NBA managers pick Clippers to win title in survey

NEW YORK (AFP) – Kawhi Leonard and the Los Angeles Clippers will win the 2020 NBA Finals, according to most league general managers in a survey released yesterday on the league’s website.

Ahead of Tuesday’s NBA openers featuring the Clippers against their city rival Lakers and New Orleans at reigning champion Toronto, the 18th annual poll showed 46 per cent of the NBA’s 30 general managers expect the Clippers to win the crown with Leonard, who left Toronto in July, and Paul George, who arrived from Oklahoma City.

Another 36 per cent of the NBA team decision makers picked the Milwaukee Bucks, led by Greek star Giannis Antetokounmpo, with 11 per cent choosing the Lakers, who will feature the power pairing of LeBron James and Anthony Davis and the Golden State Warriors and Portland Trail Blazers also receiving some support.

The Warriors, who lost to Toronto in the finals and lost injured star Kevin Durant to Brooklyn in the off-season, paced last year’s poll with 87 per cent support.

Milwaukee was seen as the best team in the Eastern Conference by 76 per cent of NBA general managers with the remaining 24 per cent picking Philadelphia atop the East.

File photo shows LA Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard shooting a jumper over of the Denver Nuggets’ Mason Plumlee during a pre-season. PHOTO: AFP

The Clippers were picked as the best in the West by 66 per cent of general managers. The Lakers had backing from 14 per cent. Houston and Golden State were next on seven percent with Denver and Portland each on three per cent.

Antetokounmpo had the most support for the NBA Most Valuable Player Award at 52 percent, with Davis, Leonard and Golden State’s Stephen Curry next on 10 per cent each.

Curry was chosen as the league’s top point guard with 90 per cent support.

Leonard was named the NBA’s top small forward with 62 per cent support compared to 24 per cent for runner-up James, last year’s winner at 57 per cent. Leonard was also voted the top defensive player in the league.

Antetokounmpo, picked as the top power forward and best international player in the NBA, was also chosen by 86 per cent of general managers as the player they would sign if they were starting a team. He led the poll in the category last year but only with 30 per cent backing.

Houston’s James Harden, the two-time reigning NBA scoring champion, was considered the top shooting guard and the player who forces opposince coaches to make the most adjustments while Sacramento’s De’Aaron Fox was chosen the player most likely to have a breakout season.

Denver’s Nikola Jokic was voted the NBA’s best centre at 48 per cent to 28 per cent for Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid and 17 per cent for Davis.

Zion Williamson of New Orleans, the top pick in the NBA Draft, was predicted to be NBA Rookie of the Year.

San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich was voted the NBA’s best coach at 55 per cent support.