NBA Preview: Lakers look tough to beat

With the start of the NBA season, everyone wants to know one simple thing: which team will cut down the nets like the Boston Celtics did a season ago?

I look at the Lakers as the team to watch during the 2008-09 campaign. The presence of Andrew Bynum in the middle, coming off of injury woes last season, makes Los Angeles an improved team. Bynum's size, couple with the interior play of Pau Gasol, gives Phil Jackson a big plus compared to last season. There is more flexibility on the Lakers' baseline.

Jackson is my preseason Coach of the Year.

You know that Kobe Bryant will put up big numbers. When it is all said and done, Tinseltown will celebrate. I see the Lakers gaining a measure of revenge and beating the Celtics, denying a repeat in a seven-game series.

My pick for NBA MVP is LeBron James. That's right, the King dominates again, though his team falls just short of the ultimate goal. The supporting cast in Cleveland is simply not as strong as the ones in Boston and Los Angeles. The addition of Mo Williams should help on the perimeter. I don't think they have enough to win it all.

As for Rookie of the Year, Derrick Rose was the top draft pick by Chicago. He should have a solid season, but my pick is Miami Heat forward Michael Beasley. The former Kansas State standout will be a force right from the start, teaming up with Dwyane Wade to give the Heat an improved squad.

Michael Curry steps in as coach of the Pistons. He inherits a solid nucleus, but the East is pretty tough. New York will be an improved team as new coach Mike D'Antoni brings a sense of pride and passion to the Big Apple. The Knicks will play with a lot more emotion this season. Look for Stephon Marbury to show improvement, but this team doesn't have enough ammunition to make the playoffs. Philadelphia will be better with the addition of Elton Brand.

Out West, there are so many good teams. San Antonio needs a healthy Manu Ginobili later in the season to make some noise. In Phoenix, we will see what Terry Porter can do in his first season on the bench there.

Keep an eye on the New Orleans Hornets. Chris Paul is one of the premier leaders in the game, and David West is still underrated up front. The addition of James Posey will be a positive for Byron Scott's club.

It should be a super season of NBA basketball. I see another outstanding match-up in the final, with the Lakers cutting down the nets.