John Wall kept very busy during the off-season
Fans might not always be convinced, but NBA general managers know stuff. They certainly have insight into the teams and players they compete against. With that in mind, NBA.com polled all 30 GMs around the league on a truckload of questions about the upcoming season and such. The highlights:
* Let's start with any mentions of the Wizards. There were a few, though none terribly mind blowing. John Wall came in fourth place (behind Russell Westbrook, Ty Lawson and Derrick Rose) for "fastest player with the ball" and picked up votes for "player most likely to have a breakout season." Washington's point guard was one of five players selected in the category "Which Player is most dangerous in the open court" along with LeBron James, Rose, Westbrook and Kevin Durant. That's some seriously strong company and an indicator of how far collective opinion has changed since last year's knocks from many around the league.
* Bradley Beal also received a nod in the "Breakout" category. Those votes were cast before the second-year guard rocked in Washington's preseason games. Some in the non-GM faction are starting the "Beal is an All-Star this season" talk. Based on how he knocked down shots from all angles during these past seven games, that's not crazy talk.
* As for the team, the Wizards finished in a six-way for second in the "Which team will be most improved in 2013-14" category. Considering we've moved from 4-28 to sincere playoff talk, they certainly are a strong contender. Same for Detroit, the top vote getter and Washington's white whale last season as the Pistons took all four meetings.
* Broadening out the focus across the entire league, two-time defending champion Miami remains the overwhelming favorite for another title, receiving 75.9 percent of the votes, followed by Indiana and San Antonio. For now, no other truly legitimate arguments can be made. At least not until we see Chicago's Derrick Rose at full blast. Until we see how the high profile Nets of Brooklyn gel. Until the Pacers show what lessons they learned from last year's playoff loss to the Heat. Until the Spurs demonstrate they're not just a year older. Until the non-Durant and Westbrook Thunder can play with the best of the best. Until the Chris Paul-Blake Griffin-Doc Rivers show brings down the house in ways beyond entertainment value. For those still not over "The Decision," here's hoping some of those "until" scenarios are no longer pending come playoff time. Besides, it's more fun that way.
* As expected, LeBron James mentions litter the survey, including as the winner of the "If you were starting a franchise today and could sign any player in the NBA, who would it be?" question. Also not surprising, Kevin Durant came in second. Actually surprising, Kyrie Irving finished third, the only other player to receive any votes. Even if only one or two GMs picked the Cavs star, the former Dukie is now constantly mentioned when it comes to the best of the best, and here, not even just among point guards. No doubt Irving has mad skills as a shooter (39.4 percent from 3 for his career), scorer (22.5 ppg last season) and facilitator. He also can't stay healthy (38 missed games over his first two NBA seasons). He also has never made the playoffs, which isn't all on him, but a fact all the same. When Cleveland took Irving with the No. 1 pick one year after the Wizards drafted Wall with the top selection, those two were frequently compared. That will continue in 2013-14 especially as their respective teams battle for the final playoff spots in the East - and assuming the pair actually face each other. But in the minds of the NBA community, Irving is at another level and a super galactic one at that.