The 18th Annual NBA.com GM Survey was just released and there was not as much representation for the Houston Rockets as you’d expect.
The 2019-20 GM survey conducted by NBA.com is released every year before the season starts. All 30 general managers were asked a series of questions ranging from which player is the most athletic to which team is most likely to win the championship. There were a total of 50 questions asked but as it turned out, the Houston Rockets were surprisingly underrepresented, especially in major categories.
Here is a breakdown of what the league’s general managers all had to say regarding some of the Houston Rockets this season:
GM’s choice to win the NBA championship
1. LA Clippers — 46%2. Milwaukee Bucks — 36%3. Los Angeles Lakers — 11%
Also receiving votes: Golden State Warriors, Portland Trail Blazers
In the last two years, the overwhelming answer to this question was, of course, the Golden State Warriors. Last year, they received 87 percent of the vote and the Houston Rockets received seven percent. This year, with the additions of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, there is a new team on top.
As you can see from the rankings, the Rockets did not receive any votes, as the GMs around the league don’t think the James Harden and Russell Westbrook pairing can lead them to a championship in their first season. For a team that has been the Warrior’s biggest rival in the Western Conference for the last few years, it is curious that at least in the general managers’ eyes they are still not a top contender.
Western Conference rankings
Last year the Houston Rockets finished with the fourth-best record in the Western Conference at 55-27. Before the season started, 10 percent of GMs had the Rockets finishing first and in the overall ranking, they were ranked second behind the Warriors. In this year’s survey, they have dropped the Rockets down several spots.
The GMs have Houston ranked fifth in the West behind the Clippers, Nuggets, Lakers and Jazz. Only seven percent give them a chance to take the top spot this year. Every contender in the West has made major moves this offseason, so only time will tell if this is correct. When a team has two of the last three MVPs in one backcourt, you would think their chances were a lot better than this survey would have you believe.
Who will win the 2019-20 Kia MVP?
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee — 52%2. Stephen Curry, Warriors – 10%Anthony Davis, Lakers – 10%Kawhi Leonard, Clippers – 10%5. Nikola Jokic, Denver — 7%
Also receiving votes: James Harden, Houston; LeBron James, L.A. Lakers; Damian Lillard, Portland
James Harden has finished second in MVP voting three out of the last four years, so this is a sore subject in Houston. Last year, Harden finished second to Giannis Antetokounmpo even after averaging 36 points a game. This year’s NBA.com survey doesn’t even have Harden in the top five, although he is mentioned in the” also receiving votes” section.
This goes back to Harden’s earlier comments about MVP narratives being formed early in a season. The sentiment around the league is that with Westbrook on the team now, Harden will have less scoring and assist opportunities.
What is not being factored in is that Harden will still have the ball in his hand the majority of the time and Westbrook will primarily be the one to adjust his game, not the other way around. Keep in mind also, the GMs had Harden finishing fourth last year with only 10 percent of the vote, so take these rankings with a grain of salt.
Who is the best shooting guard in the NBA?
1. James Harden, Houston – 86%2. Paul George, LA Clippers – 7%
The biggest no-brainer in the entire survey was the vote for the best shooting guard in the league. Harden has been the best shooting guard for at least the last five years and in this year’s survey, he finished number one again at 86 percent, which is actually up from last year when he received 73 percent of the vote. He is the clear-cut choice here, and there shouldn’t be much debate about this for seasons to come.
Which player forces opposing coaches to make the most adjustments?
1. James Harden, Houston — 48%2. Stephen Curry, Golden State — 17%LeBron James, L.A. Lakers — 17%4. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee — 14%5. Kevin Durant, Brooklyn — 3%
This is a very interesting category as it goes to the heart of why Harden should have won MVP last year. Harden is the most unique player in the league in that he takes what people consider a low-percentage shot and makes it at an efficient rate. It not only makes Harden almost impossible to guard but to gameplan for as well.
The Bucks are just one of several teams that have gone to extreme lengths to stop Harden’s step-back by staying attached to his left, him forcing him to step back right or drive to the basket where they have a big man standing in the paint. This is the definition of changing your entire game plan and why Harden is number one on this list.
Other Houston Rockets that made the survey
As mentioned earlier, the Rockets were severely underrepresented in this survey, but there were a few others that made the cut.
Mike D’Antoni was tied for second for coaches that run the best offenses. PJ Tucker finished third for the toughest player in the league. Harden came in at fourth for the best passer in the league while Westbrook tied for third for most athletic and second for fastest with the ball.
Overall in the major categories, the Rockets were shut out. The good thing about that is: once the regular season starts, all these predictions can be proven wrong on the court. Everyone loves an underdog, and the Houston Rockets can be just that this season.