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Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Updated: August 27, 2:17 PM ET
2010-11 NBA champions

ESPN.com

Kobe Bryant & Pau Gasol
The majority of our NBA panelists see Kobe, Pau and the Lakers completing the three-peat in 2010-11.

We've crowned the East champs and the West champs, and it looks like we could finally be headed for the long-awaited LeBron vs. Kobe showdown in the NBA Finals. However, a few other title contenders will have their say before it's all said and done.

In the meantime, we asked our 93 panelists which team they thought would be hoisting the Larry O'Brien trophy in 2010-11. Here are the results:

2010-11 Forecast: NBA champions


Experts: NBA champs?


Henry Abbott, TrueHoop: The Miami Heat, but there's a lot of basketball between here and there, and the Lakers loom.

The Celtics, Magic and Spurs will be in the mix. And every year a young team or two gets its act together. Somebody from the Thunder, Rockets, Bulls, Hawks, Blazers, etc., will be looking especially good by next year's playoffs. But the Heat are the class of the league for now, and should win.


J.A. Adande, ESPN.com: Los Angeles Lakers.

Their path through the West is easier with the eastward exodus of Amare Stoudemire and Carlos Boozer. And if the Eastern champs couldn't take down the Lakers last season it won't happen with this season's improved team. If this is Phil Jackson's last season, doesn't it just seem fitting that he end it with his fourth three-peat?


Kevin Arnovitz, TrueHoop: Miami Heat.

Barring injury or turmoil, the Heat and Lakers could face off in one of the most interesting Finals matchups in recent years. The Heat aren't without vulnerabilities, and the Lakers have the length and skills to exploit them. Still, James and Wade in their primes might be too much, even for the Lakers.


Alfredo Berrios, ESPN Deportes: Orlando Magic.

It's not so much that they have better personnel than the Miami Heat, as much as that the South Beach team will implode during the course of the 82-game season. The Heat have too many superstars and egos together on one team.

I believe the Magic will play as a more cohesive unit, and have more depth than the Heat. Plus, they have Dwight Howard, a strong center who will give the Heat a lot of problems should they meet in the conference finals.

If the Lakers face the Magic in the Finals, I don't think they'll have the upper hand like they did two years ago, especially after Orlando beats Miami.


Larry Coon, ESPN.com: Los Angeles Lakers.

It's tempting to ogle the talent at the top of the Heat's lineup and pencil in Miami as the eventual champ. But this isn't your fantasy league, it's the NBA. The Heat will take time to jell, their warts will be exposed, and mismatches will be leveraged. The playoff-hardened Celtics will be ready for them -- it's not a lock the Heat even make it out of the East.

Meanwhile the defending champs also got better this offseason, adding Steve Blake and Matt Barnes to address their only real weaknesses -- the point guard spot and their second unit. Kobe Bryant is healthy again, after enduring a litany of injuries last season. The Lakers' path to the Finals is a lot easier than the Heat's, and they have the size that Miami can't match.


John Hollinger, ESPN.com: Miami Heat.

While five or six other teams can present legitimate arguments, most notably the two-time defending champion Lakers, the Heat's overwhelming star power and the fact they're likely to have home-court advantage in a Finals matchup with L.A. should combine to put them over the top. If so, it could be the first of several championships for this group.


Chris Sheridan, ESPN.com: Boston Celtics.

If they had had Kendrick Perkins and a healthy Rasheed Wallace in Game 7, I think they would have won at Staples. Pau Gasol was just too much for them down the stretch. But now they'll have Jermaine O'Neal, too, to check Pau in a deciding game. I still think they need to replace the departed Tony Allen, but it's a long time between now and the trade deadline.


Marc Stein, ESPN.com: Los Angeles Lakers.

Beating out Boston and Orlando to win the East in Year 1 of the SuperFriends is one thing. The bar will be a lot higher in the Finals. The Lakers will have a considerable been-there advantage to go with their size advantage. Can't see Miami overcoming all that with its roster as presently constituted.

Click here for the complete list of voters.