The analysis that goes on among NBA fans and commentators involves predicting how a season will unfold. Front office executives also love to offer their takes. In fact, for the last 19 years, the NBA has conducted an informal GM survey to gauge how general managers foresee the season playing out.
The GM survey for the 2020-21 season was recently released. While most of the results won’t come as a surprise to die-hard NBA fans, the survey still offers an insightful glimpse into what each GM is thinking. Let’s recap some of the more interesting survey results, including the overwhelming favorite for winning the 2021 NBA championship.
The 2020-21 NBA GM survey
The 2020-21 GM survey breaks down its question into six categories: Predictions, Players, Offseason Moves, Rookies & International, Coaches, and Miscellaneous. We’ll get to the prediction below, but first let’s glance at the interesting results from each of the other categories.
Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo received the most votes predicting who’ll win the 2020-21 Kia MVP award. His 32% gives him a decisive win over No. 2 pick Luka Doncic. Yet Antetokounmpo and Doncic tie at 43% when it came to the player who GMs would want to start a franchise with.
The Charlotte Hornets’ LaMelo Ball has the best odds of winning Rookie of the year; 39% of GMs peg him for that honor. Yet, surprisingly, more GMs predicted that Golden State Warriors center James Wiseman would be the best player in five years. The Miami Heat’s Erik Spoelstra was selected as the best head coach in the league by a wide margin.
GMs pick the Lakers as 2021 champions
The survey exhibits a healthy amount of diversity when it came to most questions, especially compared to a year ago. That reflects a widening of the talent base as more and more A-level stars emerge around the league. Yet in at least one area, this year’s results were more decisive than last year’s: the question of who will win the 2021 Finals.
Last year, the winner of that question was the LA Clippers, who received votes from 46% of GMs. That prediction was ultimately a bust, with the Clippers flaming out in an embarrassing fashion against the Denver Nuggets. This year, a staggering 81% of GMs predict that the LA Lakers will come away as the eventual champions.
Several factors play into the strength of that prediction, beginning with the Lakers’ relatively easy path to the finals during last season’s playoffs. The Lakers also have two of the most dominant players in the game today, in LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Just having those two players on the roster is enough to vault any team into title contention.
The Lakers had a stellar offseason in terms of talent acquisition. Unsurprisingly, 37% of GMs agreed that the Lakers made the best offseason moves, giving them an easy win in that category over the Suns. The Lakers’ biggest signings include point guard Dennis Schroder, shooting guard Wesley Matthews, power forward Montrezl Harrell, and center Mark Gasol.
The Lakers’ legacy on the line
Finally, it’s important to note that the Lakers have an added incentive in winning another championship this year: capturing the record for the most titles by a single franchise. For many years, that record belonged to the Boston Celtics with 17 championships. By winning the NBA finals last year, the Lakers tied the record with 17 titles of their own, details NBA.com.
One more championship would set the Lakers apart. It’d give them a huge boost in their claim to be the greatest NBA franchise of all time. Of course, Celtics fans will always point out that not all of the Lakers’ title wins came in LA. Five of their 17 championships came while the franchise was still based in Minneapolis in the 1940s and 50s.
Some purists feel that those championships shouldn’t count towards the Lakers total. Still, you can bet that the Lakers count those titles. Thus, they’ll be extra motivated to add another title to their record.