The same issues remain that plagued the Bulls last season against the Heat. Reigning MVP Derrick Rose is still going to be asked to do too much.
Out west, everybody loves the Clippers, and they'll definitely be fun to watch. I also like the fresh legs of the youthful Thunder against the playoff-tested Spurs.
More of the same
This is boring: The same four teams — Bulls vs. Heat, Thunder vs. Mavericks — will meet in the conference finals.
At least the basketball will be anything but boring. In this odd, compressed season, continuity will be as important as talent. And, yes, the Mavericks underwent some changes. But the core of the team remains pretty much intact and few teams will match their depth and shooting ability. The Thunder remain virtually the same. The Bulls added Richard Hamilton. The Heat added Shane Battier. Those moves just made deep teams even deeper.
So in the end, it's those same four teams. We'll save the Finals predictions for another time.
Heat are favorites — again
In the Eastern Conference, it is easy to pick the Heat. After all, they are the favorites to win the NBA championship — again.
The Celtics are an aging group, so unless they find youth, it's hard to see them in the Finals. The Magic are in a quandary with the Dwight Howard will-he-be-traded situation?
That leaves the Bulls as the choice to meet the Heat in the East finals.
As for the Western Conference, the Thunder seem poised to reach the conference finals again.
The Lakers aren't the team they once were and are getting older. The new-look Clippers are exciting, but it's going to take some time for them to coalesce.
As for the Mavericks, until they're knocked off, they are the team to beat.