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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.
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||✗|
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||✗|
<!-- 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||✓|
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||✗|
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||✗|
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? -->
*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.
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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