Lakers, Heat the favourites

a href="mailto:frank.zicarellir@sunmedia.ca">FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:06 PM ET

VANCOUVER — - And the survey says ...

The ninth annual GM survey of all things related to the NBA was released on Wednesday, the day the Raptors began their pre-season schedule, with some few surprises and a few obvious revelations.

The league’s movers and shakers predict the Los Angeles Lakers to three-peat as champions, only this time the team L.A. is expected to meet in the championship series is the high-profiled Miami Heat.

Kevin Durant is the overwhelming favourite by the GMs to cop MVP honours, while Steve Nash, whose presence in Vancouver Wednesday night was the main reason why fans bothered to show up to watch the Raptors and Suns, is the top choice when it comes to the game’s best leader and when it applies to the player with the highest basketball IQ.

Surprisingly, the Raptors, who lost two core pieces in Chris Bosh and Hedo Turkoglu this off-season, ranked seventh when GMs were asked to list the most improved teams.

Miami, which added Bosh and LeBron James, received most of the votes, followed by New York, Washington, L.A. Clippers, New Jersey and Philadelphia.

The Knicks, Wizards, Nets, 76ers and Raptors, who all resided in the East, each missed the post-season last spring.

The Raptors managed to win 40 games, but it’s puzzling to see why the GMs believe the Raptors will by improved when so many questions and uncertainties abound in Toronto.

The Raptors figure to be more balanced in the absence of a dominant go-to player, there’s better chemistry, more athleticism, but it’s shocking to think the team is actually improved.

What isn’t shocking is Nash’s stature, a player who nearly had twice as many votes than Kobe Bryant when it comes to basketball smarts.

Nash earned 46.3% of the votes, an increase from last year’s survey total when he earned 36.5% of the votes.

When it comes to the game’s best point guards, Nash ranked third behind first-place vote getter Deron Williams and Chris Paul.

Individual Raptors were acknowledged when the GMs were asked to rank the game’s toughest player, best pure shooter and who would have a break-out season.

Ron Artest was voted as the toughest player, a category Reggie Evans received votes; Ray Allen was the best pure shooter, an area Leandro Barbosa earned recognition, while DeMar DeRozan was in consideration to have a break-out season.

LeBron’s move to South Beach was the most surprising off-season move, while Amir Johnson’s contract (a reported five-year deal worth roughly $35 million) got votes for surprise moves.


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