The Brooklyn Nets are being tapped as the heavy favorites to win this season’s championship by the league’s general managers, and star Kevin Durant is picked as the slight favorite to win his second Most Valuable Player award.
In the annual survey of all 30 general managers released Tuesday by NBA.com, the Nets received 72% of the votes to win the title, putting them well ahead of the only other teams to get any votes: the Los Angeles Lakers (17%) and the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks (10%).
The Nets and Bucks, not surprisingly, also dominated the voting in the Eastern Conference, finishing first and second, respectively, and were followed by the Miami Heat, Philadelphia 76ers, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics and Indiana Pacers. Likewise, the Lakers were the runaway pick in the West, followed by the Utah Jazz, Phoenix Suns, Denver Nuggets, Golden State Warriors, LA Clippers, Dallas Mavericks and Portland Trail Blazers.
After a successful return from a torn Achilles last season, including his incredible performance against Milwaukee in the Eastern Conference semifinals, Durant was tapped as top pick for MVP, which would be his first since he won it with Oklahoma City in 2014.
Durant got 37% of the vote, compared to 33% for Mavericks star Luka Doncic. Other players receiving votes were Giannis Antetokounmpo (13%), Joel Embiid (7%) and James Harden (7%) and Stephen Curry (3%), with LeBron James receiving none.
Doncic edged out Antetokounmpo in voting for which player would be the top pick to start a franchise with, getting 43% of the vote to Antetokounmpo’s 40%. Other players who received votes were Durant, James, Anthony Davis, Zion Williamson and Nikola Jokic.
Antetokounmpo also was named as the best international player, ahead of Doncic and Jokic.
Meanwhile, Curry, Harden, Durant, Antetokounmpo and Jokic were all easily selected as the best player at each of the five positions, with all of them getting at least 57% of the vote. The only change to that group from last season is Durant leapfrogging James for the honor of being the league’s top small forward.
Miami was tapped as the team that had the best offseason, with the Kyle Lowry acquisition being the runaway choice for best move of the summer, getting 77% of the vote. Only Russell Westbrook to the Lakers (17%) got more than one vote, with Spencer Dinwiddie to Washington and Jonas Valanciunas to New Orleans also receiving votes.
Westbrook to the Lakers was deemed the most surprising move, while Larry Nance Jr. getting traded to Portland was picked as the most underrated one. The Chicago Bulls — after landing DeMar DeRozan and Lonzo Ball in sign-and-trade deals this offseason — were picked as the team expected to improve the most this season.
Rockets guard Jalen Green was given a slight edge to win Rookie of the Year over Pistons guard Cade Cunningham (47-40), while Cavaliers forward Evan Mobley was a slight pick ahead of Cunningham (33-30) for which player from this year’s draft class will be the best five years from now.
Antetokounmpo was also named the NBA’s best defensive player, ahead of reigning Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert, and was also named the most versatile defensive player. The Bucks were slightly ahead of the Jazz (40-33) for being the best defensive team in the league.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was the runaway pick for being the NBA’s top head coach, getting 55% of the vote, with Phoenix’s Monty Williams being picked as the best motivator, Clippers coach Ty Lue the best in-game adjustor, Jazz coach Quin Snyder being the best offensive coach and Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau the best defensive coach.
The Hawks got half the votes for being the team with the most promising young core, while James was picked as the NBA’s most versatile player and the one with the highest basketball IQ, while Durant was the selection for who would be their top choice to take a game-deciding shot.