Where NBA GMs predict Warriors to finish in Western Conference

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Where NBA GMs predict Warriors to finish in West this season originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

Are the Warriors true title contenders headed into the 2021-22 NBA season?

General managers around the league believe they'll be much better than last season, but don't see them hoisting the Larry O'Brien trophy quite yet. 

In the 20th annual general manager survey from NBA.com, which was released Tuesday, GMs have the Warriors as the fifth-best team in the Western Conference. They're ranked, in order from top to bottom, behind the Los Angeles Lakers, Utah Jazz, Phoenix Suns and Denver Nuggets. All four were playoff teams last season, while the Warriors finished eighth before losing two straight play-in games. 

Golden State was not among the squads predicted to be crowned champions this season. The Brooklyn Nets are the favorites, with 72 percent of the votes. The Lakers are second behind the Nets at 17 percent, and the reigning champion Milwaukee Bucks are third at 10 percent.

The good news is, the Warriors were predicted to finish seventh in the West by GMs last season, two spots lower than this season. But they of course have to make sure they don't play below expectations this season, and instead exceed them. 

They could have the roster to do so, too. 

The Warriors return Steph Curry, Andrew Wiggins and Draymond Green to their starting lineup. Jordan Poole, who starred with 30 points Monday night in the Warriors' preseason opener, is slated to be the starting shooting guard as Klay Thompson continues to rehab from a torn Achilles. Kevon Looney is the starting center while James Wiseman rehabs his knee injury, and Looney could hold that position when Wiseman returns. 

RELATED: Steph gets lots of respect, admiration in NBA GM survey

Bob Myers and Co. had a strong offseason by bringing Andre Iguodala back to the Bay, as well as veterans Otto Porter Jr. and Nemanja Bjelica. Avery Bradley could be a strong veteran if he wins a roster spot, and it of course will be interesting to see what roles the Warriors have for lottery picks Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody.

After years of skating by at the top, the Warriors are back to being underdogs, which is a place they have thrived in before and will look to do so again this season.

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