Summer Forecast, NBA champs for 2017-18

Will the Warriors be back celebrating another title come next June? Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Will the Golden State Warriors earn their third title in four years? With Kevin Durant on board for his second season in Oakland, California, the chances are looking good.

We asked the ESPN Forecast panel of 44 experts to rank its top three choices for the 2017-18 NBA champions, with a first-place vote receiving five points, a second-place vote receiving three and a third-place vote receiving one.

Here are the results:

Forecast: 2017-18 NBA champs

1. Golden State Warriors
First-place votes: 44
Total points: 220
2016-17: W, NBA Finals

Comments: Our panel thinks everyone else is playing for second place as the Warriors were a unanimous pick to win the NBA title. Shortly after winning the title, the Warriors opened as -200 favorites to win the 2018 NBA title.

Jeff Sherman, an NBA oddsmaker at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, summed up Golden State's expectations in one sentence to ESPN: "They're going to be the highest favorite we've ever had going into a season, any team in any sport."

There's really not much else that needs to be said. -- Micah Adams, ESPN Stats & Info

2. Cleveland Cavaliers
First-place votes: 0
Total points: 88
2016-17: L, NBA Finals

Comments: More than half of our panel agreed that the Cavaliers are the second-most likely team to win the title. Vegas agrees as they are currently 4-1 to win it all, twice as high as the Spurs, who are listed with the third-best odds at 8-1.

LeBron James is in search of his eighth straight NBA Finals appearance, a feat matched only by Bill Russell (10 straight), Sam Jones (9), Tom Heinsohn (9), K.C. Jones and Frank Ramsey. -- Adams

3. Houston Rockets
First-place votes: 0
Total points: 55
2016-17: L, West semis

Comments: Though Vegas views the Spurs as the third-most likely champions, our panel likes the Rockets' chances despite them currently getting 25-1 odds in the desert (behind both the Spurs and Celtics and tied with the Thunder). Perhaps this is the season Chris Paul reaches a conference finals as his 76 playoff games are the most in NBA history by a player to never appear in a conference finals. -- Adams

Also receiving votes: Boston Celtics (14), San Antonio Spurs (13), Oklahoma City Thunder (6).