James Harden better than Kobe Bryant; items of note from NBA.com's annual GM survey
Today marks the release of NBA.com's annual GM survey, that odd exercise in perspective where the league's top decision makers respond to a litany of basketball prompts. Some responses showcase the wisdom of the crowd, but part of the draw are the anomaly votes scattered throughout -- the incomprehensible choices from those that in theory wield actual basketball power.
Then again, it's long been supposed that tasks like these are likely doled out to lower-rung staffers, given that they hold no actual bearing. That could be true for some, though Rockets GM Daryl Morey has his own system:
You can parse the results of the 56-question survey in full, or follow along after the jump for the most notable tidbits among them.
• According to John Schuhmann of NBA.com, this is the first time in the GM survey's 12-year run that Kobe Bryant was not voted as the league's best shooting guard. Usurping the throne is Houston's James Harden (56.7 percent), who won in a bit of a landslide. Dwyane Wade, notably, received just a single vote.
• Bafflingly, Harden also received a vote as the player most likely to have a breakout season in 2013-14. This, after Harden averaged 25.9 points, 5.8 assists and 4.9 rebounds per game in a starring role for the Rockets last season. I'll be damned if he's going to build on that performance to break out again. For further proof that some respondents may not understand the question, Kevin Love -- he of the record-shattering double-doubles and the sixth-most votes for the 2012 MVP -- was also tabbed as a breakout candidate.
• Interesting to note that 75.9 percent of respondent GMs picked Miami to win the title this season, making the Heat the survey's overwhelming favorite despite the deep ranks of title contenders. In their defense, it's incredibly challenging to pick a single team that has a better chance of winning the championship than Miami; the field would be the safest pick of all, but when GMs were told to identify the single team most likely to win the title, it makes sense that so many would choose the Heat.
• There doesn't seem to be any consensus whatsoever as to which team will improve the most this season, as seven different teams (Detroit, Brooklyn, Cleveland, Houston, Minnesota, New Orleans and Washington) received 4-5 votes. Of that group, Washington notably did not make any landmark additions, though a healthy John Wall should translate to a healthier win total.
• Bonus points to the gentlemen who put Andrew Wiggins as the best international player not currently in the NBA.
• Dwight Howard was the only big man to receive more than one vote as the league's top defensive player and claimed the distinction overall with 34.5 percent of the vote. As incredible as players like Tony Allen and Andre Iguodala are in coverage, it still seems odd that they might outrank the likes of Marc Gasol, Tim Duncan, and Serge Ibaka -- not to mention Joakim Noah and Roy Hibbert, who did not receive votes.
• Unsurprisingly, Gregg Popovich dominated most every coaching category. He was surveyed as the best coach in the league (75.9 percent), the best motivator (51.7 percent), the best at making in-game adjustments (27.6 percent) and the curator of the top offense (37.9 percent). He also received votes for having the best defensive schemes. Fitting and fair praise.
• Doc Rivers, who has not coached an above-average offense since 2009, was given a nod for running the best offense. Scott Brooks, who has proven a bit stagnant in his strategy for the Thunder in past seasons, received a vote as the coach who makes the best in-game adjustments.
• I have no idea what to make of the fact that goofy and limited Clippers center DeAndre Jordan was voted as the active player who will make the best head coach one day, though I'd damn sure love to see it happen.
• Proof that at least one GM is just copy/pasting his responses from 2009: a 35-year-old Richard Hamilton received a vote as the league's best in moving without the ball.
• I'm not sure what can be said of the fact that Cavs sophomore Dion Waiters received a vote as the league's best passer. Was this an alphabetical list in which the respondent meant to choose either Dwyane Wade or Kemba Walker? Neither of those responses makes all that much sense either, but they at least seem a bit more plausible than some well-schooled basketball mind actively (and unfacetiously) choosing a tunnel-visioned guard as the very best passer in the NBA.• We go through this bit every season, but it's beyond time to dispense with the survey's most ridiculous and racially loaded question: "Which player makes the most of limited natural ability?" Among those to receive votes this season: the athletically remarkable Kevin Love, the impeccably mobile Marc Gasol, the lightning-fast J.J. Barea, the supernaturally coordinated Steve Nash and the remarkably instinctive Anderson Varejao. Can this one, NBA.