The Miami Heat are favored to win the 2012 NBA Finals by Las Vegas bookmakers, and NBA general managers have joined chorus this week.
A survey of GMs released by the league Tuesday showed that 74% of respondents think the Heat will win it all this season, with 96% predicting Miami will win the Eastern Conference.
General managers were not allowed to vote for their own team or personnel in the survey, which likely explains the 3.7% (or 1/30) that thinks the Chicago Bulls will win the East.
In the 2011 GM survey, the LA Lakers were the consensus favorites to win it all, with 63% of the vote. They were knocked out of the playoffs by eventual champion Dallas. The GMs' Eastern Conference prediction fared much better. 70% of GMs though Miami would win the 2011 Eastern Conference title.
Miami is also a near unanimous pick to win the Southeast Division, with 96% of the vote (and one vote - again, probably Heat President and GM Pat Riley - picking the Orlando Magic).
Miami's LeBron James finished second in the poll for MVP candidates, behind Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant. In fact, James and Durant were the only two players receiving votes (Durant had 55.6%, while James garnered 44.4% of the vote).
James could actually receive some help in the MVP race from teammate Dwyane Wade's foot injury. With Wade missing time, James will probably see a bump in his scoring average. He is currently second in the NBA with 29.8 points per game (Kobe Bryant is first with 30.8). That is up from 26.7 last season, his lowest scoring average since his rookie season.
Durant's Oklahoma City Thunder are favored to win the Western Conference title, with 67.9% of the GMs' vote.
James and Durant both led all voters when GMs were asked, If you were starting a franchise and could sign any player, who would it be? Both received 37% of the vote. James was voted the best small forward in the league by a wide margin over Durant (78% to 19%), while Wade was voted second best shooting guard behind Bryant (56% to 41%).
GMs also gave some praise to Miami's rookie point guard Norris Cole. 44% of respondents said Cole was the most likely to be a "sleeper" success among this year's rookie class.
Published at 11:42 AM EST on Jan 18, 2012