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Minnesota, 2007 NBA Champs?!

You know how every year at the all-star game, we talk about the players who were snubbed, how the fans often get it wrong when they elect the starters for popularity over actual production.

We cry about how Yao Ming beat out Shaquille O'Neal (back when he played in Los Angeles) because he had a billion people voting for him in China; that Steve Francis (back when he played at Houston) only was voted as a starter in the Western Conference because he played alongside Yao; or that Jermaine O'Neal had no business being on the all-star team last season when he didn't even play in the first half of the season. The fans don't get it. Let the players decide. They know best.

Well, the general managers are often the people that I trust to get things right when they are polled, but I've discovered that sometimes they can even be more off base than the fans. Case in point: conducted a preseason poll of 28 of the 30 NBA general managers and they determined that the San Antonio Spurs would win the NBA title and that LeBron James would win his first MVP. They picked the defending champion Miami Heat to win the Southeast Division and the Eastern Conference, the Dallas Mavericks to win the Southwest Division, the New Jersey Nets to win the Atlantic Division, the Detroit Pistons to win the Central Division, the Denver Nuggets to win the Northwest Division and the Phoenix Suns to win the Pacific. Nothing really surprising there.

Then, I checked out the poll results for the teams with a chance to win the NBA. Here's the top three:

San Antonio 43 percent
Dallas Mavericks 29 percent
Miami Heat 14 percent

But check this out.

Others receiving votes: Minnesota, Phoenix, Orlando

I recently got an e-mail from an oddsmaker who listed Minnesota with an 87-to-1 chance of winning the NBA title - the same as the Atlanta Hawks, but not nearly as bad as Orlando (150-to-1) the Knicks (300-to-1) or the Portland Trailblazers and Charlotte Bobcats (500-to-1) Now, I actually think Orlando has a shot at making the playoffs and having a breakout season, but the only person I've heard mention a championship down there is the Magic's exuberant center Dwight Howard.

Now there is a reason that I sit here in my position as an NBA writer and those general managers are where they are as talent evaluators. I don't try to claim that I have more knowledge than these men - because I really don't - but I couldn't resist this. Minnesota? C'mon. Minnesota! Are you kidding me? The same Minnesota that has missed the playoffs the last two years and has won just two playoff series in the last nine years? That Minnesota. Did they clone Kevin Garnett? Did they secretly acquire Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant while I was asleep? Last I checked, their major offseason acquisition was Mike James. Mike James puts them over the top?

I have no idea who placed the vote - or votes - but give me a break. Even if this is just Timberwolves general manager Kevin McHale's attempt to motivate his team, this is downright silly. Shouldn't Minnesota be trying to make the playoffs? That's a steep enough task for them. Let me leave the Timberwolves alone. Here are the rest of the results:

· Miami Heat's Pat Riley - best head coach in the NBA (44 percent)
· Portland Trail Blazers' Brandon Roy - winning the Rookie of the Year
Award (44 percent)
· Chicago Bulls' Ben Wallace - player acquisition that will make the
biggest impact this season (78 percent) and best defensive player (32
· San Antonio Spurs' Tim Duncan - best power forward in the NBA (57 percent)
· Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James - best small forward in the NBA (79 percent)
· Miami Heat's Shaquille O'Neal - best center in the NBA (75 percent)
· Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant - best shooting guard in the NBA (71 percent)
· Phoenix Suns' Steve Nash - best point guard in the NBA (96 percent)
· Seattle SuperSonics' Ray Allen - best pure shooter in the NBA (74
· Detroit Pistons' Richard Hamilton - best moving without the ball (63
· Houston Rockets' Shane Battier - most underrated player acquisition
(25 percent)
· Philadelphia 76ers' Allen Iverson - fastest player with the ball (22
· Orlando Magic's Dwight Howard - most likely to have breakout season
(32 percent)
· Phoenix Suns - most fun team to watch (74 percent)
· Sacramento Kings - best home-court advantage (37 percent)

By Michael Lee  |  October 25, 2006; 1:04 PM ET
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oftentimes, gms and coaches delegate these polls to others in the organization, i.e. ballboys, danceteam, etc. so there you go; now we know how wolves and magic got votes.

Posted by: les bullez | October 25, 2006 8:42 AM | Report abuse

"Cleveland Cavaliers' Ben Wallace - best small forward in the NBA (79 percent)"

hmmmm...something isn't right here...

Posted by: Nick | October 25, 2006 1:14 PM | Report abuse

You're right. That was my mistake. I caught it.

Posted by: Michael Lee | October 25, 2006 1:29 PM | Report abuse

Cool, you can delete that comment if you want.

Good write-up Mr. Lee. However, I'm definitely saving up my money for Twolves/Magic finals tickets in June!

Posted by: Nick | October 25, 2006 1:38 PM | Report abuse

I like Pat Riley but he's not the best coach in the NBA, it doesn't hurt having the two best players at their positions either. Stan Van Gundy I thought was a better coach but Shaq didn't listen to him.

Pops is the best IMHO, but you could make a case for several others.

Duncan's game is on the decline, I would take KG in a heartbeat over him.

The jury is out on Big Ben, we'll see if he's even on the floor in the 4th if they are behind.

I never really liked predictions. :)

- Ray

Posted by: Ray | October 25, 2006 1:40 PM | Report abuse

To follow up with KG, I feel so sorry for that guy. He's so good and they just get worse and worse.

Minnesota will NEVER win a championship with that squad. McHale to the Wolves is like Dan Snyder is to the Redskins.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 25, 2006 1:42 PM | Report abuse

Maybe they're not going to win the championship, but don't be surprised if Minnesota makes some serious noise in the playoffs Mike James is a true gamer and is not a bad 2nd option to Garnett at the end of a close game. He definately hurt the Wizards last year.

The more I think about the Shane Battier pickup by the Rockets, the more I like it. That was a solid pickup.

Posted by: Wei | October 25, 2006 3:49 PM | Report abuse

so the comments on previous blog by ivan/michael were interesting - i think one thing that killed the wizards early last season was eddie's pathological in and out of players, no regular lineups after the first quarter, etc. really seemed to me to disrupt the team. i know he had some new players to get in there and get in the flow, but hopefully lineups will be regular to start the year, so players know what to expect.

the songalia thing is a bummer. in a sense i think his style of play is what the wiz need - definitely not uptempo, but someone to make other teams pay when they double our scorers. while im hip to wanting to play for your national team (for no pay), it aggravates me that he played hurt for them (and probably made the injury worse), at the expense of the team that is paying him; and to be frank, the team that is paying him is us, the fans.

Posted by: charles | October 25, 2006 11:11 PM | Report abuse

Wouldn't it have been esier to just post the link to the web site, instead of typing the results? Anyway, you think Eddie voted for Kidd or Arenas for best point guard? Eventough the right answer is Steve Nash withough question.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 26, 2006 9:12 AM | Report abuse

I take back my question about the Eddie Jordan vote. He's a coach, not a GM so didn't get a vote. duh! And I'm thinking Ernie probably voted for Nash, or did he???

Posted by: Anonymous | October 26, 2006 9:16 AM | Report abuse

This one is for Mike and the rest of the viewers here. The oddsmakers in vegas have the over/under of total wins for the season at 39 1/2 for the Wizards.

When I first saw this number I thought about taking out all the equity in my home and flying to vegas and lay 100k on the Wizards. I mean 39 1/2 wins? That means the Wizards would have to be 3 games below .500 at the end of the season to lose???

We won 45 and 42 the last two seasons, and everything I read is that the Wiz should be better than last season. I understand you run the risk of Gilbert, Jamison, and Caron being injured for an extended period of time, that could kill the season and the bet of over 39 1/2 wins.

So what are the Wizards Insiders opinions on the over 39 1/2 wins on the season?

Posted by: Dominic | October 26, 2006 11:02 AM | Report abuse

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