Raptors’ Kawhi Leonard named best defensive player by NBA GMs


Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard (2) fights for control of the ball with Portland Trail Blazers guard Evan Turner (1) during pre-season NBA action in Vancouver, Saturday, Sept, 29, 2018. (Jonathan Hayward/CP)

The NBA released its annual general manager’s survey on Wednesday, and Toronto Raptors fans may be encouraged by some of the results.

Each year the league’s GMs are polled and asked to predict outcomes from the upcoming season and give their take on how the NBA’s landscape shapes out.

There isn’t a ton in the way of surprises — for the third straight year the Golden State Warriors were chosen as consensus favourites to win it all, although their share of the vote dropped from 93 per cent last season to 87 per cent today. LeBron James was again chosen as the likely Most Valuable Player, but saw his share of the vote drop from 50 per cent this time last year to 30 per cent, followed by Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, and reigning MVP James Harden. Kawhi Leonard, the Raptors marquee acquisition, also received MVP votes.

Despite the addition of Leonard to an already potent and deep roster, in the East an overwhelming majority of GMs selected the Boston Celtics to come out on top, with the Raptors pegged to finish in second. The Celtics will see the return of injured stars Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward to a stacked lineup that features rising stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.

The general managers were particularly high on Leonard’s defensive ability, which has long been a calling card for the 27 year-old two-time Defensive Player of the Year.

For the second year in a row Leonard was voted as the NBA’s best perimeter defender, earning 60 per cent of the vote, and tied with Utah Jazz centre Rudy Gobert for the title of best defensive player in the league.

The Raptors finished behind only the Los Angeles Lakers when GMs were asked which teams made the best moves in the off-season, and both teams enter the season with a ton of hype as a result.

Other notable results include Fred VanVleet earning votes in the category of “Which current player would make the best head coach in the future?”, and Canadian point guard Jamal Murray topped all players as this season’s top breakout player, earning 40 per cent of the vote.

For the full results, check out NBA.com’s 2018-19 GM survey here.


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