Which Team Will Reign Over Next Decade?
J.A. Adande, ESPN.com: Miami Heat.
It might not happen immediately, but the Heat have too much talent and Pat Riley is too savvy to let it go to waste. Riley will patch up whatever holes become evident on the roster and address any coaching issues that come up (even if he handles them himself). You might hate them, but you'd better get used to seeing them in June.
Chris Sheridan, ESPN.com: Oklahoma City Thunder.
It comes back to Kevin Durant, my pick for player of the decade, and what a special talent he is. The Thunder have also surrounded him with solid, young, complementary pieces that have only begun to scratch the surface of what they are capable of (especially Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka; I am not as sold on Jeff Green), and they have a great coach who is still young enough to relate to such a young team. If the core sticks together, the sky is the limit -- especially over the last five years of the decade.
Marc Stein, ESPN.com: Los Angeles Lakers.
Hate to keep dragging the business side of the game into the discussion, but the prospect of a lockout and the uncertainty of what the next collective bargaining agreement will bring in terms of teams' ability to put pieces around their stars can't be ignored. The Heat have a better chance in this area than any one Heater has of denying Kobe in the player of the decade hunt, but the worst-case lockout/CBA scenarios give the Lakers another leg up here.
Who Will Win 2010-11 NBA Championship?
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.
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.
Who's Player Of The Decade?
Henry Abbott, TrueHoop:
He produces at a level just about nobody ever has, and now he's on a path to right the one wrong of his biography -- the lack of NBA titles. Once he has a few of those, it'll be nearly impossible to make the case people love making now -- that he's somehow doomed as a player.
John Hollinger, ESPN.com:
His prime years are almost perfectly aligned with the coming decade, which makes him a safer choice than LeBron James -- who will be 35 by the decade's end. He already opened the decade with the first of what is likely to be several scoring titles, and with James splitting credit with his new Miami teammates, Durant is likely to win a few MVP trophies, too.
The only question, then, is the rings -- it's difficult to ordain Durant without a title. The guess is that somewhere along the line he'll get one.
Marc Stein, ESPN.com:
If my Finals prediction is right, Kobe will have snagged the first two championships of the new decade. As long as Kobe and Pau Gasol can stay together, winning one or two more before Bryant's eventual retirement isn't hard to imagine no matter what kind of competition is out there. And four rings for the second successive decade would be a strong hand for No. 24 especially if we end up losing the 2011-12 season to a lockout as some around the league fear.