The results of the NBA’s preseason annual survey of general managers was released Wednesday morning, and as expected, the Golden State Warriors were selected as overwhelming favorites (93 percent) to repeat as champions.
The Miami Heat? Well, at least coach Erik Spoelstra’s team is on the radar now.
A year after not receiving a single vote as one of the top four teams in the Eastern Conference, the Heat received eight percent of the vote as the fourth-best team in the East.
Cleveland (38%), Boston (29%), Washington (18%), Toronto (11%) and Milwaukee (2%) all received a higher percentage of the vote to be a top-four team in the East than the Heat. Charlotte, like the Heat, received one percent of the vote total.
Among a total of 47 questions about the best teams, players, coaches, fans and offseason moves, the Heat had a player receive at least one vote from an opposing general manager six times. General managers were not permitted to vote for their own team or personnel.
▪ Tyler Johnson and James Johnson were among nine players league-wide who received votes for the bench player who makes the biggest impact when he enters the game. Golden State’s Andre Iguodala (41%), Houston’s Eric Gordon (24%), Minnesota’s Jamal Crawford (10%) and the Clippers’ Lou Williams (7%) were the top four.
▪ James Johnson was among 16 players to receive a vote for the toughest player in the NBA. Oklahoma City’s Steven Adams, Golden State’s Draymond Green and San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard were the leading vote-getters for that distinction with 14 percent of the vote.
▪ Kelly Olynyk, who signed a four-year, $50 million deal with the Heat this summer, received a vote for the most underrated player acquisition of the offseason. Denver’s Paul Millsap (24%), Detroit’s Avery Bradley (17%), Minesota’s Jimmy Butler (10%) and Cleveland’s Jae Crowder (10%) were the top four.
▪ Hassan Whiteside was one of five players to receive a vote for the league’s best defensive players. Leonard garnered 62 percent of the vote followed by Green (21%) and Utah’s Rudy Gobert (10%). Whiteside, however, did not receive any votes for the league’s best interior defender as he did a year ago after he went from being the league’s leading shot blocker in 2015-16 to tied for third in the league.
Eight players received votes for the league’s top center, and Whiteside wasn’t one of them.
▪ Spoelstra, who was an NBA Coach of the Year finalist last season after leading the Heat to a 30-11 second-half finish, received votes for the NBA’s best coach, best motivator and manager, and the head coach with the best defensive schemes. Spoelstra finished third (7%) to Gregg Popovich (62%) and Golden State’s Steve Kerr (17%) as the best manager/motivator.
Among the questions the Heat did not have a player or coach receive any votes for:
▪ LeBron James received 50 percent of the vote for league MVP. Golden State’s Kevin Durant (29%), Leonard (11%), Houston’s James Harden (7%) and Golden State’s Stephen Curry (4%) rounded out the top five.
▪ Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns (29%) and Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo (21%) received the majority of the vote for the player who GMs would sign first if they were starting an NBA franchise today.
▪ Towns (21%), New York’s Kristaps Porzingis (14%) and Indiana’s Myles Turner (14%) were the leading vote-getters for the most likely to have a breakout season.
▪ Curry (62%) beat out reigning MVP Russell Westbrook (28%) for the title of the league’s best point guard.
▪ Harden (83%) was the overwhelming pick for the league’s best shooting guard.
▪ James earned 61 percent of the vote for the league’s best small forward over Durant (32%) and also finished second to New Orleans’ Anthony Davis (41%) with 28 percent of the vote for the best power forward.
▪ Towns (28%), Davis (24%), Memphis’ Marc Gasol (21%) and New Orleans’ DeMarcus Cousins (14%) were the top four centers.
▪ Oklahoma City’s addition of Paul George and Carmelo Anthony netted the Thunder 43 percent of the votes for the best offseason. Boston (25%) and Minnesota (14%) followed. George was tabbed as the offseason acquisition that will make the biggest impact.
▪ Minnesota received 69 percent of the vote to be the league’s most improved team. Philadelphia, Charlotte, Denver, the Lakers and Oklahoma City also received votes.
▪ The Lakers’ Lonzo Ball (62%) was tabbed as the favorite to win the league’s Rookie of the Year award. Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons (21%) and Dallas’ Dennis Smith Jr. (9%) were selected top three.
▪ Phoenix’s Josh Jackson was voted the rookie expected to be the best player in five years.
▪ Smith Jr. (37%) was tabbed the steal of the draft ahead of the Lakers’ Kyle Kuzma (22%).