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Fellow NBA General Managers have little faith in Suns repeat at top of Western Conference

Where did Phoenix show up in NBA.com’s GM survey ahead of the season?

2021 NBA Playoffs - Practice and Media Availability

As a second-tier market behind the LA’s and the NY’s of the nation, Phoenix teams across the board seem to lack their due respect (see the 4-0 Arizona Cardinals still not being no. 1 by some outlets).

That continued with the NBA’s GM Survey ahead of the 2021-22 season. For time’s sake, we won’t touch on every question involved in the survey, but we’ll hit on all the ones the Suns are involved in and the ones they should’ve been.


PREDICTIONS

Who will win the 2022 NBA Finals?

1. Brooklyn Nets - 72%

2. Los Angeles Lakers - 17%

3. Milwaukee Bucks - 10%

Brooklyn coming in on top is not the gripe here, in fact, if I were surveyed on this question I’d have the Nets myself. The issue is the Lakers coming in at second and especially ahead of Milwaukee. I’m not convinced the Lakers got better with their offseason moves, and LeBron James is another year closer to retirement, entering his 19th season.

Meanwhile Phoenix retained nearly every rotation piece, added more depth, and solidified their biggest positional weakness: backup center. With another year under coach Monty Williams and having already ironed out all the wrinkles that come with adding Chris Paul, there’s all the promise in the world to believe Phoenix can have a better season and contend for another title. Their omission here: criminal.

Here’s the millionth example of people putting Utah ahead of Phoenix for no discernible reason. Beyond that, I don’t see why any GM would think the Lakers care about the regular season enough to come out on top in an ever-vicious Western conference.

As for Phoenix’s treating of the regular season, much has been spoken about by media members - myself included - wanting to see some experimentation with lineups and roles, but Williams and co. have given no indication that the goal won’t be to win every game they can.


PLAYERS

Who will win the 2021-22 Kia MVP?

1. Kevin Durant, Brooklyn – 37%

2. Luka Doncic, Dallas – 33%

3. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee – 13%

4. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia – 7%

James Harden, Brooklyn – 7%

6. Stephen Curry, Golden State – 3%

I would’ve liked to see some Booker representation here, but I can’t really argue him above any of these six.

If you were starting a franchise today and could sign any player in the NBA, who would it be?

1. Luka Doncic, Dallas – 43%

2. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee – 40%

> Also receiving votes: Anthony Davis, L.A. Lakers; Kevin Durant, Brooklyn; LeBron James, L.A. Lakers; Nikola Jokic, Denver; Zion Williamson, New Orleans

Again, would’ve liked some Booker representation, and who on earth is voting for Williamson in this? I still have questions about his validity as a long-term star whereas Booker is one now and is still just 24 years old.

Which player is most likely to have a breakout season in 2021-22?

1. Jaren Jackson Jr., Memphis – 17%

2. Anthony Edwards, Minnesota – 13%

3. Michael Porter Jr., Denver – 10%

4. Darius Garland, Cleveland – 7%

Keldon Johnson, San Antonio – 7%

Ja Morant, Memphis – 7%

Kevin Porter Jr., Houston – 7%

> Also receiving votes: Deandre Ayton, Phoenix; LaMelo Ball, Charlotte; Lonzo Ball, Chicago; Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Oklahoma City; De’Andre Hunter, Atlanta; Caris LeVert, Indiana; Terance Mann, LA Clippers; Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota; Devin Vassell, San Antonio; Zion Williamson, New Orleans

Ah, some spice! Ayton showing up here amidst the negotiations stalling! Speaking comparatively with the other guys on the list, there’s a real chance that Ayton has the highest leap from last year to this year out of all these names, so I wish he was higher up.

Who is the best point guard in the NBA?

1. Stephen Curry, Golden State – 57%

2. Damian Lillard, Portland – 17%

3. Luka Doncic, Dallas – 13%

4. LeBron James, L.A. Lakers – 7%

Chris Paul, Phoenix – 7%

Nice! Probably fair ranking, though for this particular team construction in Phoenix, there’s not a guy I’d rather have leading the way than CP3.

Who is the best shooting guard in the NBA?

1. James Harden, Brooklyn – 63%

2. Devin Booker, Phoenix – 17%

3. Luka Doncic, Dallas – 10%

> Also receiving votes: Bradley Beal, Washington; Stephen Curry, Golden State; Kevin Durant, Brooklyn

Really begs the question: what is a shooting guard? I know when I think James Harden, I don’t think shooting guard, so there’s a case to be made for Booker being the best in the league.

Who is the best center in the NBA?

1. Nikola Jokic, Denver – 63%

2. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia – 23%

3. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee – 7%

Anthony Davis, L.A. Lakers – 7%

Not sure why we’re placing either of Antetokounmpo or Davis on this list, since neither plays center for a majority of their minutes. I truly believe Ayton is the third best center behind those first two.


OFFSEASON MOVES

What was the most underrated player acquisition?

1. Larry Nance Jr., Portland – 28%

2. Patty Mills, Brooklyn – 17%

3. Spencer Dinwiddie, Washington – 14%

4. Lonzo Ball, Chicago – 10%

5. Kemba Walker, New York – 7%

> Also receiving votes: Alex Caruso, Chicago; DeMar DeRozan, Chicago; Andre Drummond, Philadelphia; Devonte’ Graham, New Orleans; Jeff Green, Denver; Dennis Schroder, Boston; Jonas Valanciunas, New Orleans

Seeing the likes of Caruso, Drummond, and Schroder included on this list make me really wonder why JaVale McGee didn’t get at least some consideration.


DEFENSE

Who is the best defensive player in the NBA?

1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee – 47%

2. Rudy Gobert, Utah – 17%

3. Jrue Holiday, Milwaukee – 10%

Kawhi Leonard, LA Clippers – 10%

4. Ben Simmons, Philadelphia – 7%

> Also receiving votes: Jimmy Butler, Miami; Anthony Davis, L.A. Lakers; Draymond Green, Golden State

Now here’s an absolute travesty. First of all, how quickly we forget Gobert’s postseason performance against the Clippers… and how quickly we forget Ayton’s! Even if we didn’t have the sample size of the playoffs on our side, 2020-21 Ayton in the regular season was a better defender than Davis. What are we doing here?

Who is the best perimeter defender in the NBA?

1. Jrue Holiday, Milwaukee – 50%

2. Ben Simmons, Philadelphia – 17%

3. Jimmy Butler, Miami – 10%

Kawhi Leonard, LA Clippers – 10%

5. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee – 7%

> Also receiving votes: Patrick Beverley, Minnesota; Marcus Smart, Boston

It’s the John Travolta looking around confused meme, but it’s me and I’m looking for Mikal Bridges. And in the wise words of Russell Westbrook, “Pat Bev trick y’all”

Who is the best interior defender in the NBA?

1. Rudy Gobert, Utah – 77%

2. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee – 13%

3. Anthony Davis, L.A. Lakers – 10%

It’s the John Travolta looking around confused meme, but it’s me and I’m looking for Deandre Ayton.

Which is the best defensive team in the NBA?

1. Milwaukee Bucks – 40%

2. Utah Jazz – 33%

3. Los Angeles Lakers – 10%

4. Miami Heat – 7%

> Also receiving votes: New York Knicks, Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns

“Also receiving votes”? Are you kidding me?


COACHES

Who is the best head coach in the NBA?

1. Erik Spoelstra, Miami – 55%

2. Monty Williams, Phoenix – 17%

3. Quin Snyder, Utah – 14%

4. Gregg Popovich, San Antonio – 10%

5. Mike Budenholzer, Milwaukee – 3%

In the wise words of Adam Driver, “Good soup.”

Which head coach is the best manager/motivator of people?

1. Monty Williams, Phoenix – 50%

2. Steve Kerr, Golden State – 10%

Tyronn Lue, LA Clippers – 10%

Gregg Popovich, San Antonio – 10%

Erik Spoelstra, Miami – 10%

> Also receiving votes: Nate McMillan, Atlanta; Steve Nash, Brooklyn; Doc Rivers, Philadelphia

More vindication!

Which head coach makes the best in-game adjustments?

1. Tyronn Lue, LA Clippers – 37%

2. Rick Carlisle, Indiana – 27%

3. Erik Spoelstra, Miami – 10%

4. Nick Nurse, Toronto – 7%

Quin Snyder, Utah – 7%

> Also receiving votes: Mike Budenholzer, Milwaukee; Doc Rivers, Philadelphia; Tom Thibodeau, New York; Frank Vogel, L.A. Lakers

This is mostly fine with me actually. Except for the inclusion of Budenholzer, Rivers, and Vogel. That’s not what those guys are known for the same way it’s not what Williams is known for.

Which head coach runs the best offense?

1. Quin Snyder, Utah – 27%

2. Steve Kerr, Golden State – 23%

3. Mike Budenholzer, Milwaukee – 17%

4. Steve Nash, Brooklyn – 10%

5. Erik Spoelstra, Miami – 7%

Monty Williams, Phoenix – 7%

> Also receiving votes: Rick Carlisle, Indiana; Chris Finch, Minnesota; Michael Malone, Denver

Vindicated! I think it’s clear the respect is not lacking in the Williams department.

Which head coach has the best defensive schemes?

1. Tom Thibodeau, New York – 37%

2. Mike Budenholzer, Milwaukee – 17%

3. Quin Snyder, Utah – 13%

4. Frank Vogel, L.A. Lakers – 10%

5. Nick Nurse, Toronto – 7%

Erik Spoelstra, Miami – 7%

> Also receiving votes: Tyronn Lue, LA Clippers; Doc Rivers, Philadelphia; Monty Williams, Phoenix

Nice.

Which new or relocated head coach will make the biggest impact on his new team?

1. Rick Carlisle, Indiana – 64%

2. Ime Udoka, Boston – 14%

3. Jason Kidd, Dallas – 11%

> Also receiving votes: Chauncey Billups, Portland; Jamahl Mosley, Orlando; Wes Unseld Jr., Washington

Puking over the fact that Kidd is on this list, but Willie Green isn’t.

Who is the best assistant coach in the NBA?

1. Kenny Atkinson, Golden State – 17%

Darvin Ham, Milwaukee – 17%

3. Scott Brooks, Portland – 10%

David Vanterpool, Brooklyn – 10%

5. Nate Tibbets, Orlando – 7%

> Also receiving votes: Mark Bryant, Phoenix; Sam Cassell, Philadelphia; Mike D’Antoni, New Orleans; Alex Jenson, Utah; Jay Larranaga, LA Clippers; Charles Lee, Milwaukee; Mike Longabardi, Sacramento; John Lucas, Houston; Lloyd Pierce, Indiana; Damon Stoudamire, Boston; Jacque Vaughn, Brooklyn

Mark Bryant! My guy! Getting the credit he deserves! You love to see it. Wonder if he’ll end up following in Green’s footsteps someday.

Which active player will make the best head coach someday?

1. Chris Paul, Phoenix – 34%

2. Rajon Rondo, L.A. Lakers – 14%

3. T.J. McConnell, Indiana – 10%

4. Mike Conley Utah – 7%

Udonis Haslem, Miami – 7%

Garrett Temple, New Orleans – 7%

> Also receiving votes: Harrison Barnes, Sacramento; Malcolm Brogdon, Indiana; Draymond Green, Golden State; Joe Ingles, Utah; LeBron James, L.A. Lakers; Patty Mills, Brooklyn

Fun little anecdote: My little brother has asked me on multiple occasions if I think CP3 will start coaching under Williams right when he retires. Though I do think that would be fun and may happen further down the road, probably not right then, sorry Cody! The man deserves some time away from the game with his family.

Also, Barnes being on here is not at all something I would’ve predicted. And can we still call Haslem an active player?


MISCELLANEOUS

Which team is the most fun to watch?

1. Brooklyn Nets – 30%

2. Golden State Warriors – 17%

3. Atlanta Hawks – 10%

Charlotte Hornets – 10%

5. Dallas Mavericks – 7%

Denver Nuggets – 7%

Los Angeles Lakers – 7%

Phoenix Suns – 7%

> Also receiving votes: Memphis Grizzlies, Utah Jazz

Nice! Personally they’re my number one, but what can ya do?

Which team has the best home-court advantage?

1. Utah Jazz – 47%

2. Denver Nuggets – 20%

3. New York Knicks – 10%

4. Portland Trail Blazers – 7%

> Also receiving votes: Golden State Warriors, Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns

Put some respect on The Valley’s name! Utah and Denver clearly getting the altitude bumps.

Which team has the most promising young core?

1. Atlanta Hawks – 50%

2. Houston Rockets – 10%

3. Boston Celtics – 7%

Memphis Grizzlies – 7%

New Orleans Pelicans – 7%

Phoenix Suns – 7%

> Also receiving votes: Charlotte Hornets, Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons, Minnesota Timberwolves

Somewhere out there, Kevin O’Connor smiles down at his Bright Now Suns, but isn’t the majority of this rotation still age 25 or younger? They should be higher because of that.

Which player is the best at moving without the ball?

1. Stephen Curry, Golden State – 50%

2. Duncan Robinson, Miami – 20%

3. Klay Thompson, Golden State – 17%

> Also receiving votes: Devin Booker, Phoenix; Mikal Bridges, Phoenix; Seth Curry, Philadelphia; Doug McDermott, San Antonio

You truly love to see it.


Chris Paul Award Szn:

Which player is the best passer?

1. LeBron James, L.A. Lakers – 33%

Nikola Jokic, Denver – 33%

3. Chris Paul, Phoenix – 10%

4. Luka Doncic, Dallas – 7%

> Also receiving votes: LaMelo Ball, Charlotte; Facundo Campazzo, Denver; James Harden, Brooklyn; Russell Westbrook, L.A. Lakers; Trae Young, Atlanta

Which player is the best leader?

1. Chris Paul, Phoenix – 43%

2. LeBron James, L.A. Lakers – 20%

3. Damian Lillard, Portland – 17%

4. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee – 10%

> Also receiving votes: Jimmy Butler, Miami; Stephen Curry, Golden State; Nikola Jokic, Denver

Which player has the best basketball IQ?

1. LeBron James, L.A. Lakers – 53%

2. Chris Paul, Phoenix – 30%

3. Luka Doncic, Dallas – 10%

4. Nikola Jokic, Denver – 7%


Which player would you want taking a shot with the game on the line?

1. Kevin Durant, Brooklyn – 41%

2. Stephen Curry, Golden State – 24%

3. Damian Lillard, Portland – 17%

4. Luka Doncic, Dallas – 7%

Nikola Jokic, Denver – 7%

6. Kyrie Irving, Brooklyn – 3%

It’s the John Travolta looking around confused meme, but it’s me and I’m looking for Devin Booker.

What rule (regarding play, schedule, Draft/Lottery, playoff format, etc.) most needs to change?

1. Take/transition fouls – 13%

2. Additional coach’s challenge/keep it when successful – 10%

Free agency before Draft – 10%

Schedule – 10%

Seed playoffs 1-16 – 10%

6. Elam ending – 7%

> Also receiving votes: Agent and executive barrier needs to be tighter; Allow more bench celebration; Corner 3s same distance as above-break; Draft tiebreaker opposite of playoff tiebreaker; Encourage diversity of play; In-season tournament; Lottery odds; Mandatory Draft medical information; Non-basketball moves; One free throw attempt for shooting foul; Player trade demands; Review time

Not much in here that would be a non-starter for me. I question the integrity of a draft tiebreaker game as well as one free throw attempt for a shooting foul, but it’s clear that the “player empowerment” movement has been irking some executives. I’d also love to know more about the “diversity of play” idea.


How do you think the voting should’ve gone? Will the Suns earn more respect this year? Khaleel Abdullah wrote a great piece earlier this month detailing that very proposition. Check it out!