Remember that old saying “it’s so-and-so’s world and we’re just living in it”? In the world of the 2018-19 NBA, the so-and-so’s are well known by now. With the release of the 2018-19 NBA GM Survey, care of NBA dot com, it’s clear the people at the very top of most franchises understand this reality too — LeBron James and the Warriors dominate the conversation.
And that’s fine! The Warriors, by dint of winning three of the last four titles, deserve the accolades and attention; meanwhile, LeBron is only one of the best players of all time. We should get it by now.
But let’s not mince any words here. What we really want to know is if the GMs are talking about the new-and-improved (on paper) Toronto Raptors. To which, we can now confirm: well, sort of. Let’s do a quick rifle through the questions and see were Toronto pops up.
Are the Raptors predicted to win the Finals? No. Make the Finals? No, again. (They’re favoured to finish second in the East behind the Celtics.) It’s not the best showing for our guys from Toronto.
How about Kawhi Leonard, though, surely he bears mentioning? Indeed he does! He’s at no. 4 for most likely to have a breakout season (tied with Aaron Gordon, Kyle Kuzma, Lauri Markkanen, Dejounte Murray, and Ben Simmons). OK, that doesn’t sound so special; where else does Kawhi make the cut? Three percent of GMs (so, uh, one; Bobby?) believe Toronto’s acquisition of Kawhi will have the biggest impact this season. The other 97 percent say guess who. At least 20 percent of GMs believe the Raptors made the best off-season moves though, which is nice. (70 percent believe the best move was, get this, signing LeBron James as a free agent.)
Wild swerve here: the most surprising move of the year was... not the Leonard-DeMar DeRozan trade. It was, according to the GMs of the league, the Warriors’ signing of DeMarcus Cousins. Good to know.
But wait, there it is: boom, Kawhi tied for first (with Rudy Gobert) as the best defensive player in the league, and wholly acknowledged as the best perimeter defender in the league. (Though Kawhi’s stranglehold on the top spot is slipping — it’s gone from 72 percent last year to 60 percent this time around.) Taken together, NBA GMs agree: Kawhi is the second-most versatile defender in the league (behind, ah yes, the Warriors’ Draymond Green).
The only other Raptor who gets a mention in the survey? Squint and you’ll see in the “Also receiving votes” section of a couple questions the name Fred VanVleet. He’s there as the bench player who makes the biggest impact upon entering a game (no kidding), and as the active player most likely to make a good head coach one day (which, hmm, I can see that).
All of which is to say, as high as expectations are, as much as the buzz is building in Toronto about the Raptors: there is still a lot of work to do.