Poll tips Clippers, Leonard to win NBA crown

Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard being blocked by two Dallas Mavericks players in their pre-season game in Vancouver, Canada on Thursday. The Mavericks won 102-87.
Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard being blocked by two Dallas Mavericks players in their pre-season game in Vancouver, Canada on Thursday. The Mavericks won 102-87. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK • Kawhi Leonard and the Los Angeles Clippers will win the 2020 National Basketball Association (NBA) Finals, according to most teams' general managers in a survey released on Thursday on the league's website.

The 18th annual poll showed that 46 per cent of the NBA's 30 general managers expect the Clippers to win the crown with Leonard, who left Toronto in July, and Paul George, who arrived from Oklahoma City.

Another 36 per cent of the NBA team decision-makers picked the Milwaukee Bucks, led by Greek star Giannis Antetokounmpo, with 11 per cent choosing the Lakers.

The Lakers will feature the power pairing of LeBron James and Anthony Davis this season. The Golden State Warriors and Portland Trail Blazers also received some support from the GMs.

The Warriors, who lost to Toronto in the Finals and lost injured star Kevin Durant to Brooklyn in the off-season, paced last year's poll with 87 per cent support.

Leonard was also selected as the off-season acquisition most likely to make the biggest impact, and he was named as the league's best small forward (at 62 per cent of the votes).

It is the first time since 2005 that someone other than James has gotten the most votes in that category.

In all, the GMs answered 50 questions pertaining to the upcoming season, which starts on Tuesday.

Milwaukee were seen as the best team in the Eastern Conference by 76 per cent, with the remaining 24 per cent picking Philadelphia.

The Clippers were picked as the best in the West by 66 per cent while the Lakers had 14 per cent.

Houston and Golden State were next on 7 per cent, with Denver and Portland each on 3 per cent.

Antetokounmpo had the most support for the Most Valuable Player Award at 52 per cent, with Davis, Leonard and Golden State's Stephen Curry next on 10 per cent each.

Curry was also chosen as the league's top point guard with 90 per cent support.

Antetokounmpo, picked as the top power forward and best international player in the NBA, was also chosen by 86 per cent of GMs as the player they would sign if they were starting a team.

He led the poll in the category last year but only with 30 per cent.

Houston's James Harden, the two-time reigning NBA scoring champion, was considered the top shooting guard and the player who forces opposing coaches to make the most adjustments.

Sacramento's De'Aaron Fox was named the player most likely to have a breakout season.

Denver's Nikola Jokic was voted the NBA's best centre at 48 per cent to 28 per cent for Philadelphia's Joel Embiid and 17 per cent for Davis.

Zion Williamson of New Orleans, the top pick in the NBA Draft, was predicted to be Rookie of the Year.

San Antonio's Gregg Popovich was voted the best coach at 55 per cent support.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 19, 2019, with the headline 'Poll tips Clippers, Leonard to win NBA crown'. Print Edition | Subscribe