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Popovich, Heat rule NBA GM Survey

San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, left,

San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, left, talks to Spurs' Tim Duncan during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Phoenix Suns. (Jan. 15, 2012) Credit: AP

Greg Popovich is really good at what he does. That according to the NBA's annual GM Survey, released earlier this afternoon.

The survey, which consists of 57 questions, asks general managers to make season predictions, guess who the league's MVP will be, pick which team is the most fun to watch, which player they'd want to take the last shot in a game, and much more.

Here are some of the survey's winners. I've added my picks with a brief explanation.

The numbers in parentheses are the percentage of GMs that responded with the choice.

2012 NBA champs

GM pick: Miami Heat (74.1 percent)
My pick: Oklahoma City Thunder (14.8 percent)

Prior to the season, I went with OKC as the favorites to win the NBA title in Newsday's NBA preview. Watching the first sixth of the season, I'm not inclined to change my mind. They have a deep bench, three true stars (Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden), and are young enough to survive the schedule.

2011-12 MVP

GM pick: Durant (55.6 percent)
My pick: Kobe Bryant (No votes)

Watching Bryant carry the Lakers the last several games is enough to make this pick pretty easy right now. The key will be his staying healthy, especially considering how heavily he is being relied upon on offense.

Franchise player

GM pick: Durant, James (37 percent)
My pick: James

You have to think that Durant tying with James among the GMs has something to do with an anti-LeBron bias. I know James is older, but he is only 27, is elite on both sides of the ball, immediately makes a team a title contender, and puts fannies in the seats.

Breakout candidate

GM pick: Harden (21.4 percent)
My pick: Greg Monroe (No votes)

Went with Monroe in the Eastern Conference and Marcus Thornton in the Western Conference prior to the season. Both have capitalized, and are in the middle of career years. But the real answer looks to be Harden, who has the look of an All-Star for the Thunder.

Top point guard

GM pick: Derrick Rose (59.3 percent)
My pick: Rose

The reigning MVP is an easy choice here, even with Chris Paul and Deron Williams at the position.

Top shooting guard

GM pick: Bryant (55.6 percent)
My pick: Bryant

Bryant has serious mileage on his legs, but for this year, you still take him as your shooting guard.

Top small forward

GM pick: James (77.8 percent)
My pick: James

As mentioned above, James does too much on both offense and defense not to pick him here.

Top power forward

GM pick: Dirk Nowitzki (41.1 percent)
My pick: Kevin Love (14.3 percent)

If you asked me prior to the season, I don't know if I would have even considered Love. The way he has slimmed down and is continuing to develop for Minnesota has him at the top of the power forward class, though. He is averaging an other-worldly 25.6 points and 14.3 rebounds per game this year.

Top center

GM pick: Dwight Howard (96.3 percent)
My pick: Howard


Most improved team

GM pick: Los Angeles Clippers (66.7 percent)
My pick: Indiana Pacers (18.5 percent)

Liked the Pacers entering the season, loved them after a handful of games, now I just like them again. A 25-point loss to Miami and a 10-point loss to Philly has to make you wonder whether Indy is in fact ready to take the next step, and compete for the Eastern Conference title.

Rookie sleeper

GM pick: Norris Cole (44 percent)
My pick: MarShon Brooks (8 percent)

Watching Brooks at Providence, you knew he could score from anywhere. In the pros, it'd just be a matter of getting ample playing time. The Nets have obliged, and Brooks hasn't disappointed, averaging 18.7 points per 36 minutes.

Best head coach

GM pick: Popovich (42.9 percent)
My pick: Popovich

In a way, Popovich has the toughest job in the NBA. He's got a couple of past-their-prime stars, a bunch of still-developing youngsters, and a really tight schedule. The fact that nobody is surprised how masterfully San Antonio has navigated the early going shows how great Pop is.

Most fun team to watch

GM pick: Heat (33.3 percent)
My pick: Heat

You're kidding yourself if you pick against Miami. Consider this: If you're offered tickets to see your favorite team on the road against any other team in the NBA, is there any scenario you don't take the trip to see the Heat?

Toughest player

GM pick: Bryant (32.1 percent)
My pick: Bryant

I'm convinced that Bryant will get a full body scan at the end of his career that will reveal two broken wrists, two bum knees, and myriad other chronic issues. Despite all the ailments, all he does is play . . . and perform.

Who takes the last shot?

GM pick: Bryant (48.1 percent)
My pick: Paul Pierce (no votes)

Maybe this smacks of New York bias. Maybe Pierce fits more appropriately in the "Which player would you least want to see celebrate after taking the last shot?" question. Still, give Pierce the ball down one at the elbow, and he's going to drain the jumper 101 times out of 100.

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