The NBA begins the regular season next week. Who is your favorite to win a title this year?
By Melissa Isaacson
It's a lot easier to come up with reasons why the Miami Heat will repeat as NBA champions than why they will not. For all the talk of the Heat's enormous confidence with the addition of LeBron James and Chris Bosh, they needed that first title to give them the mojo, and more important, the road map they needed.
What the Heat found out on their way to the title last season was they are actually a pretty formidable defensive team. But what they also found out was that even in victory, they can use a 3-point shooter. Enter Ray Allen, who as a role player with little pressure other than to do what he does best, only makes Miami better. Yes, even at 37. And Rashard Lewis should eventually help bolster the Heat's front line.
With a healthy Bosh and James still peaking, frightening as that concept is, the Heat will have little trouble burning through the East and are still better than the rising Thunder, the improved Lakers or anyone else the Western Conference puts in the Finals.
By Kate Fagan
The easy answer would be the Miami Heat. But I don't think that would be the correct answer.
I think the favorite for this season's title is the Los Angeles Lakers. Of course, I think they'll play the Heat in the Finals, but in the end, I think the Lakers' well-rounded talent will take the crown.
We all know Miami has the Big 3, but as we've seen at various times throughout their two seasons together, the Heat are vulnerable when they play teams with a star center.
And here's the thing with the Lakers: They have a lineup filled with guys who are playing their correct, natural positions. Point guard Steve Nash is ready to win the first title of his career, and center Dwight Howard is the best in the league. Kobe is Kobe. And Pau Gasol will be Pau Gasol.
The Heat often scramble to compensate for their lack of a true center -- they are vulnerable. And this season, I think the well-formed Lakers will get the best of them in the Finals.
By Jane McManus
I'm going with the Sonics err the Thunder this year. Despite the fact that I don't believe in the expansion era, the Oklahoma City Thunder won me over last season with their playoff run and Kevin Durant's star power. It is a team in which no player has, to my knowledge, dated or wed a Kardashian. It's also an underdog in the classic sense, surrounded by Lakers and Heat favorites that seem to have adopted the evil hoarding philosophy of the New York Yankees.
Durant is young, and the Thunder drafted well, so it very well could be their year.
By Sarah Spain
I really think this is the Charlotte Bobcats' year.
Alright, alright, just kidding. Last year's champs, the Miami Heat, have to be the favorites to win it again this year. LeBron James got the monkey off his back last season, winning his first ring, and then he continued his winning ways with a gold medal in London. As long as LeBron is mentally and physically strong, the Heat will be, as well. They'll get some competition from the new-look Lakers and the ever-improving Thunder, but in the end it'll be a Heat repeat in 2013.
By Adena Andrews
In a preseason game against the Sacramento Kings, Dwight Howard made his first appearance in purple and gold and I said, "Mine eyes have seen the glory that is the Los Angeles Lakers."
The squad may have lost to its Northern California brothers, but it was evident the Lakers' rhythm was there.
Howard was bullying defenders under the basket and finishing with powerful dunks. At the top of the key was Steve Nash distributing the basketball with behind-the-back passes to teammates. Then, there was Kobe Bryant going to work on the elbow, doing what he does best: score. The additions of Howard and Nash to the Lakers gives everyone the opportunity to do what they do best.
You can't deny what the presence of a big man does for a basketball team, especially Kobe and the Lakers. The last time Kobe had the most dominant center in the league, Shaquille O'Neal, it resulted in a three-peat and a cluttered jewelry box for KB24.
History will repeat itself this season and allow the Los Angeles Lakers to lift the Larry O'Brien Trophy once again.
By Amanda Rykoff
The Lakers made the biggest offseason news with acquisitions of Dwight Howard and Steve Nash to team up with Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol. The Thunder remain young, hungry and talented and will continue to improve. But my favorite to win the NBA title (and Vegas' as well) is the defending champion Miami Heat.
It's boring, and I wish I could say otherwise, but I'm picking the Heat to repeat. With LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in the third year of their Heatles tour and the addition of veteran shooters Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis, I don't see anybody challenging Miami out of the Eastern Conference (sorry, Bulls fans, Chicago isn't there). Once we get to the Finals, the Heat will have home-court advantage as a result of a superior record, and that will be the difference.
The NBA Finals between the Heat and Lakers should be really fun to watch.