NEW YORK, October 7- LeBron James is predicted to repeat as NBA Most Valuable Player and the Los Angeles Lakers are expected to defend their league crown in a survery of club general managers released Tuesday by the NBA.
Those who took part in the eighth annual survery for the league’s official website gave the Lakers 60.7 percent of the votes when asked who would win the league title with Boston and Cleveland sharing second at 17.9 percent.
When asked who would claim the Eastern Conference crown, the Celtics had 50 percent to 42.9 percent for Cleveland despite the big expectations for star playmaker James now that he has Shaquille O’Neal as a new teammate.
Orlando, the reigning Eastern Conference champion, elicited only 7.1 percent support in the survey, in which general managers were not allowed to vote for their own teams or players.
San Antonio and Portland joined the Lakers, Boston, Orlando and Cleveland as expected division champions in the poll.
James had 69 percent of votes for MVP to 17.2 for Lakers star Kobe Bryant and 6.9 percent for Orlando’s Dwight Howard. NBA GMs also made James the choice by a wider margin when asked who they would want if starting a club today.
Dirk Nowitzki, the German star forward for the Dallas Mavericks, was chosen by 64.3 percent as the best non-US player in the NBA with Spain’s Pau Gasol, the Lakers’ big man, second at 10.7 percent.
Sharing third, all on 7.1 percent, were Argentina’s Manu Ginobili and his San Antonio teammate Tim Duncan of the US Virgin Islands as well as Canada’s Steve Nash, a Phoenix Suns guard. Frenchman Tony Parker of San Antonio was sixth with 3.6 percent.
When asked which global player would have a breakout season in the 2009-2010 campaign, Spain’s Rudy Fernandez of Portland had 22.2 percent support to 14.8 percent for New York’s Danilo Gallinari. Fernandez also won the honor in 2008.
Galinari’s Italian countrymen, Marco Belinelli and Andrea Bargnani or Toronto, shared third on 11.1 percent.
Ricky Rubio, who snubbed overtures from the NBA Minnesota Timberwolves for a new deal in his Spanish homeland, was named the best non-US player outside the NBA by 50 percent of those replying. The 18-year-old impressed scouts at last year’s Beijing Olympics.
Brazil’s Tiago Splitter and Spain’s Juan Carlos Navarro were next on that list with 15.4 percent support.
Top NBA Draft choice Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers was predicted by 79 percent of general managers to become the NBA Rookie of the Year.