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GMs predict Warriors will beat Cavaliers in 3rd straight Finals matchup

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The NBA's general managers are expecting a third straight Golden State-Clevelandmatchup 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 titlist Cavaliers getting the other 31 percent.

While the league's general managers might be universal in their praise of the Warriors, TNT analyst Charles Barkley is less impressed.

"I still think they got some of the same issues this year with that team," Barkley said Tuesdayduring a lunch before TNT's "Inside the NBA" studio team was elected to the Broadcasting Hall of Fame.

"Can they rebound the ball? They're going to still be shooting jumpers. They're not going to get any low-post scoring. Can that type of play hold up through the rigors of the NBA playoffs? I'm still going to say the same thing I've always said: no."

The retooled Warriors will begin their quest for a second title in three years on Tuesday when they open the season with a home game against theSan Antonio Spurs.

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).

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 theLos 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 of Houston, James at small forward, New Orleans' Anthony Davis at power forward and the Clippers' DeAndre Jordan at center. Interestingly, not only was James the overwhelming pick at small forward, but 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's 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 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 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.

James was picked as the NBA's best leader, most versatile player and as the player with the best basketball IQ. But if GMs could pick one player to take a shot with the game on the line, he was the second choice -- far behind Curry.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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