How Accurate Is the NBA General Manager Survey?

A study by WSN reveals that the NBA GM Survey predicts seasons with 51% accuracy.

At the beginning of every NBA season, the General Manager of each franchise is asked to predict the best teams and players for the upcoming season. World Sports Network has compiled the historical data of GM answers and compared the data to the actual results at the end of each season to find out the accuracy of GM predictions.

Key Facts

  • The most difficult prediction for GMs is the MVP winner, with only 17.6% accuracy.
  • The most accurate prediction is for the best Shooting Guard, with 88% precision.
  • The NBA GM Survey has been conducted since the 2002-03 season.
  • The study was based on 10 factual questions.

Accuracy NBA GM Survey

Survey Questions

Which team will win the NBA Finals?

Even though the NBA seems to be dominated by dynasties, such as Steph Curry’s Golden State Warriors, LeBron James’ Miami Heat, or Kobe Bryant’s Los Angeles Lakers, predicting NBA Champions is a very difficult task, even for NBA General Managers.

In the past 17 seasons, the top answer from GM’s was correct only nine times or 52.9%.

It is interesting to note for the season 2014-15 the top answer from GM’s was San Antonio, with 46% of votes. The NBA champions for that season, Golden State, received only 3.8% (one vote).

<!-- table Which team will win the NBA Finals? -->

Which team will win the NBA Finals?
Year GM Answer NBA Champion Correct
2018-19 Golden State – 87% Toronto Raptors
2017-18 Golden State – 93% Golden State
2016-17 Golden State – 69% Golden State
2015-16 Cleveland – 53.6% Cleveland
2014-15 San Antonio – 46% Golden State
2013-14 Miami – 75.9% San Antonio
2012-13 Miami – 70.0% Miami
2011-12 Miami – 74.1% Miami
2010-11 LA Lakers – 63% Dallas
2009-10 LA Lakers – 60.7% LA Lakers
2008-09 LA Lakers – 46.2% LA Lakers
2007-08 San Antonio – 37.0% Boston
2006-07 San Antonio – 42.9% San Antonio
2005-06 San Antonio – 76.9% Miami
2004-05 San Antonio – 45.2% San Antonio
2003-04 LA Lakers – 52.4% Detroit
2002-03 LA Lakers – 61.5% San Antonio

Eastern Conference vs Western Conference

The Eastern Conference in the NBA has been considered as the weaker conference for the last several years. Nevertheless, it was not easier to predict. Accuracy in GM’s predictions was the same for both conferences, 60%.

However, this question has changed over the years. For the first 13 years, GM’s were asked to predict who will win the Eastern and Western Conference Finals. Since 2015 GM’s are asked to predict the top 4 teams in each conference.

Also, this is the only question out of 10 included in this study that didn’t exist on the first GM’s survey back in 2002.

<!-- table Rank the top (four) teams in the Eastern Conference -->

Rank the top (four) teams in the Eastern Conference
Year GM Answer Top Seed Correct
2018-19 Boston – 90% Milwaukee
2017-18 Cleveland – 86% Toronto
2016-17 Cleveland – 96.6% Boston
2015-16 Cleveland – 96.6% Cleveland
Which team will win the Eastern Conference (finals)?
2014-15 Cleveland – 70.4% Atlanta
2013-14 Miami – 86.2% Miami
2012-13 Miami – 96.7% Miami
2011-12 Miami – 96.3% Miami
2010-11 Miami – 70.4% Miami
2009-10 Boston – 50% Boston
2008-09 Boston – 74.1% Orlando
2007-08 Boston, Detroit – 25.9% Boston
2006-07 Miami – 71.4% Cleveland
2005-06 Miami – 73.1% Miami
2004-05 Detroit – 61.9% Detroit
2003-04 New Jersey – 57.1% Detroit
2002-03 N/A New Jersey N/A

<!-- table Rank the top (four) teams in the Western Conference -->

Rank the top (four) teams in the Western Conference
Year GM Answer Top Seed Correct
2018-19 Golden State – 90% Golden State
2017-18 Golden State – 97% Houston
2016-17 Golden State – 96.7% Golden State
2015-16 Golden State – 51.7% Golden State
Which team will win the Western Conference (finals)?
2014-15 San Antonio – 46% Golden State
2013-14 San Antonio – 40.0% San Antonio
2012-13 LA Lakers – 60.0% San Antonio
2011-12 Oklahoma – 67.9% Oklahoma
2010-11 LA Lakers – 96.4% Dallas
2009-10 LA Lakers – 75.9% LA Lakers
2008-09 LA Lakers – 66.7% LA Lakers
2007-08 San Antonio – 51.9% LA Lakers
2006-07 San Antonio – 50.0% San Antonio
2005-06 San Antonio – 76.9% Dallas
2004-05 San Antonio – 71.4% San Antonio
2003-04 LA Lakers – 57.1% LA Lakers
2002-03 N/A San Antonio N/A

Who will be the NBA MVP?

The NBA Most Valuable Player Award is among the most prestigious awards in sports, but for GM’s, predicting the next MVP was the most difficult part of the survey.

In the last 17 seasons, GMs were correct only three times (LeBron James 2012-13, 2009-10, 2008-09). Eleven out of 17 times, James was the top pick.

MVP winners in 2014-15 and 2010-11, Stephen Curry and Derrick Rose respectively, did not receive any votes from GM’s in the prediction surveys in the year they won the award.

<!-- table Who will win the MVP award? -->

Who will win the MVP award?
Year GM Answer NBA MVP Correct
2018-19 LeBron James – 30% Giannis Antetokounmpo
2017-18 LeBron James – 50% James Harden
2016-17 LeBron James – 46.7% Russell Westbrook
2015-16 LeBron James – 39.3% Stephen Curry
2014-15 LeBron James – 67.9% Stephen Curry
2013-14 LeBron James – 69.0% Kevin Durant
2012-13 LeBron James – 66.7% LeBron James
2011-12 Kevin Durant – 55.6% LeBron James
2010-11 Kevin Durant – 66.7% Derrick Rose
2009-10 LeBron James – 69.0% LeBron James
2008-09 LeBron James – 55.6% LeBron James
2007-08 LeBron James – 29.6% Kobe Bryant
2006-07 LeBron James – 39.3% Dirk Nowitzki
2005-06 Tim Duncan – 58.3% Steve Nash
2004-05 Shaquille O’Neal – 57.1% Steve Nash
2003-04 Tim Duncan, Shaquille O’Neal – 42.9% Kevin Garnett
2002-03 Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal – 30.8% Tim Duncan

GM Predictions for NBA MVP

Who will win the Rookie of the Year Award?

Each year GM’s are asked several questions regarding rookies, and we can check the undisputed accuracy of only one question, “Who will Win the Rookie of the Year Award?”.

So far, GMs were able to make an accurate prediction seven out of 17 times, or 41.2%.

However other questions and GMs’ predictions are just as interesting.

In 2013, current MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo was not among the top 5 in “Which Rookie Will be the Best Player in Five Years?”.

His runner-up, Paul George, did not receive a vote in this category in 2010.

Who will win the Rookie of the Year Award?
Year GM Answer Rookie of the Year Correct
2018-19 Luka Doncic – 43% Luka Doncic
2017-18 Lonzo Ball – 62% Ben Simmons
2016-17 Kris Dunn – 46.7% Malcolm Brogdon
2015-16 Jahlil Okafor – 44.8% Karl-Anthony Towns
2014-15 Jabari Parker – 75% Andrew Wiggins
2013-14 Victor Oladipo – 80.0% Michael Carter-Williams
2012-13 Anthony Davis – 76.7% Damian Lillard
2011-12 Kyrie Irving – 63.0% Kyrie Irving
2010-11 John Wall – 67.9% Blake Griffin
2009-10 Blake Griffin Tyreke Evans
2008-09 Michael Beasley – 48.1% Derrick Rose
2007-08 Kevin Durant – 92.6% Kevin Durant
2006-07 Brandon Roy – 44.4% Brandon Roy
2005-06 Andrew Bogut – 40.0% Chris Paul
2004-05 Emeka Okafor – 42.9% Emeka Okafor
2003-04 LeBron James – 81.0% LeBron James
2002-03 Yao Ming – 26.9% Amar’e Stoudemire

Who is the best point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward and center in the NBA?

We’ve combined five questions for each of the positions, and compared those with GMs predictions over the last 17 years with All-NBA First Team honors in the same time period.

General Managers had a difficult time predicting the best Power Forward, with an accuracy of only 24%, while the Shooting Guard position was difficult to miss, with an accuracy of 88%.

An issue arose with the Power Forward position, caused mostly by Kevin Durant.

Durant was never elected as the best Small Forward, or the best Power Forward by GMs, but his brilliant performances earned him All-NBA First Team honors six times.

This created a small ball line up with him and LeBron James occupying Small Forward and Power Forward positions.

On average GMs accurately predicted three out of five players (58%) that ended up on the All-NBA First Team. General Managers never predicted all five players correctly, but always got at least two out of five players selected accurately.

<!-- table Who is the best PG, SG, SF, PF, C in the NBA? -->

Top NBA Players by Position

*Please note The First Team selection includes two guards, two forwards, and one center while GMs are asked to predict the best point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward and center.

Other Questions

Although this study included only factual questions (has only one correct answer, which can be verified by an official award or historical standings) some of the other questions and answers were very interesting as well.

In 2005 the top answer to “Who is the Best International Player NOT in the NBA?”, was Luis Scola, who is coming off an amazing World Cup performance.

He just led Argentina to the finals, out-performing NBA stars (Nikola Jokic, Nemanja Bjelica, and Rudy Gobert) on the way. So fourteen years later, despite his age, he might be selected as the top answer by GM’s again.

Probably the most interesting answers to study are for “Which Rookie will be the Best Player in Five Years?”. General Managers did not have high expectations for both the league’s current MVP and the runner-up.

Current MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo, was not among the top five selections in 2013, and the 2019 runner-up, Paul George, did not receive a vote from any GM in 2010.

In fact, the whole All-NBA First Team from the 2018-19 season failed to be recognized by GM’s during their rookie seasons.

The league’s best center, Nikola Jokić, received 0 votes in 2015. Also, the best point guard, Steph Curry, received only 6.9% of votes, and the best shooting guard, James Harden, received only 10.3% of votes, both in 2009.

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