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2023-24 NBA GM survey results, takeaways: Nuggets and Celtics on NBA title watch, Nikola Jokić is MVP favorite

Calling the buildup to the 2023-24 NBA season exciting and eventful would be an understatement. The league has seen a ton of movement from high-profile players since 2022-23 came to a close and more unexpected events could be on the way. The results from the annual GM survey came in on Monday and there’s plenty to take away from the responses that top brass from each of the 30 teams gave. Plenty of things were expected but other results were flat-out surprising. Let’s get into what’s worth making note of.

Nuggets, Celtics favored to win title

While the Milwaukee Bucks became odds-on favorites (+375) after trading for Damian Lillard, general managers don’t believe that the Eastern Conference powerhouse will win its second NBA championship in four years. They thought that the Bucks were the most likely team to win it all ahead of the 2022-23 campaign and gave them 43 percent of the votes. However, this year’s crop thinks the Boston Celtics and Denver Nuggets have the best chance to take home the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy. Milwaukee has star power, but it appears like Denver’s sturdy core centered around Nikola Jokić and Boston’s active offseason moves are more convincing.

Nikola Jokić receiving strong backing for third MVP

Denver’s two-time MVP and recent NBA Finals MVP is getting his flowers in this year’s survey. While the big man lost out to Joel Embiid last season, he’s the clear favorite among general managers for 2023-24 after not getting a single vote in last year’s poll. Winning an NBA championship and showcasing consistent dominance en route to the final stage has swayed quite a few people. Not competing for a third straight MVP also helps his case. Dončić has fallen off drastically after receiving 48 percent of last year’s votes. The Dallas Mavericks star will have to prove himself again alongside Kyrie Irving after missing the playoffs entirely in his latest campaign.

Bucks, Celtics had best offseason

The Bucks nabbed the biggest name on the market with Lillard but the Celtics countered by bringing in a towering sharpshooter in Kristpaps Porzinġis and replacing a former Defensive Player of the Year with an All-Defensive team member from last season in Jrue Holiday. Portland retooled by shipping off a superstar for a hefty helping of players that included Deandre Ayton, Robert Williams, and Malcolm Brogdon. The only other team on this list that isn’t expected to make a playoff push is Houston. The Rockets added some key vets who know how to defend and win in Fred VanVLeet and Dillon Brooks

Victor Wenmanyama voted most likely to win Rookie of the Year

It’s not surprising that the consensus generational talent from the 2023 NBA Draft class ran away with this one. The San Antonio Spurs big man is expected to develop into a dominant force on both ends and is easily the player most likely to be the first option for his team offensively in year one. Henderson’s squad is loaded with guards and Holmgren has an All-NBA point guard running the show alongside a host of other young talent. Vezenkov, 28, is certainly a dark horse but is fresh off a EuroLeague MVP.

Cam Whitmore voted biggest steal on 2023 NBA Draft

Whitmore was considered good enough to be a top-five pick ahead of draft night but slipped all the way to 20th. The Villanova product averaged 20.4 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.0 steals per game during his first NBA Summer League en route to the MVP honors, but could face some stiff competition given the wing talent on his team. Henderson might not necessarily meet steal criteria as the third pick, but many think he should’ve been the Charlotte Hornets‘ pick over Brandon Miller. Time will tell whether either of those rookies exceeds their lofty expectations.

Bam Adebayo left off list of NBA’s best defenders

Antetokounmpo was widely considered the NBA’s best defender last season and got 48 percent of the votes. He repeated as the favorite ahead of 2023-24 above four other previous DPOY winners. However, the Miami Heat’s Bam Adebayo is a glaring omission. The 26-year-old big man has cracked the top five for DPOY in five straight seasons as his team’s defensive anchor but didn’t receive a single vote in this year’s survey. That’s surprising even if he didn’t make an All-Defensive team last season.

76ers expected to have the most unpredictable season

It’s not hard to see why the 76ers are at the top of this list. James Harden wants out once again and Joel Embiid won’t be happy without his go-to playmaker. If both stay Philly should be very competitive again, but there’s no telling how that situation will end. General Managers (73 percent) felt that OKC has the most promising young core and their season could go so many ways. The Thunder could be a fringe playoff team, make the playoffs, or have a breakout year in which they make a real run. The Clippers and Pelicans could make some noise if they finally get over their rampant injuries while the new-look Suns will need to build chemistry fast following a complete roster overhaul. 

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