GMs pick War­riors to top Cava­liers for ti­tle

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By Tim Reynolds AP Bas­ket­ball Writer

The NBA’s gen­eral man­agers are ex­pect­ing a third straight Golden State-Cleve­land matchup in this sea­son’s NBA Fi­nals, with the War­riors the pick to re­claim the ti­tle, ac­cord­ing to an an­nual poll.

The NBA’s gen­eral man­agers 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 . 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 ti­tlist 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 twotime 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).

• James re­mains a night­mare for op­po­nents. Asked which player forces coaches to make the most ad­just­ments, James got 75 per­cent of the vote, far more than Curry (21 per­cent) and Golden State’s Dray­mond Green (4 per­cent).

• Min­nesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns would be the player most GMs, if start­ing a fran­chise to­day and could sign any player, would take in such a sce­nario. Towns was picked on 48 per­cent of bal­lots, fol­lowed by Du­rant (21 per­cent) and James (17 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 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 James Har­den of Hous­ton, 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.

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