General managers in the NBA are expecting a third straight Golden State-Cleveland matchup in this season’s NBA Finals, with the Warriors the pick to reclaim the title.
Such was the consensus from the annual poll of general managers by NBA.com. The Warriors and Cavaliers each got 97 percent of the votes cast by GMs when asked to pick the Western and Eastern conference champions – meaning, if each team got one ballot, 29 of the 30 teams voted for a rematch.
And here’s why it wouldn’t have been unanimous: General managers were not allowed to vote for their own clubs. Boston got the other conference-title vote in the East, San Antonio got the other one in the West.
The Warriors got 69 percent of votes cast to emerge as champions for the second time in three years this season, with the defending champion Cavaliers getting the other 31 percent.
Other balloting led to the following predictions:
• Cleveland’s LeBron James will win his fifth MVP award. James got 47 percent of the vote, easily outpacing Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook (23 percent), Golden State’s two-time reigning MVP Stephen Curry and Houston’s James Harden (10 percent each), new Warriors forward Kevin Durant (7 percent) and Indiana’s Paul George (3 percent).
• Phoenix’s Devin Booker is the player most likely to have a breakout season, listed on 31 percent of the ballots. He was ahead of Minnesota’s Karl Anthony Towns (14 percent) and Indiana’s Myles Turner (10 percent), with 11 other players also getting mentions.
• Curry remains the NBA’s best point guard, getting 63 percent of the votes in that category. Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers (20 percent) was second, followed by Westbrook (10 percent) and Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving (7 percent).
• Other top positional rankings went to shooting guard Harden, James at small forward, New Orleans’ Anthony Davis at power forward and the Los Angeles Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan at center. Interestingly, not only was James the overwhelming pick at small forward, he also placed a close second in power forward balloting.
• Golden State, which landed Durant this summer, was the easy pick as the team that made the best overall moves this offseason. Not coincidentally, 80 percent of the GMs also said Durant is the player move that will make the most impact, far ahead of the 13 percent who think Boston getting Al Horford will.
• Durant’s move to Golden State narrowly edged Dwyane Wade signing with Chicago as the most surprising move of the offseason.
• Minnesota was the pick by GMs to be the league’s most improved team this season, and the Wolves’ Kris Dunn is the overwhelming choice to be the rookie of the year.
• San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard was overwhelmingly selected as the best defensive player and best perimeter defender in the league, part of the reason why the Spurs got 50 percent of the GM votes as the NBA’s top defensive team. Jordan was the easy winner in balloting for best interior defender.
• The Spurs’ Gregg Popovich was the pick again as both the best head coach and best coach in terms of managing and motivating players.