NBA GMs recognize Isaiah Thomas, Brad Stevens in preseason survey has released the results of its annual survey of league general managers, who give their predictions for the upcoming season's best players, coaches and teams. While the top of the survey is populated by the usual suspects (think Cleveland, Golden State, San Antonio), the Celtics do make a few notable appearances. In some categories, however, the GMs may have thrown a wet blanket on the hopes of the most optimistic Boston fans.

The Celtic receiving the most accolades is point guard Isaiah Thomas. The league's decision-makers called him the second most impactful bench player in the association with 17.2 percent of the votes, behind only last year's Finals MVP, Andre Iguodala of the Warriors. Thomas received votes in two other categories: fastest player with the ball and the somewhat nebulous "best role player."

Most of the head coaching questions were swept by the Spurs' Gregg Popovich. Brad Stevens got votes in three areas: best in-game adjustments and both best offensive and defensive schemes, but none in the best coach and best manager/motivator of people categories.

Overall, the GMs do think the Celtics will be better in 2015-16 than they were last season, although not enough to crack the top of the Eastern Conference or even to win the Atlantic Division. When asked to rank the top four teams in the East, the Raptors were the only team in the Atlantic to receive any votes, albeit just 2.4 percent of the total. Boston got some love as the potential most improved team in the league, but did not crack the top five in this category, which is populated by the Thunder, Bucks, Pelicans, Heat and Pacers.

So who will be behind the Celtics' expected improvement? Three players got some recognition in two categories. Power forwards Amir Johnson and David Lee each received 6.9 percent of the votes as the most underrated acquisitions of the offseason, good for fourth place behind the three-way tie of Ty Lawson (Rockets), Paul Pierce (Clippers) and David West (Spurs). Finally, one GM thinks Marcus Smart is the most likely player in the league to have a breakout season.

It's up to the Celtics to exceed expectations and shock a few people along the way.

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