The annual poll of NBA general managers was released today and with it come the instant analysis. Dime is no different, but instead of seeing the superlatives, I wanted to offer observations on what may have been overlooked. The biggest winners and surprises of this poll are easy to see if you look closely. Keep reading to see the top 5 things to know about the GM poll.
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5. IT’S NOT A MISTAKE LEBRON JAMES IS RATED THE NO. 3 POWER FORWARD
This category had been Dirk Nowitzki‘s baby until this year, when Kevin Love won it with 30 percent of the vote. Nowitzki fell to 23.3 percent, and LeBron James was third with 16.7 percent. It’s not as curious a selection as you might think for LeBron to be there, even considering he played only a quarter of his minutes at that position last season. It’s actually a wonder he didn’t play there more often considering his output at PF: 37.1 PER, 39.0 points, 12.5 rebounds, 1.4 blocks and 8.1 assists per 48 minutes. Those all were better, and substantially so in some categories, than his statistics at SF — 29.1 points, 9.3 boards, 0.9 blocks and 8.0 assists per 48 minutes.
Nowitzki earned this distinction because of how he brought the power forward position away from the block and to all corners of the court on offense. James is a continuation of that trend of gradually transforming what we expect from a four because he blends it with his approach to playing small forward — GMs picked him the best at that position with 73.3 percent of the vote — whereas Love is a (historically excellent) more traditional interpretation as the low-block, high-rebound big man even with his propensity to step out for the three. For Miami’s part, it should put LeBron at the four more often, seeing as how they had a higher winning percentage and double the net points difference between offense and defense over 48 minutes, per 82games.com. The Heat allowed slightly more points with him at PF, but boosted their offense by more than nine points per 48, making its margin of victory more than 16 when he’s playing power forward. LeBron doesn’t play power forward even a majority of the time, but his dalliances there are so powerful he’s deserving as the No. 3 pick.
4. WHY DO GMS PICK KOBE IN A LANDSLIDE?
Kobe Bryant is our pick as the best player since 2000 for a reason. There are few, however, as to why he would still be picked so overwhelmingly as the NBA’s best shooting guard. It’s no secret that the NBA is top-heavy with All-Star caliber point guards now, and that the quality of game-breaking twos hasn’t kept pace — Dwyane Wade, James Harden, Joe Johnson and possibly Monta Ellis come to mind as the only others who could be mentioned in Kobe’s category. That Wade doesn’t get more than 23.3 percent of respect as being the best at his position is surprising, especially now that he’s carved himself a new role in Miami’s backcourt that, if more limited by giving LeBron the bulk of the team’s power, still is extremely dangerous. Kobe is still the best shooting guard in the game, but as he ages what is most surprising is the lock he still holds on the spot. Wade and Harden deserve more of the vote and confidence from GMs.
3. FOR DROPPING JARED SULLINGER LIKE A ROCK, GMS LOVE HIS UPSIDE
Jared Sullinger had one of the worst run-ups to an NBA Draft that I can remember. He was red-flagged by medical officials enough that he fell from a top-10 pick to the 21st selection by Boston. His true position was called into question, as was his aptitude to bang in the post with NBA forwards, along with his fitness. Pretty horrifying job interview, right? For whatever reason Sullinger became a lottery pariah, many GMs now believe he is the best “sleeper” of his class, at 17.2 percent. That’s ahead of Mo Harkless and Andrew Nicholson of Orlando, who each had 13.8 percent. Here’s one reason I believe why he’s been re-evaluated so favorably: What he can offer straight out of the rookie gate is rebounding, something Boston was woeful at last season. The Celtics were 30th, dead last, in rebounds per game last season and third-worst in rebounding differential. They weren’t necessarily awful at keeping opponents off the offensive glass (they were middle of the pack) but most crucially, were dead last at 7.7 offensive boards per game. Sullinger can help immediately there, in addition to filling in where he can elsewhere. He’s shot 56.1 percent from the field, and 84.6 percent on free throws, in preseason games. Few wanted to drafted him, but Boston’s selection makes sense. The GMs recognize that.