2015–16 NBA Finals predictions: Who will win the championship this year?

1:23 | NBA
Predicting which team will win the 2015-16 NBA championship
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Thursday October 22nd, 2015
Who will win the NBA championship this season? It isn't easy to predict in October. LeBron James and the Cavaliers enter the season close to full strength. The Spurs added LaMarcus Aldridge and David West in an unusually splashy summer. The Thunder have the NBA's best one-two punch in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. And the reigning champion Warriors return virtually their entire title team.
 
So who is the favorite before the season tips off? SI.com's NBA experts offer their bold predictions for the 2015-16 season.
 
 
 
Lee Jenkins: Cavs over Thunder
EAST: CAVALIERS OVER BULLS
WEST: THUNDER OVER WARRIORS

The LeBron James Cavaliers may never be as loaded as they are right now, and he has to know it. In Year 1, the young Cavs survived early dysfunction, learned to win with two totally different styles, experienced their first taste of playoff success—and ultimately, disappointment. It was as if they crammed three seasons of development into one. Cleveland is now poised to stampede through an Eastern Conference that could be even weaker than it was a year ago. The Cavs might not be truly tested until they meet the Thunder, who will have to endure the Warriors/Spurs/Clippers/Rockets/Grizzlies gauntlet. Injuries will ultimately decide the Western Conference, but if the Thunder can finally maintain a modicum of health, they will win it with their most balanced, motivated and mature group since James Harden left. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, in their prime and with their future at stake, will be a spectacle to behold.

 
Chris Mannix: Cavs over Thunder
EAST: CAVALIERS OVER BULLS
WEST: THUNDER OVER WARRIORS
 
Ben Golliver: spurs over Cavs
EAST: CAVALIERS OVER BULLS
WEST: SPURS OVER WARRIORS
 
Chris Ballard: Cavs Over Spurs
EAST: CAVALIERS OVER BULLS
WEST: SPURS OVER WARRIORS

It would be fun to pick a dark horse in the East but let’s face it, unless LeBron James gets injured, it’s not happening. David Blatt is a good enough coach, the team is deep enough and they now boast both experience and confidence. The Bulls will be fun to watch—Nikola Mirotic is a wonderful old-school player—but don’t have the firepower to knock out James & Co. The West is a complete toss-up. But in such cases, always bet on Pop. In what could be Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili’s last ride—though who knows with Timmy, who might play until he’s AARP eligible—the Spurs will edge the Warriors, who are unlikely to stay as healthy as they did last season. Once again, though, the Western playoffs should be a blast to watch, what with the half-crazy Clippers and Kevin Durant’s potential final OKC run and the rest. But I'm taking LeBron and the Cavaliers to prevail in the Finald—the boring pick but also the likely one. Who knows how many titles LeBron has left in his legs, but he’s got at least one more, and it’s hard to see him not grabbing it this year.

 
Rob Mahoney: Warriors over Cavs
EAST: CAVALIERS OVER BULLS
WEST: WARRIORS OVER THUNDER

The West alone offers so many potential finalists, but I have a hard time picking against what was a historically great team last season with room yet to grow. Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, and Harrison Barnes are all on the sunny side of their playing primes; with further growth from those four, Golden State stands to be that much more versatile and that much more deadly. 

I prefer the Warriors even over the Cavs for their ability to bend and adjust as a series needs. We saw that dynamic in action last postseason as Steve Kerr made all the right adjustments down the stretch. I trust that he'll be able to do the same again with a flexible group of players empowered by their continuity. Cleveland had some of that same potency but more questions; when comparing two teams this deep, I lean towards the outfit that has had more success sustaining high-level offense and high-level defense within the same lineups.

 
Matt Dollinger: Cavs Over Spurs
EAST: CAVALIERS OVER RAPTORS
WEST: SPURS OVER THUNDER

The Cavaliers face a relatively easy path to a second consecutive Finals appearance. Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love will begin the season healthy. Tristan Thompson is back with the team after ending his starring contest with the front office. And the rest of the Eastern Conference landscape isn't particularly threatening. Chicago will be Cleveland's most formidable challenger once again, but injuries, age-related decline and a first-year head coach could saddle them this season. The combination of the Cavaliers being at full strength and the rest of the conference sitting several rungs down means Cleveland should be able to afford rest for its superstar trio and pace itself during the grind of the 82-game season. No one in the West will be given the same luxury. With the Warriors retaining their championship core, the Spurs going all-out in free agency and the Thunder getting Kevin Durant back, it's a conference loaded with heavy hitters. Health will likely be the determining factor, but San Antonio's insane depth, talent and experience makes them the West's favorite in my eyes. San Antonio got the best of LeBron James last time they met in the Finals, but The King will have his revenge this season. 

 
DeAntae Prince: Warriors over Cavs
EAST: CAVALIERS OVER BULLS
WEST: WARRIORS OVER SPURS

 

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