NBA.com has released it’s annual GM Survey for the 2021-22 season and there was a handful of surprising results, as there is every year.
All 30 general managers in the NBA answers a number of questions, ranging from predictions for the upcoming season to long-term predictions about players to assessing moves made by each team in the offseason.
The results are revealed anonymously, always creating a conversation in the days leading up to the new NBA season.
You can find the results of the survey here, with a breakdown of notable selections below.
Brooklyn Nets reign supreme
GMs voted that the Brooklyn Nets will win the NBA Finals over the Los Angeles Lakers, with the Nets receiving 72% of the votes to take home the title. The reigning champion Milwaukee Bucks – who return the majority of their rotation from a season ago – only received 10% of votes to win the championship.
As a result of being dubbed the best team in the league, GMs voted that Kevin Durant will win his second NBA MVP this season, earning 37% of votes. Others that received MVP consideration include Luka Doncic (33%), Giannis Antetokounmpo (13%), Joel Embiid (7%), James Harden (7%) and Stephen Curry (3%). LeBron James — already fueled by a offseason slight — did not receive a single MVP vote.
MORE: Five burning questions for Kevin Durant
Luka Doncic over Giannis Antetokounmpo for best player to build around
This section of the GM survey belonged to LeBron James for a long time, but since James was knocked off of the top spot, it has become one of the most interesting parts of this annual exercise.
Last year, 26-year-old Antetokounmpo and 22-year-old Doncic shared the top spot, each receiving 43% of the votes. However, after winning the first championship and Finals MVP of his career, Antetokounmpo (40%) was somehow surpassed by Doncic (43%) for the best player to build around for the future.
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This comes as a bit of a surprise given Antetokounmpo’s dominant run throughout the playoffs, followed by an all-time NBA Finals performance. But Doncic has defied all logic for a player of his age time-and-time again in his three-year career and there is no denying that the best is yet to come for the phenom guard.
Anthony Davis, Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Nikola Jokic and Zion Williamson also received votes for this title.
The NBA’s best player at each position
Stephen Curry (PG), James Harden (SG), Kevin Durant (SF), Giannis Antetokounmpo (PF) and Nikola Jokic (C).
GMs were asked to vote for the best player at each position and the league’s best lineup resulted in the above.
What sticks out to you the most? If it’s the absence of LeBron, that’s because every year, James has his votes divided up between three different positions. This year, James received 7% of votes for best point guard, 17% of votes for best small forward and 27% of votes for best power forward. Put those all of those votes to just one position and James likely ends up on the league’s best starting five somewhere, but divided across three positions, he misses out on a spot.
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Something similar could be said for Doncic, who received 13% of votes for best point guard and 10% of votes for best shooting guard.
The runner up for each position was Damian Lillard at point guard, Devin Booker at shooting guard, LeBron James at small forward and power forward, and Joel Embiid at center.
Jaren Jackson Jr. most likely to have a breakout season
This one surprised me a bit.
17% of NBA GMs claimed that Jackson is most likely to have a breakout season after the 22-year-old spent the majority of last season sidelined while recovering from a torn left meniscus.
The Grizzlies young big man was awesome in his sophomore season back in 2019-20, averaging 17.4 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game, proving to be a promising scorer and rim protector. He only appeared in 11 games last season and is a key piece of a hungry Memphis team, which makes him a prime breakout candidate, but I wouldn’t have guessed he would swing the majority of votes from NBA GMs.
Anthony Edwards was second on this list, receiving 13% of votes, and he probably would have been my choice. Michael Porter Jr. (10%) received the third-most votes, with Darius Garland, Keldon Johnson, Ja Morant and Kevin Porter Jr. all tying for fourth with 7% of votes.
Miami Heat run away with best offseason
It’s clear that NBA GMs are high on Miami’s signing of Kyle Lowry, given that they didn’t make many other major moves this offseason and still took home the title for best offseason with ease.
The Heat received 47% of votes for best offseason with the Lakers trailing at 17%. Ensuingly, the addition of Lowry earned 77% of votes for which player acquisition would make the biggest impact, while Westbrook to the Lakers came in second at 17%.
The Portland Trail Blazers’ acquiring Larry Nance Jr. via trade was voted as the most underrated move of the offseason, while the Chicago Bulls are believed to be the most improved team following their strong offseason that included the additions of DeMar DeRozan and Lonzo Ball.
Jalen Green over Cade Cunningham for Rookie of the Year
While I personally believe Green will take home Rookie of the Year honours this year, I was surprised to see NBA GMs agree that he will earn the award over consensus No. 1 pick Cunningham.
47% of the votes went to Green, with Cunningham receiving 40% of votes. Jalen Suggs (7%) was the only other rookie to accrue a notable number of votes, with Sacramento Kings guard Davion Mitchell, who was co-Summer League MVP, also receiving votes. Surprisingly, despite being Green’s teammate, International rookie Alperen Sengun also cracked the honourable mentions section.
And although GMs seem to be incredibly high on Green and Cunningham, it was Cleveland Cavaliers No. 3 overall pick Evan Mobley (33%) who was voted to be the best rookie in five years. He earned that honour over the Nos. 1 and 2 picks, as well as Suggs and Mitchell.
MORE: Odds to win Rookie of the Year
For the second-consecutive year, Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra (55%) was voted as the best head coach in the NBA. Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams (17%), Utah Jazz head coach Quin Snyder (14%), San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich (10%) and Milwaukee Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer (3%) also received consideration.
GMs also voted on individual aspects of coaching, which produced a number of different results.
The Suns’ Williams was voted as the best manager/motivator of people, LA Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue was voted the best at in-game adjustments, the Jazz’s Snyder was voted to run the best offense, while New York Knicks’ head coach Tom Thibodeau was voted to run the best defense.
They also vote on which current players will make the best head coach some day, with Chris Paul (34%) and Rajon Rondo (14%) unsurprisingly topping that section.
MORE: Ranking every coach hiring from the offseason
One shot to win the game
This is another vote that always peaks interest.
A season ago, Damian Lillard ran away with this honour and despite another season full of clutch shots during “Dame Time,” the star guard did not finish first… or second in this voting.
Durant (41%) was named the player most GMS would want to take a shot with the game on the line, while Curry (24%) came in second. Lillard (17%) shockingly finished third and it makes me question if any NBA GMs were tuned in to his Game 5 performance against the Denver Nuggets this past postseason.
- The Jazz were voted to have the best home court advantage in the NBA.
- The Hawks earned the title of best young core, edging out the Rockets.
- Zion Williamson was voted the most athletic player in the NBA.
- De’Aaron Fox was voted the fastest player with the ball in his hands.
- LeBron James and Nikola Jokic tied for the best passer in the NBA.
- Transition/take fouls on a fast break was voted as the rule change that is needed most.