Talent always prevails
The list of columnists and NBA experts who have made foolish preseason picks grows every year. Too much can go wrong with teams that are supposed to be good. Too much can go right with teams that are supposed to be bad. But on this pick I feel pretty solid. (Yep, this is the line I will regret in June if I'm totally wrong.)
Simply put, the Heat and Lakers are the two most talented teams in their respective conferences. Only Oklahoma City and maybe the Spurs and Clippers can match the Lakers in terms of aggregate talent, but the Lakers have the clear edge in star power, and those are the players who will play the majority of minutes in the playoffs.
In the East, Boston, Indiana and Philadelphia have enough talent to challenge Miami, but each of those teams has some major questions that the Heat have already solved over the years. Barring any significant injuries, I always think talent prevails, especially in a sport like basketball where one or two players can make the difference in close games.
Kobe Bryant is too good. Steve Nash is too hungry for a title. Dwight Howard is too dominant. Pau Gasol is too smart. Take those descriptions and apply them to James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Ray Allen for Miami.
Plus, the long-awaited Kobe Bryant-LeBron James Finals matchup just really needs to happen.
Too many variables
Will the Lakers meet the Heat in the NBA Finals? That seems like the standard pick by most everyone on the planet who has ever heard of Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. Even my 2-year-old cousin who doesn't know a single player outside of Kobe and LeBron is picking those two to meet in the Finals.
It seems a little too good to be true. Like in 2009-10, when we thought we'd get to see the two stars meet in the Finals, when Cleveland had the best record in the NBA and James won the MVP but fell short of the title. Or in 2011-12, when we thought Kobe might lead the Lakers back to the Finals only to see him fall short. And how about those adorable Kobe and LeBron puppet commercials that became the modern-day version of Dan and Dave when the two failed to meet for the championship?
Maybe this is the year the NBA's two most popular players since Michael Jordan will finally meet in June, but I have my doubts. Crazy things happen in the NBA, and it's not completely nuts to expect Kobe or LeBron to once again fall short and watch the other in the Finals. It's possible that Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Denver or even the Clippers could come out of the West, or that Boston or Indiana could come out of the East. I'm not saying it will happen, but after missing out on Kobe versus LeBron in June the past six seasons, I'm not holding my breath.