None of the NBA’s other general managers expect the Philadelphia 76ers to win the 2022-23 championship, according to the annual NBA GM poll from NBA.com’s John Schuhmann.
Schuhmann asked each general manager 50 questions about the league’s best players, teams and offseason moves. GMs weren’t allowed to select their own players or teams, so Elton Brand should be spared from any Sixers-related vitriol.
The same doesn’t go for the rest of the league’s front offices, though.
When asked which team will win the 2023 NBA Finals, 43 percent of GMs picked the Milwaukee Bucks, followed by the defending champion Golden State Warriors (25 percent), Los Angeles Clippers (21 percent) and Boston Celtics (11 percent). Those four were the only teams to garner votes in that category.
A majority of GMs picked the Sixers to finish third in the Eastern Conference (66 percent), while 14 percent had them in second, 14 percent had them in fourth and 19 percent had them in fifth. No GM picked them to finish with the No. 1 seed in the East. A whopping 72 percent picked Milwaukee to finish first in the East, while the others picked either Boston (21 percent) or Brooklyn (7 percent). Here’s hoping this poll was conducted before they saw the Nets’ defense in action on Monday during their preseason debut.
GMs also aren’t buying into the Sixers’ defensive ceiling just yet. Not a single one of them named the Sixers as the NBA’s best defensive team. The Celtics received a massive 69 percent of the total votes in that category, while the Warriors (10 percent), Miami Heat (7 percent) and Bucks (7 percent) rounded out the top four. Based on the quotes trickling out from them so far, don’t be surprised if (when) the Sixers crash that party this season.
GMs were slightly higher on some of the Sixers’ individual players and personnel moves. When asked who will win this year’s MVP award, 14 percent picked Joel Embiid, trailing only Luka Doncic (48 percent) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (34 percent). Embiid was also tied for fourth with Luka (7 percent) when GMs had to pick a player that forces opposing coaches to make the most adjustments. (Stephen Curry led that category with 52 percent, while Giannis and Nikola Jokic were tied at 14 percent).
The GMs also largely declared themselves to be analytics nerds, as 79 percent of them chose Nikola Jokic as the best center in the NBA, while only 17 percent chose Embiid. None of them picked Embiid as the best international player in the NBA, either. (Giannis, Luka and Jokic split those votes.) Embiid also didn’t receive a single vote as either the league’s best interior defender or best overall defender.
The shade wasn’t limited to only Embiid, though. Heading into last season, 63 percent of GMs labeled James Harden as the best shooting guard in the NBA. This year, Devin Booker led the way at 45 percent, while Luka (28 percent) and Curry (17 percent) were second and third, respectively. Steph also got 72 percent of the votes for the best point guard in the NBA.
The survey wasn’t kind to head coach Doc Rivers, either. He received zero votes for the best head coach in the NBA, the best manager/motivator of people or the best in-game adjustments. He also didn’t get votes for the best offense or the best defense. However, at least one voter did tab Sam Cassell as the NBA’s best assistant coach.
Brand and team president Daryl Morey did get some props from their fellow front-office members, too. The Sixers were tied with the Minnesota Timberwolves for second with 17 percent of the vote for “which team made the best overall moves this offseason?” (The Cleveland Cavaliers led the way with 41 percent of the vote.) One GM also expected P.J. Tucker to make the biggest impact of any offseason player acquisition, while Donovan Mitchell (59 percent), Rudy Gobert (31 percent) and Jalen Brunson (7 percent) split the rest of the votes.
Although the Sixers didn’t pull off a blockbuster trade like the ones for Mitchell, Gobert and Dejounte Murray, GMs were fans of their individual moves. When asked to name the most underrated player acquisition of the summer, 14 percent tabbed Tucker (tied with John Wall for the second-most), while 10 percent picked De’Anthony Melton (fourth). The Boston Celtics’ acquisition of Malcolm Brogdon led the way with 28 percent of the votes.
A few voters do expect the Sixers to have the league’s best offense this season (7 percent, tied with the Clippers and Phoenix Suns). However, a few of them also said their level of success is toughest to predict of any team (7 percent, tied with the Chicago Bulls, Minnesota Timberwolves and New Orleans Pelicans). Unsurprisingly, the Nets led the way in the latter category with 32 percent of the votes.
If you’re looking for a silver lining here, the GMs’ predictions from last season aged like spoiled milk. An overwhelming 72 percent of them picked the Brooklyn Nets to win last year’s Finals, while the Los Angeles Lakers garnered 17 percent of the vote. The Lakers wound up missing the playoffs entirely, while the Nets got swept out of the first round.
If nothing else, the Sixers now have some new bulletin-board material to motivate them heading into the regular season.