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NBA GMs pick LeBron to win MVP, Luka Doncic to win Rookie of Year, Warriors to win title

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LeBron James came West and that is going to end his streak of having gone to eight straight NBA Finals — but it will win him his fifth MVP award.

According to NBA general managers, at least.

The annual NBA survey of GMs was released Wednesday and there were plenty of things we expected and a few surprises. Here are the highlights of the list, starting with something not a surprise to anyone:

• 87 percent predict the Golden State Warriors will win the NBA title. There were a few contrarian votes, with both Boston and Houston each getting 7 percent.

• GMs predicted the top four teams in the East would be (in order) Boston, Toronto, Philadelphia, Milwaukee. Yes, that means the GMs liked the Raptors adding Kawhi Leonard more than the Sixers, who lost a couple of shooters. The Bucks were in a virtual dead heat for fourth with the Pacers.

• GMs predicted the top four teams in the West would be (in order) Golden State, Houston, Oklahoma City, Utah.

• The MVP race is going to be wide open, although LeBron came out on top it was close: LeBron James 30 percent, Kevin Durant 27 percent, Anthony Davis 17 percent, James Harden 10 percent, and another five players got at least one vote.

Luka Doncic will win the Rookie of the Year, according to 47 percent of the GMs. Marvin Bagley III and Wendel Carter Jr. tied for second at 17 percent, followed by No. 1 pick Deandre Ayton at 13 percent. (Before you get indignant Suns fans, remember last season 62 percent of GMs thought Lonzo Ball would win ROY.)

• Which player will be the best out of this rookie class in five years? Ayton and Jaren Jackson Jr. tied for the top spot with 27 percent of the vote. Doncic came in third at 17 percent.

• If GMs could sign one player to start a franchise right now, it would be Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Bucks’ forward got 30 percent of the vote. Second place went to Anthony Davis at 23 percent, followed by Kevin Durant at 20 percent. Interestingly, Karl-Anthony Towns won this category a year ago but this season did not receive one vote.

• LeBron is the player that makes opposing coaches make the most adjustments according to 60 percent of GMs.

Rudy Gobert and Kawhi Leonard tied for the best defensive player in the NBA with 37 percent of the vote each (impressive for Leonard after a season off). Draymond Green was third with 17 percent, followed by Anthony Davis.

• Brad Stevens of Boston is the best coach in the NBA according to the GMs, winning what had been the annual Gregg Popovich award for a long time (Popovich was second with 30 percent of the vote).

• Once again, Chris Paul was voted as the player who would make the best head coach someday. (This will prompt the annual ritual of some reporter asking CP3 about it and Paul laughing in disgust at the idea.)

Report: Kevin Love would prefer to play for Portland if traded

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The Cleveland Cavaliers are listening to trade offers for Kevin Love.

Love’s reaction to this is essentially “whatevs.” He’s been in the middle of trade rumors for four years now, it’s as constant and annoying in his life as taxes.

However, if he is going to get traded, he’d prefer to go home to Oregon and play for Portland, reports Kevin O’Conner at The Ringer.

Love would prefer to play for his hometown Portland Trail Blazers, according to multiple league sources. The Blazers make perfect sense as a destination for Love; they need help for Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum after the team has been decimated by injuries….

The Blazers have the salaries to make a deal work with the expiring contracts of Hassan Whiteside ($27.1 million) or Kent Bazemore ($19.3 million).

There were previous reports Love just wants to go to a contender. That said, there is logic to him wanting to go home, and there is a good fit in Portland, a team that needed help at the four before injuries rocked the roster. Love is averaging 16.1 points and 10.5 rebounds a game, is shooting 37.1 percent from three, and remains one of the best outlet passers in the game.

Making a trade work is trickier. Bazemore has to play a much larger role after Rodney Hood was lost for the season with a torn Achilles, his availability is up for debate.

Hassan Whiteside can make the trade numbers work with his expiring contract, and Whiteside won’t be missed once Jusuf Nurkic (and even Zach Collins) returns from injury. However, the Cavaliers are going to want draft picks or young players to help with their rebuild to make this trade. Would the Blazers throw in a protected first to make this happen?

There also is this question any team trading for Love has to ask itself: Do we want to take on the three-plus years remaining on his four-year, $120 million contract? That’s a lot of money and years for an All-Star player who is productive but aging, and also has a lengthy injury history.

Portland can also try to trade for Danilo Gallinari and his expiring contract with the Thunder, which has a lot less risk involved.

Love, however, would be popular in Portland, and he would help the team.

Jaylen Brown: Celtics nicknamed Grant Williams ‘Ben Simmons’ due to missed 3s

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Celtics rookie Grant Williams on 3-pointers in his first 20 games: 0-for-25.

0-for-25!

Nobody else has ever started a season that cold.

Of everyone else to attempt at least 25 3-pointers in their first 20 games, nobody made fewer than two. Of everyone else to miss all their 3-pointers in their first 20 games, nobody attempted more than 17.

Finally, Williams made a 3-pointer in Boston’s win over the Cavaliers yesterday.

Celtics forward Jaylen Brown, via NBC Sports Boston:

We were calling him Ben Simmons for the longest. But he knocked one down, and knocked them down, too. So, shoutout to both of those guys.

Yes, 76ers guard Ben Simmons barely shoots, let alone makes, 3-pointers. But it seems as if Brown realized mid-answer he shouldn’t provide bulletin-board material to a rival.

Too late.

Simmons has gotten called a coward numerous times by people in Boston due to his refusal to shoot 3s. Becoming the butt of the joke with fellow NBA players? That’s something else entirely.

We’ll see how Simmons responds, but many around him – including Philadelphia coach Brett Brown – have been urging him to hoist more 3s. It’s hard to see this inspiring Simmons to actually change his game.

Paul George says there’s more to his Pacers exit: ‘I promise you, I’m not the one to boo’

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In 2017, Paul George told the Pacers he planned to leave in free agency the following year. It wasn’t a trade request, but George knew his message would likely prompt Indiana to deal him. He wanted out.

George said he preferred the Spurs. (Or was it the Lakers?) The Pacers dealt him to the Thunder.

Now with the Clippers, George returned to Indiana and got booed.

George, via Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN:

“You know, someday I’ll do a tell-all and tell the leading events of how I left Indiana,” George said. “And I promise you, I’m not the one to boo.”

“… I’m not gonna share the teaser,” George later added. “… I like being the villain. I’m here two nights out of the year. The people they should boo is here a lot longer than I am.”

Maybe George felt he got wronged. Maybe George actually got wronged.

But fans generally side with their favorite team over a star player who chose to leave.

It’s hard to imagine a set of circumstances where Pacers fans would boo someone other than George for his exit. My hunch: His grievances are significant to him but wouldn’t persuade Indiana fans. Still, I’m at least curious about his full story.

LeBron James on 2011 NBA Finals: ‘I lost my love for the game’

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LeBron James became a villain by leaving the Cavaliers for the Heat on The Decision in 2010. He arrived in Miami promising “not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven” championships.

By the end of his first season with the Heat, he was beaten down. The Mavericks topped Miami in the NBA Finals, winning the last three games of the series. While Miami blew its 2-1 lead, LeBron averaged 15.3 points and 4.7 turnovers per game. He shot 2-for-12 on 3-pointers and 4-for-10 on free throws.

After Game 6, he callously mocked his critics:

“All the people that were rooting for me to fail… at the end of the day, tomorrow they have to wake up and have the same life that (they had) before they woke up today,” James said. “They got the same personal problems they had today. And I’m going to continue to live the way I want to live and continue to do the things I want to do.”

ESPN:

LeBron emerged from his funk and led the Heat to consecutive titles. He returned to Cleveland and won another title there. He’s now with the Lakers leading another championship pursuit.

He plays well. He plays smartly. He plays with joy. He often rises to the biggest occasions.

LeBron probably had to go through a setback like the 2011 Finals to sharpen his mental edge. But it’s incredible how far he has come from the defeated player who left that series against Dallas.