We’re a little late to the party on this one, but on Sunday, NBA.com released the results of its 11th annual GM Survey. Like any prognostication piece, this one should be taken with a grain of salt; and, in some ways, general managers have biases that many sportswriters don’t – its no stretch to say that NBA GMs have more friends and enemies spread across the league, where sportswriters are supposed to be neutral (in principle, at least). That said, it’s an interesting opportunity to look into the predictions of people “in the business” in regards to a variety of topics, and it has proven to be fairly accurate in the past (last year, the GMs successfully picked the NBA champions, finalists, and every division winner, though to be fair they didn’t exactly go out on a limb with their guesses).
In regards to the league in general, the results are what you’d expect: Miami is the overwhelming favorite to win the title, LeBron the overwhelming favorite for MVP, Lakers and Thunder favored in the West, etc. (besides one very savvy – or stupid – GM who picked the Nuggets). But, this is a Raptors blog, so let’s focus on the boys in red. What accolades did the NBA’s collective braintrust predict for Coach Casey and his young, promising 2012 squad?
Well, not much, actually. The Raptors were actually the only team in the Atlantic not selected by a single GM to win the division title this season – not surprising considering our young, unproven roster, but surprising in that there are multiple GMs that think Brooklyn or New York will win the division. Call me a pessimist, but when I look at the Nets and Knicks I see two star-power driven teams with serious flaws – Brooklyn on the defensive end, and the Knicks with two ball hogs clogging up the offense and a lot of injury risks. Don’t call it a prediction, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the 76ers finish ahead of both teams, assuming Andrew Bynum can keep his head on straight this season (read: no more 3s) and isn’t out for too long.
I was a little surprised that Casey didn’t get any love from the GMs for his defensive improvements, not picking up a single vote in the “best defensive schemes” category. On the surface, it may seem a bit strange to think he’d manage to even steal a single vote from Tom Thibodeau in Chicago, but, then again, he did pick up a “runs the best offense” vote in last year’s survey, so I kind of expected something given the Raptors’ defensive improvement last season, which can be almost entirely attributed to Casey’s influence on the team seeing as it was more or less the same nucleus that finished last in the NBA the year before. Ah well, though; give him another year – if the Raps do manage to become a top 10 defense this year, as some have predicted, then the accolades will follow.
The vast majority of individual Raps mentioned in the survey were our three rookies. Both T-Ross and Acy picked up votes for “most athletic rookie,” which is nice to see and is indicative of the way the Raptors are trying to build the team – as a pressing unit that thrives in the fast break. Acy in particular is an interesting choice: he’s the only 2nd round pick to get any votes in this category, which is either a nice validation of the Raps’ pick, or proof that black guys with incredible facial hair are just presumed to be uber-athletes. Either way, it’s nice to see that at least one other GM saw something in our second-rounder (enough to say he’s more athletic than Anthony Davis or MKG!). Terrence Ross was hyped as a top-notch athlete pre-draft and was a lottery pick so his selection wasn’t as much of a surprise, but I’m going to take any chance I can get to link to the video of this unbelievable dunk. I could watch that clip all day.
Jonas got a lot of love from GMs around the league, which runs parallel to the buzz we’ve been hearing from other outfits during last years draft and up to today. He was voted the international player most likely to have a breakout season, and also picked up a vote in the “which rookie will be the best player in five years” vote, which might be a little overly optimistic, but the fact that even one GM thinks that Jonas is going to be a better pro than Anthony Davis is cause for celebration, right? I’m carrying a bit more trepidation than that (as are the vast majority of Raptors fans) but the fact that we have a rookie who’s even in the conversation around the league is cause for celebration – I guess the last time we’ve had a rookie this hyped it was Andrea, but his class seems significantly weaker than the one Jonas is entering this year (as much as we can tell before they haven’t played a game, anyway). It’s just nice to have a rook on the team with some hype around the league for once – no wonder those OKC fans seem so happy over there!
T-Ross also got a vote to be the rookie most likely to be a “sleeper” success, which is both good and bad, in my opinion: bad, because our 8th overall selection should hopefully have a bit more status across the league to not be regarded as a “sleeper,” and good because I get to link to the dunk video again.
The only other Raptors player mentioned in the survey was Kyle Lowry, who picked up a single vote as the most “underrated player acquisition” of the offseason. I might be an eternal optimist here but I think this is one the GMs may have gotten wrong – I have a feeling Lowry’s going to spend the season proving people wrong and early returns seem to demonstrate that he’s going to provide great value for what we gave up for him. He’s the best all-around point guard the Raps have ever had and for him to finish behind Courtney Lee in this poll and tied with the likes of Alexey Shved and Darko Milicic is a joke, though I realize “underrated” is a subjective term and maybe some GMs thought the move was “properly rated”.
For the most part, I suppose the survey reflects the opinion of the Raptors we’ve seen in the U.S. media for the entire summer and preseason – some interesting newcomers, but not a team worth heavily regarding just yet. Hopefully the returning group – none of which were mentioned in any category, by the way, after Bargs and DeRozan both got some votes last year – will be able to use the snubs as motivation for the season and prove some people wrong. Though if the guys aren’t motivated yet by the lack of respect they’ve been getting in preseason preview pieces, I suppose this one isn’t likely to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
Final game of the preseason is tomorrow night against the Grizzlies. Until then, follow me on Twitter @garretthinchey.