LeBron doesn’t want to admit it, but the Cleveland Cavaliers are the underdogs in this NBA battle royale.

Our informal, thoroughly unscientific staff poll confirms it: The Warriors are entering the Finals as the heavy favorite with over 70 percent of voters picking Golden State to repeat.

You know the narrative all too well at this point: Golden State staged a historic comeback against the Thunder to get to the Finals, where they’ll meet the Cavs for the second straight year. Cleveland, outside of a two-game slide in Toronto, cakewalked through the East behind a deliberate, yet incredibly efficient offense.

Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love are back in the fold, but their defensive shortcomings could lead to mismatches for the Warriors who want to create chaos. Does Cleveland have the chops to survive the inevitable three-point barrages of the Splash Bros?

Each game will be a fascinating chess match with all the makings of a heavyweight battle for the ages (props to Maxamillion for the hype mix above).

Let get into the picks…

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Ben Osborne, Editor-in-Chief
Pick: Warriors in 6
Why? My heart says Cavs in 6 because it’s a great story, Cleveland would be deservedly ecstatic and I’ve been #TeamLeBron since way before hashtags existed. But my head says Warriors: they’re deep, skilled and big and in Stephen Curry they have the only player in the League (barring Russell maybe) who is willing to go toe-to-toe with LeBron RIGHT NOW. Not guarding him, obviously, but in the proverbial sense, answering every clutch LBJ play with one of his own. I just hope Mark gets a share of the Championship winnings for shaping this team. YES THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT I WROTE A YEAR AGO. YES ALL MY SENTIMENTS ARE THE SAME.

Ryne Nelson, Online Editor
Pick: Warriors in 7
Why? I’ve been irrationally rooting against Golden State all season, and I’ll continue throughout the Finals. But even I have to acknowledge that the Warriors are a historically great team. Perhaps the greatest of all time. (Full disclosure: I watched every game of the Bulls’ 72-10 season and desperately want that team to keep the “greatest ever” tag.) With the exception of the 2013 Heat, the best team has historically won in the Finals. And the historically great Warriors are the best team. That’s why I ultimately have to concede this win to the defending champs.

Abe Schwadron, Senior Editor
Pick: Warriors in 7
Why? I said it last year and I’ll say it again: I feel like an idiot picking against LeBron James. But I also…want to be right. I don’t think the Cavs are ready to mount the kind of defensive effort that OKC showed in taking Golden State to the brink of elimination in the Western Conference finals. Is LeBron going to guard one of the Splash Bros? Who is Cleveland’s rim protector? Which Dubs player is not torching Kyrie or Kevin Love?

Peter Walsh, Associate Editor
Pick: Warriors in 6
Why? The Cavs had problems with the Toronto backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, which spells trouble for Cleveland as the Splash Brothers are, as LeBron put it, the best shooters in the world. As much as it pains me to say it, I can’t trust a team that relies so heavily on JR Smith to win a Championship.

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Franklyn Calle, Assistant Editor
Pick: Cavs in 6
Why? Logic says Warriors, as they have all the momentum and some pretty decent shooters. Gut feeling and heart says Cavs, though. No real basketball explanation here, folks.

Ryan Jones, Contributing Editor
Pick: Cavs in 6
Why? This time a year ago, on the foundation of a motivated Kyrie and visions of LeBron playing like his legacy was at stake, I made the same prediction you see above. If Kyrie had been healthy, it might have worked out. A year later, these Cavs are clear underdogs, but they’re healthy, and they’ve got the memory of last year to push them. Why not?

DeMarco Williams, Senior Writer
Pick: Warriors in 7
Why? As wobbly as the Warriors have looked of late, I can’t give up on them. As strong as the Cavs have played recently, I don’t fully believe in them. A back-and-forth dance will go on for seven thrilling nights. But on that last one in Oakland, 19,000 throaty fans and two assassins from the three-point line will ensure a Golden State repeat.

Marcel Mutoni, News Editor
Pick: Warriors in 6
Why? Let’s be honest: The Cavs at last winning a title would make for a better story, and there’d be nothing more hilarious than JR Smith as an NBA Champion. But let’s be real: If OKC couldn’t stop the Warriors, Cleveland won’t. Seventy-three regular-season wins, the Coach of the Year, the MVP and back-to-back chips. It’s gonna happen. Accept it.

Yaron Weitzman, Editorial Assistant
Pick: Warriors in 7
Why? I love the way LeBron and the Cavs are playing, especially their new high-powered offense. And I think Channing Frye’s presence will make a big difference. But I have no idea where Cleveland is going to stick Kyrie and Love on defense. Also, Steph looks healthy. I think we’re going to see a big series from him.

Leo Sepkowitz, Editorial Assistant
Pick: Warriors in 6
Why? I can already feel myself pulling for LeBron and the Cavs in a sort of sad way, like we quietly all know they don’t have a prayer. It’d be wildly fun if LeBron turns into this series’ best player, but the Warriors are probably just too good at this point.

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Habeeba Husain, Editorial Assistant
Pick: Warriors in 6
Why? They didn’t get this far to go home empty handed. Best record in NBA history isn’t a joke. And after nearly getting ousted in the WCF, the Dubs know they gotta stay woke and perform every second. LeBron is hungry, and surely he doesn’t want to lose out two years in a row to these guys…but the season has been far too great for the ultimate goal to not be fulfilled.

Max Resetar, Editorial Assistant
Pick: Cavs in 6
Why? LeBron’s too hungry to let another chance at a ring get away. He’s more than ready to avenge last year and show that he’s still the best player on the planet.

Milo Taibi, Editorial Assistant
Pick: Warriors in 5
Why? The Cavs will have rested for almost a full week entering Game 1, enjoying a much easier path to the Finals than their Bay Area adversaries. LeBron and company will need to be immaculate against Golden State, however, and I’m not sure their shellacking of Toronto prepared them for a team of this caliber. I expect Harrison Barnes, a free agent to-be, to have a resurgent series while the Splash Brothers pick Cleveland apart at the perimeter. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Warriors take it in 6 or 7, but they don’t give out “most levelheaded prediction” medals.

Dave Zirin, Contributor
Pick: Cavs in 6
Why? The series will be decided by perimeter defense and I have a great deal more faith in LeBron, JR, Shumpert and even Kyrie to lock it down outside the arc. Lue gets his due.

Alexis Morgan, Contributor
Pick: Warriors in 6
Why? Chef Curry and Klay Thompson against LeBron & Co. will give us more beautiful basketball to drool over. But the Dubs just came back from a 3-1 deficit against a very strong Thunder team. If they survived that, they can survive anything. I was hesitant to say 6, but the Cavs are well-rested and the Warriors just fought tooth and nail plus will have to venture to Cleveland twice.

Previously:
The SLAM Staff Predicts the 2015 NBA Finals
The SLAM Staff Predicts the 2014 NBA Finals