GM Survey seems to like the Wolves while being wrong about Kevin Love

Zach Harper —  October 22, 2013 — 3 Comments

The NBA’s annual GM Survey hit the stands on the internet today and the Wolves were prominently featured throughout the polling.

As you can see in the tweet above, Kevin Love won the award for doing the most with the most limited of natural ability. We’ll get into more of that later, but for now it’s interesting to see where the lay of the league is in the eyes of the general managers around the NBA. Here’s the full survey from John Schuhmann of NBA.com.

Let’s get into where the Wolves fall in some of these questions: 

Who is the best power forward in the NBA?

1. Tim Duncan, San Antonio — 31.0%

2. Kevin Love, Minnesota — 27.6%

3. LeBron James, Miami — 13.8%

4. LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland; Blake Griffin, L.A. Clippers — 6.9%

Also receiving votes: Chris Bosh, Miami; Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City; Kevin Garnett, Brooklyn; Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas

Last year: Kevin Love — 30.0%

The Top 3 in this list to me were fascinating. Tim Duncan hasn’t been considered a power forward by his coach for over a decade and yet we still have a lot of people — people in the league as well — calling Duncan a power forward. He’s been a center for quite some time but I guess I’m cool with him being grandfathered in to this position, especially after the run he led in the NBA Finals a few months ago. I think as of right now, Kevin Love is a better player than Tim Duncan, but you could argue that Duncan’s impact is greater, making him a better player.

Love is my pick for best power forward in the league and not just because I like them Wolves. It’s just hard for me to think of guys that are definitely above him. However, if we’re calling LeBron James a definite power forward (and it certainly seems like he spends most of his time there now) then it’s clearly LeBron. I also like that if you click through to the entire survey, Kevin Durant received votes for top power forward and top shooting guard.

Which team will be most improved in 2013-14?

1. Detroit — 16.7%

2. Brooklyn, Cleveland, Houston, Minnesota, New Orleans, Washington — 13.3%

8. L.A. Clippers — 3.3%

Last year: Brooklyn — 62.1%

Hey look! The Wolves tied for second on most improved team and I don’t actually believe the Pistons will be more improved than them so really it feels like a five-way tie for most improved. If I had to rank those seven teams for most improved, I’d go with the Nets then Pelicans then Wolves then Cavaliers then Rockets then Pistons then Wizards. I’m just going off of regular season win improvements.

Which international player is most likely to have a breakout season in 2013-14?

1. Jonas Valanciunas, Toronto — 39.3%

2. Ricky Rubio, Minnesota — 17.9%

3. Mirza Teletovic, Brooklyn — 7.1%

Also receiving votes: Nicolas Batum, Portland; Andrew Bogut, Golden State; Nando De Colo, San Antonio; Serge Ibaka, Oklahoma City; Enes Kanter, Utah; Nikola Pekovic, Minnesota; Alexey Shved, Minnesota; Tristan Thompson, Cleveland; Anderson Varejao, Cleveland; Nikola Vucevic, Orlando

Last year: Jonas Valanciunas — 17.2%

I actually don’t know how I feel about this. Jonas Valanciunas shouldn’t have his minutes jerked around this coming season, and with the added muscle he put on, he should be prepared to bang and play strong on the interior. He’s also just a very efficient basketball player in pretty much everything he does. He’s primed for a huge year. I think Rubio is also primed for a monster year, but really all of it will come down to his ability to finish around the rim and make jumpers. He doesn’t have to be a deadeye shooter yet, but he can’t be atrocious. If those things happen, his passing and defense should propel him quite a bit.

Which head coach makes the best in-game adjustments?

1. Gregg Popovich, San Antonio — 27.6%

2. Rick Carlisle, Dallas — 24.1%

3. Doc Rivers, L.A. Clippers — 13.8%

4. Rick Adelman, Minnesota; Tom Thibodeau, Chicago — 10.3%

Also receiving votes: Scott Brooks, Oklahoma City; Kevin McHale, Houston; Erik Spoelstra, Miami; Frank Vogel, Indiana

Last year: Gregg Popovich — 40.0%

Which head coach runs the best offense?

1. Gregg Popovich, San Antonio — 37.9%

2. Rick Adelman, Minnesota — 20.7%

3. Kevin McHale, Houston — 10.3%

4. Mike D’Antoni, L.A. Lakers; Erik Spoelstra, Miami — 6.9%

Also receiving votes: Rick Carlisle, Dallas; Mark Jackson, Golden State; George Karl; Doc Rivers, L.A. Clippers; Tom Thibodeau, Chicago

Last year: George Karl — 31.0%

It’s always great to see Rick Adelman get his due around the league. That’s been one of the great things about covering him is hearing opposing coaches glow about him when they come into town and talk pre and post-game. Adelman has respect around the league that is hard to match and saying he has the second best offense in the league behind Gregg Popovich is quite the honor. Let’s just hope this team is healthy enough to run that offense.

Which player is the best offensive rebounder?

1. Kevin Love, Minnesota — 41.4%

2. Zach Randolph — Memphis — 24.1%

3. Kenneth Faried, Denver — 13.8%

4. Reggie Evans, Brooklyn — 10.3%

Also receiving votes: Andre Drummond, Detroit; Dwight Howard, Houston; Paul Millsap, Atlanta

Last year: Kevin Love — 53.3%

Which player is the best passer?

1. Chris Paul, L.A. Clippers — 46.7%

2. Rajon Rondo, Boston; Ricky Rubio, Minnesota — 16.7%

4. Steve Nash, L.A. Lakers — 6.7%

Also receiving votes: Marc Gasol, Memphis; LeBron James, Miami; Greivis Vasquez, Sacramento; Dion Waiters, Cleveland

Last year: Steve Nash — 58.6%

Love being kind of an overwhelming favorite as the top offensive rebounder in the league was interesting to me. He was fifth in offensive rebounds in 2011-12 but didn’t finish in the top 20 in offensive rebounding percentage. In 2010-11, he had the most offensive boards in the league and was fifth in offensive rebounding percentage. I always think of Nikola Pekovic as more of the offensive rebounder on the team, but it wouldn’t shock me if Love was tops in that category this season.

Rubio being tied with Rajon Rondo for second best passer in the league is a pretty big honor. I also love that Marc Gasol got a vote (valid for a big man) and Dion Waiters got a vote (WUT).

Which player makes the most of limited natural ability?

1. Kevin Love, Minnesota — 24.1%

2. Marc Gasol, Memphis — 13.8%

3. Matt Bonner, San Antonio; Jared Dudley, L.A. Clippers — 10.3%

5. J.J. Barea, Minnesota — 6.9%

Also receiving votes: Nick Collison, Oklahoma City; Stephen Curry, Golden State; Danny Green, San Antonio; Chuck Hayes, Sacramento; Roy Hibbert, Indiana; Kyle Korver, Atlanta; Steve Nash, L.A. Lakers; Luis Scola, Indiana; Anderson Varejao, Cleveland, Greivis Vasquez, Sacramento

Last year: Kevin Love — 34.5%

This one drives me insane and Love summed it up perfectly in his tweet about it being the white guy award. I guess I don’t know what “natural ability” is supposed to mean. Love has some of the top natural ability in the league if we’re counting shooting touch, passing ability, and rebounding ability. We often see players dominate in those areas and they have almost an innate ability to do so. Isn’t that a natural ability for these guys? If we’re just speaking athletic ability, Love is actually quite athletic for his size, not for his skin color.

Love was measured with a 35-inch vertical at the draft combine in 2008 and he’s actually lost probably 20-30 lbs. since that time. I find it hard to believe he’s not able to best that 35-inches now. Not to mention, he’s a very quick jumper. He’s not someone with a great wingspan but he jumps quickly to boards and shows some good bounce when going after offensive boards. Love will have this “award” locked down for quite some time because we’re measuring foot speed here instead of ability that seems so good it’s natural to the player.

But I guess when we’re talking about a group of people that we often believe should be fired for misjudging the players they bring in, it’s not surprising when we find certain aspects of this survey that confuse us. At least it killed some time. We’re a week away from Wolves basketball.

Zach Harper

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3 responses to GM Survey seems to like the Wolves while being wrong about Kevin Love

  1. Melo gets no love among the GMs? How does D’Antoni get into the conversation for running the best offense when he only ran Kobe into the ground(or let him do it himself)?

  2. If things like shooting touch and rebounding are natural abilities, then I think the more interesting question is what skills are NOT natural? Is anyone complaining about Matt Bonner being on the list? Because his one and only NBA skill is his shooting touch. Steph Curry got votes as well, so it’s pretty clear that NBA GM’s are regarding shooting as a learnable, practiced skill rather than an innate talent. That’s a compliment to people like K-Love, not an insult.

    Rebounding seems like it’s pretty clearly a learned skill and effort statistic. The biggest argument in favor of rebounding being more effort than talent is, interestingly, Dennis Rodman. Since the 1979-1980 season, Rodman is the only player with any season greater than 15.3 rebounds per 36 minutes (not including Danny Fortson’s 6-game season in ’00-’01). Rodman did it 7 different times in that span, including a massive 18.9 per 36 minutes in ’94-’95. Now, if rebounding is simply an innate ability like I believe passing is, how could one person ever have so much more innate ability than every other NBA player in the modern era? Rodman is such an extreme outlier he has to serve as evidence that there are other factors in play beyond random chance aka innate ability.

    Yes, this award will tend to go to white players because white players tend to be less athletic and athleticism is the first thing that comes to mind for people thinking about “natural ability”. But that’s no reason to think of it as an insult. Love has put the time in and chosen to make himself into a better player than most people could have imagined when they saw him on draft night. That should be a point of pride.

  3. Frankly the responses cause me to question the basic ability of some NBA GMs to comprehend the English language. How is being 7 feet tall like Marc Gasol not superior “natural ability”? Being that big is much rarer a physical gift than a 40″ vert or 4.5 40 speed. Yes, I realize being super big is a physical condition, but so is being very fast. So is having pogo sticks for legs. Then again if height is not a natural ability, then I am mystified that JJ Barea is on this list. To be a 5’10 guy playing in the NBA you have to be a far greater physical freak than someone who is 6’6. If hard work could put 5’10 guys in the NBA – of whom there are literally tens of thousands for each person in the world as tall as Kevin Love — there would be a heck of a lot more of them in the NBA. So for Barea GMs seem to be saying lack of height in and of itself represents a massive lack of “natural ability” that offsets his other tremendous natural abilities and athleticism, but for Gasol his natural ability specifically excludes his height. Bizarre.

    I also do not entirely agree with Brock that things like shooting touch, rebounding ability and passing ability are not natural abilities – certainly, much of it can be learned but *extraordinary* shooting touch, rebounding ability and passing ability, which is what I think Zach is necessarily talking about with someone like Kevin Love – are hugely valuable natural abilities, especially when combined with other valuable natural abilities like well above-average height and athleticism., which Love possesses in abundance. Sure, JJ Hickson can jump out a gym but when you combine all of their god-given talents, how could anyone say that Kevin Love has less total “natural ability” than JJ Hickson? That necessarily means that the only reason JJ Hickson is not as productive as Kevin Love as an NBA player is because he is not maximizing his superior “natural abilities”. Surely no one actually thinks that once they break it all out.

    And therein lies the problem of the myth of the “scrappy white player who earns success through sweat equity”. It is a not-so-veiled (although often entirely unintended) insult toward black players, because it suggests they by and large rely more on natural ability, a common and damaging stereotype of black athletes that is both unfair and untrue for the vast majority of the athletes who reach the pinnacle of their sport.

    So Kevin Love cannot take it as a compliment that he does more with less natural ability than guys like Chris Bosh or Al Horford, because he knows it is not true. He is just as naturally able as they are, regardless of skin color. He also cannot take it as a compliment that he is massively more productive than a Carl Landry or a Ryan Gomes because he simply has outworked them in order to become a better player, because he knows it is not true. They are hard workers with nowhere near his natural ability, regardless of skin color. So he is right to be insulted by this white guy award. It is insult to white players, black players, and thinking beyond damaging old stereotypes.

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