem, Miami – 7%
Garrett Temple, New Orleans – 7%
> Also receiving votes: Harrison Barnes, Sacramento; Malcolm Brogdon, Indiana; Draymond Green, Golden State; Joe Ingles, Utah; LeBron James, L.A. Lakers; Patty Mills, Brooklyn
> Last year: Chris Paul – 36%


MISCELLANEOUS

Atlanta’s youth and talent have made it one of the teams to watch in 2021-22.

Which team is the most fun to watch?

1. Brooklyn Nets – 30%
2. Golden State Warriors – 17%
3. Atlanta Hawks – 10%
Charlotte Hornets – 10%
5. Dallas Mavericks – 7%
Denver Nuggets – 7%
Los Angeles Lakers – 7%
Phoenix Suns – 7%
> Also receiving votes: Memphis Grizzlies, Utah Jazz
> Last year: N/A

Which team has the best home-court advantage?

1. Utah Jazz – 47%
2. Denver Nuggets – 20%
3. New York Knicks – 10%
4. Portland Trail Blazers – 7%
> Also receiving votes: Golden State Warriors, Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns
> Last year: N/A

Which team has the most promising young core?

1. Atlanta Hawks – 50%
2. Houston Rockets – 10%
3. Boston Celtics – 7%
Memphis Grizzlies – 7%
New Orleans Pelicans – 7%
Phoenix Suns – 7%
> Also receiving votes: Charlotte Hornets, Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons, Minnesota Timberwolves
> Last year: New Orleans – 41%

Which player is the most athletic?

1. Zion Williamson, New Orleans – 27%
2. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee – 20%
3. Anthony Edwards, Minnesota – 17%
4. Zach LaVine, Chicago – 13%
5. Ja Morant, Memphis – 10%
> Also receiving votes: Hamidou Diallo, Detroit; LeBron James, L.A. Lakers; Derrick Jones Jr., Chicago; Ben Simmons, Philadelphia
> Last year: N/A

Which player is the best pure shooter?

1. Stephen Curry, Golden State – 90%
> Also receiving votes: Seth Curry, Philadelphia; Kevin Durant, Brooklyn; Duncan Robinson, Miami
> Last year: N/A

Which player is the fastest with the ball?

1. De’Aaron Fox, Sacramento – 59%
2. Ja Morant, Memphis – 24%
3. Russell Westbrook, L.A. Lakers – 14%
4. Ish Smith, Charlotte – 3%
> Last year: N/A

Which player is the best at moving without the ball?

1. Stephen Curry, Golden State – 50%
2. Duncan Robinson, Miami – 20%
3. Klay Thompson, Golden State – 17%
> Also receiving votes: Devin Booker, Phoenix; Mikal Bridges, Phoenix; Seth Curry, Philadelphia; Doug McDermott, San Antonio
> Last year: N/A

Which player is the best passer?

1. LeBron James, L.A. Lakers – 33%
Nikola Jokic, Denver – 33%
3. Chris Paul, Phoenix – 10%
4. Luka Doncic, Dallas – 7%
> Also receiving votes: LaMelo Ball, Charlotte; Facundo Campazzo, Denver; James Harden, Brooklyn; Russell Westbrook, L.A. Lakers; Trae Young, Atlanta
> Last year: LeBron James – 46%

Which player is the best leader?

1. Chris Paul, Phoenix – 43%
2. LeBron James, L.A. Lakers – 20%
3. Damian Lillard, Portland – 17%
4. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee – 10%
> Also receiving votes: Jimmy Butler, Miami; Stephen Curry, Golden State; Nikola Jokic, Denver
> Last year: N/A

Who is the most versatile player in the NBA?

1. LeBron James, L.A. Lakers – 57%
2. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee – 17%
3. Kevin Durant, Brooklyn – 13%
4. Luka Doncic, Dallas – 7%
Kawhi Leonard, LA Clippers – 7%
> Last year: LeBron James – 61%

Which player has the best basketball IQ?

1. LeBron James, L.A. Lakers – 53%
2. Chris Paul, Phoenix – 30%
3. Luka Doncic, Dallas – 10%
4. Nikola Jokic, Denver – 7%
> Last year: N/A%

Which player would you want taking a shot with the game on the line?

1. Kevin Durant, Brooklyn – 41%
2. Stephen Curry, Golden State – 24%
3. Damian Lillard, Portland – 17%
4. Luka Doncic, Dallas – 7%
Nikola Jokic, Denver – 7%
6. Kyrie Irving, Brooklyn – 3%
> Last year: Damian Lillard – 32%

What rule (regarding play, schedule, Draft/Lottery, playoff format, etc.) most needs to change?

1. Take/transition fouls – 13%
2. Additional coach’s challenge/keep it when successful – 10%
Free agency before Draft – 10%
Schedule – 10%
Seed playoffs 1-16 – 10%
6. Elam ending – 7%
> Also receiving votes: Agent and executive barrier needs to be tighter; Allow more bench celebration; Corner 3s same distance as above-break; Draft tiebreaker opposite of playoff tiebreaker; Encourage diversity of play; In-season tournament; Lottery odds; Mandatory Draft medical information; Non-basketball moves; One free throw attempt for shooting foul; Player trade demands; Review time
> Last year: N/A%


Previous GM Surveys: 2020-21 | 2019-202018-19 | 2017-18 | 2016-17

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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.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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