GM Survey: Where Darko Milicic is underrated and Carmelo Anthony is MVP

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Everyone has that buddy that acts perfectly logical and sane, but forces you to reevaluate your friendship after he blurts out something like, “Carlos Boozer is going to win MVP this year!” Well, good news everyone: NBA General Managers are just like you, me, and your friend you can no longer take seriously.

Let’s take a look at some particularly bizarre things that were said in the NBA GM survey released today. Keep in mind that general managers weren’t allowed to vote for their own players or personnel, which makes these answers (and the who-done-it mystery) all the more confounding.

1. Carmelo Anthony: MVP

Let’s try to rationalize this. The MVP award can be all about the narrative, right? Maybe New York comes out and crushes the league during the regular season, and it’s Carmelo Anthony leading the way. The long awaited actualization of immense natural talent — what a story! And ever since LeBron James and Kevin Durant were abducted by aliens, it’s an easy call to make! Look, unless “defense” and “scoring efficiency” cease to exist in the year 2013, let’s go ahead and chalk this up to a GM doing some grade-A trolling.

Likely culprit: Masai Ujiri, Denver Nuggets GM, Master Troll

2. Most underrated player acquisition: Darko Milicic

If by “underrated” this GM means “not rated all because it doesn’t matter” then this is a great pick that makes all kinds of sense. It’s hard to express just how awful Darko Milicic has been throughout his entire career, but I’ll try. Darko posted a PER of 9.0 (average PER is 15), had a true shooting percentage of 45.8 percent, had zero win shares, had a lower defensive rebounding percentage than Andrea Bargnani, and was considered a malcontent through it all. But, other than that, I’m sure he’s on the brink of a breakout in his 10th NBA season. That happens all the time.

Likely Culprit: David Kahn, Minnesota Timberwolves GM, Manna from Heaven Believer

 

3. Best Perimeter Defender: Kobe Bryant

Aren’t reputations fun? Bryant has been playing matador defense for a while now, sending everything to the bigs in the paint behind him. That may be a viable strategy now that Dwight Howard is patrolling the paint, but it’s laughable to suggest that Bryant is the best perimeter defender in the league when there are much quicker players who are really only in the league because defense is their one skill. You think Tony Allen gets playing time for his isolation ability? Or that Thabo Seflosha plays over James Harden because he’s a pure scorer? Bryant can still play a mean center field defensively, but he’s nowhere near the on-ball defender he used to be.

Likely Culprit:  Lon Babby, Phoenix Suns GM, Part-Time Lakers Assistant GM

4. Player you want taking a shot with the game on the line: Chauncey Billups

Behold the power of a nickname! Chauncey Billups, also known as Mr. Big Shot, had gone 3-of-27 with the game on the line from 2006-2011. In that same time frame, Chris Paul was 14-for-31. So while the GM who picked Chuancey Billups may have had the right team, he definitely picked the wrong player. In fact, anyone not named Chauncey with at least 15 attempts would have been a better choice. This is an impressive level of wrong here.

Likely Culprit: Joe Dumars, Detroit Pistons GM, Proud Nostalgist

5. The Timberwolves will win the Northwest Division instead of the Thunder or Nuggets

Who needs baby steps when you can take gigantic leaps? This isn’t an indictment on what Minnesota has cooking — many smart people predict Minnesota to make the playoffs and the numbers support it. But are they really better than the Thunder? It’s hard to make that massive jump with Ricky Rubio still making his way back from ACL surgery and Kevin Love sidelined for the beginning of the season. Maybe the GM forgot the Thunder were in this division. After all, Oklahoma City really isn’t in the Northwest.

Likely Culprit: Daryl Morey, Houston Rockets GM, Numbers Fiend

6. The Hawks will win the Southeast Division instead of the Heat

Nevermind that the Heat are the defending champs, added some guy named Ray Allen, and still feature the best player in the league in the prime of his career. That’s all circumstantial, because the Hawks…traded Joe Johnson? You won’t find a bigger Anthony Morrow fan than me (with the possible exception of this GM), but only Harry the Hawk or someone who runs a team that has adopted a vendetta against all things Miami could possibly believe something like…oh. Right.

Likely Culprit: Danny Ainge, Boston Celtics GM, Loyal Feudist (Obviously this was actually Pat Riley, since he can’t vote for his own team. But it’s more fun to think that it’s Ainge, isn’t it?)

Already? Giannis Antetokounmpo says Joel Embiid tried to recruit him to Sixers

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The Greek Freak (now trademarked) Giannis Antetokounmpo is going to be a Buck for a while — he has three fully guaranteed years on his contract after this one, taking him until at least the summer of 2021. At that point, Milwaukee almost certainly will be able to offer him the designated player super max contract that will be hard to turn down. The Greek Freak is going to be in Milwaukee for a long time.

That didn’t stop Joel Embiid, who tried to recruit Antetokounmpo to Sixers during All-Star weekend. Via Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

“He told me I should trust the process and come play for Philly,” Antetokounmpo said with a chuckle, drawing a laugh. “That was my reaction — I just laughed.”

Of course, if somewhere down the line Antetokounmpo and Embiid team up some tinfoil hat conspiracy theorist will say “they have been planning this since 2018.”

Embiid probably did this tongue in cheek, but he is fearless about this stuff — remember a couple of summers ago he tried to recruit Kevin Durant through social media.

As for Antetokounmpo and the Sixers, nothing to see here, move along.

Rumor: Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert might not offer LeBron James no-trade clause in next contract

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The Cavaliers’ three deadline-day trades appear to have invigorated LeBron James, but a key issue remains as LeBron’s player option approaches: Dan Gilbert still owns the Cavs.

Howard Beck of Bleacher Report:

“LeBron wants to be in charge of everything, which is what puts him at odds with Dan,” one source said. “Dan wants to be in charge of everything.”

The belief is that Gilbert, having reasserted control after chasing out Griffin, will rebuff James’ request for a no-trade clause, or any other measures that give him leverage. And that will be enough to drive James away.

“Dan Gilbert’s not going to do what it takes to keep him,” the same source predicted. “Not a chance in hell he’s going to give him a no-trade clause, or let him dictate contract terms.”

LeBron’s no-trade clause might have been useful this season. When things got particularly bad in Cleveland, he affirmed he wouldn’t waive it. I doubt the Cavs would have dealt him regardless, but he made it a certainty.

But a no-trade clause was relevant only because LeBron signed a multi-year contract due to salary-cap rules relevant in 2016. With those no longer pertinent, he might go back to the 1+1 deals he first signed in his return to Cleveland. That’d give him an implicit no-trade clause, as those contracts are treated as one-year deals until the option is exercised, and players on one-year contracts who’d have early or full Bird Rights after can veto any trade.

Still, Gilbert taking this stance would matter if LeBron wants to sign long-term. An official no-trade clause would also carry over to LeBron’s next team if he approves a trade or in the second year of a 1+1 if he opts in. The implicit no-trade would not.

That could be enough for LeBron to demand the official no-trade clause – not just for the possibility it’s useful, but to show he can get it. He seems unwilling to give an inch. It’s about respect.

It also might be about stubbornness – both LeBron’s and Gilbert’s. This would be a ridiculous battleground for LeBron’s Cavaliers tenure to end on – just give LeBron whatever contract he wants – but it wouldn’t be the first ridiculous showdown between Gilbert and LeBron.

Giannis Antetokounmpo: I could never see myself playing for Los Angeles

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All-Star Weekend was (at least) an implicit recruiting tool for the Lakers and Clippers. The host teams could show off Los Angeles – the beautiful weather in middle of winter, the nightlife, the glitz and glamour.

LeBron James‘ praise drew the most attention:

I think L.A. is a perfect place to host All-Star Weekend. It’s one of the few cities that we have in our league that can accommodate all of this. And when I mean all of this, you have over 200-plus countries that’s covering the game. You’ve got so many people from all over the world coming to watch our game and just be a part of All-Star Weekend. And we know the traffic. We understand that. But traffic is traffic and — but L.A. can accommodate that. It’s built for stars. It’s built for entertainment. It’s built for cameras and bright lights, and it’s a great place for it.

Of course, we already knew LeBron was partial to Los Angeles. He has a house there.

But not every All-Star raved about the city.

Bucks forward Antetokounmpo, via Matt Velazquez Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

“I could never see myself being out there,” Antetokounmpo said. “It’s great for two, three days but it’s a little bit — things are going a little bit crazy.

“Of course, because of the All-Star Game, there was a lot of people there. … In Milwaukee — I love Milwaukee — it’s low-key. I can walk down the road, down the streets without anybody bugging me — nobody interrupts my conversation or anything. I love how quiet and calm Milwaukee is.”

The Bucks ought to appreciate this outlook. Antetokounmpo once said he wanted to stay with them forever, and – as rumors swirled about his future in Milwaukee, he tweeted, “I got loyalty inside my DNA.” But he has since explained how important it is for a team to do right by its star player, supporting him with a winning supporting cast.

Maybe Antetokounmpo will eventually leave the Bucks, but it seems unlikely that’d be just to reach a bigger market. Milwaukee can’t change its location. The Bucks can somewhat control whether they put a winner around Antetokounmpo.

Still, other teams will try to poach Antetokounmpo – like Joel Embiid‘s 76ers. Antetokounmpo, via Velazquez:

“He told me I should trust the process and come play for Philly,” Antetokounmpo said with a chuckle, drawing a laugh. “That was my reaction — I just laughed.”

PBT Podcast: What to watch during stretch run of season

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Are the Cleveland Cavaliers for real? And by “real” do you mean best in the East or threat to Warriors?

Who is going to make the playoffs in the West? Is Utah going in? Portland? The Los Angeles Clippers?

Is James Harden going win MVP? Is it Ben Simmons or Donovan Mitchell for Rookie of the Year?

Those are just some of the storylines as the NBA races down the stretch run of the season (most teams have around 25 games left). Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman of NBC Sports break down all the things to watch from the end of the season, including if Detroit can climb up into the postseason, and how the top of the East is going to shake out.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.