|ESPN.com: NBA||[Print without images]|
|LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are the overwhelming favorites to win the East.|
J.A. Adande, ESPN.com: Orlando Magic. They tried playing the "nobody respects us" card for the past two seasons and maybe it will finally take effect now.Dwight Howard was a dark horse MVP candidate last season, but now that LeBron is in South Beach, Dwight can no longer be considered the best player in the state of Florida. Take that, plus the humiliating first three games of the Eastern Conference finals, and if Howard and the Magic don't enter 2010-11 in vengeance mode, then they never will.
Kevin Arnovitz, TrueHoop: Miami. The Heat will start last season's two most efficient players (and arguably the game's two best perimeter defenders) on opposite sides of the floor. That presence should compensate for whatever remaining flaws exist on the roster -- whether it's interior defense or depth.
Chris Sheridan, ESPN.com: Celtics. Because they can defeat the Heat in the Eastern Conference finals with their size and their defense. Miami cannot defend the two O'Neals (Jermaine and Shaq) and Kendrick Perkins in the low post. And the Who Is The Alpha Dog question is going to become the Heat's undoing in the deciding game of that series?Also, the familiarity factor weighs heavily in Boston's favor -- something we all should have relearned while watching the Celtics last spring in the postseason.
Marc Stein, ESPN.com: Heat. My days on Orlando's bandwagon are a memory after (A) last spring's playoff collapse, (B) Orlando's lack of roster upgrades and (C) Dwight Howard's refusal to play on Team USA this summer when he clearly could have used the go-to-guy reps.It's a lot harder to pick against Boston -- since the Celts have apparently replaced the Spurs as the team you never want to write off -- but I can't deny Miami. For all the Heat's supposed vulnerabilities defensively or depth-wise, I expect them to create far more problems than they face with two elite finishers (LeBron and Wade) and Bosh as a wild card.