Every fall, the NBA general managers are anonymously polled on a wide variety of topics about the league. There's some normal questions, like who they think will win MVP or who will win The Finals. Then there's some oddballs, like who they think will be the best offseason acquisition or who is the most versatile defender in the league.
This year's survey was released on Wednesday, Oct. 3, and there were a lot of things I found particularly interesting. Here's my top-five takeaway from the survey:
1. GM's are extremely high on... Jamal Murray?
Look, I'm a Jamal Murray fan. I'm a big Kentucky guy and I was hoping the Celtics would draft him at No. 3 in 2016 (they took Jaylen Brown, which I now believe was the right decision).
But this is very under-the-radar. I could see Brandon Ingram or Jayson Tatum winning this. They are both lengthy wings with two-way potential that could turn them into stars. Ingram is now playing with the best player in the world in LeBron James and Tatum is now a key piece on the best team in the Eastern Conference.
This makes sense, though, when you look at the numbers. Murray averaged 9.9 points per game (PPG) as a rookie, then increased that to 16.7 PPG last season. The Nuggets added Isaiah Thomas and re-signed Will Barton to go along with Murray and Gary Harris, so the backcourt is pretty loaded in Denver. Murray is probably the best player of the four (him or Harris), but if all these GM's are so high on him, I really want to see what Murray has this season.
2. GM's are forgetting about Miles Bridges
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Kevin Knox should be the top-two answers to think question. Yes, they're both Kentucky guys, but I think they both fell further than they should've. SGA is a more complete player than fellow point guard draftee Collin Sexton, but somehow fell three picks behind him. Knox is a long, versatile wing built similar to guys like Ingram and Tatum who we discussed earlier.
While I think those two should be at the top of the list, the guy I would rank third isn't even in the "Also receiving votes" section. Miles Bridges, picked No. 12 overall by the Hornets, is someone the Bulls (No. 7), Cavs (No. 8) and Sixers (No. 10) will all regret passing on. Bridges is an athletic freak and is versatile (I'm using that word a lot but versatility is everything in the modern game) enough to play positions three-through-five.
Through three preseason games, Bridges is averaging 15.7 PPG and 6.7 RPG while shooting 58.1 percent from the field and 53.3 percent from three. Small sample size, but this guy looks like the real deal – and definitely someone that GM's around the league are forgetting about.
3. GM's – like all of us – understand Anthony Davis' greatness
Anthony Davis is a freak. For the fourth consecutive year, Davis was voted as the best power forward in the NBA. But, for the first time in his career, he was also voted as the best center in the NBA. This is actually insane. In a growingly positionless league, these delegations of a 'position' aren't as important, but this is still wild.
Davis played power forward for the first part of last season when DeMarcus Cousins was healthy and cooking in the paint with him. But once Cousins went down with an Achilles injury in January, Davis transitioned to center and the Pelicans continued to win. He is...wait for it...VERSATILE. Davis is the premier big in the NBA, and the GM's obviously think so, too.
4. GM's are finally joining me on the Brad Stevens hype train
For as long as I can remember, Gregg Popovich has been considered the best coach in the NBA. It makes sense. He has five championships in 22 years as Spurs coach and only missed the playoffs once (in his first year).
Buuuuuut...Brad Stevens. My guy. Last year, he received 0 (zero, none, nada) votes in this category, and now he's considered the best in the league. Stevens' rise has been steady over the past 11 years since he took over as head coach at Butler University. Stevens took Butler, a mid-major program, to the NCAA national championship game twice, falling to blue bloods Duke and UConn in back-to-back years (2010, 2011). After the 2012-13 season, he got the call to the big league to coach the Boston Celtics. For the record, I was on board from Day 1.
Stevens and the rebuilding Celtics missed the playoffs in their first year, but were (at the time) annoyingly good enough to not get the top pick in the draft. Since then, the Celtics have increased their win total each year. Years 2 and 3 ended in first round losses (4-0 and 4-2) and Years 3 and 4 ended in conference finals losses (4-1 and 4-3). He's gotten better each year. More to come out of Boy Wonder, as he's only 41 years old and could realistically (please Brad) coach the Celtics for many, many years to come.
5. GM's realize the NBA has a lot of scary dudes
This question was similar to something our guy Wob asked on Twitter the other day. It's basically the same, in a more entertaining scenario.
Every single guy the GM's nominated here are valid answer's to Wob's question except LeBron. Get him out of there and we'd have a real slug fest.
LOTS of strong candidates in there. My top-five: Steven Adams, Marcus Smart, James Johnson, Patrick Beverley and Russell Westbrook. But I think Beverley is the right answer here. He's fought just about everyone else on this list. He's a small, shifty guy. He'd be great at getting the weapons right at that initial start where they're all on platforms and then run to get stuff and it turns into a bloodbath. Give me Pat Bev all day.
Not how I expected to end this, but here we are.