Thunder and Bulls
I'll take the team with the Big Three, but not the LeBron-Wade-Bosh combo. I'll go with the Durant-Westbrook-Harden triumvirate that makes the Thunder an even more lethal offensive club than the flashy Heat.
I'm predicting a Miami knockout in the Eastern Conference finals, courtesy of the Bulls. Chicago should have a surge of confidence after rallying against the Heat last week even though Derrick Rose played his worst game since learning how to walk.
But that will be an energy-zapping series, with the Bulls and Heat bludgeoning each other over seven games. The Thunder will be fresh and Serge Ibaka will help protect the rim as Oklahoma City beats the Bulls in six.
Thunder and Heat
Even though it seems like the end of the world every time the Heat lose, expect them back in the NBA Finals for a second straight year.
The reason? The Heat simply are too good. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are too much for their nearest competitor, the Bulls.
Picking Miami's opponent is a bit more difficult but it looks like the same argument could be made for the Thunder in the Western Conference. They might lack experience but make up for it with the league's best foursome of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Serge Ibaka.
Thunder and Heat (again)
Los Angeles Times
Those who love the underdogs will be disappointed by a Finals that matches the Heat against the Thunder.
Now that the young Thunder's growing pains are over and the Heat's Big Three have had nearly two full seasons to work out the kinks (and the egos), it's going to be an epic, up-and-down Finals for the ages but not the aged.
Oklahoma City ultimately will prevail in seven games because, although the Heat's three superstars trump the Thunder's two, Oklahoma City is the more complete team. James Harden, Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins are the quality complementary players who will make the difference against a feast-or-famine Heat lineup.
Thunder, Heat (and again)
Oklahoma City, start organizing that parade route. The Thunder will win the NBA title this season, beating the Heat.
Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and a deep young roster won't be denied this time after being short-circuited by the Mavericks in the West finals last season.
The defending champion Mavs aren't the same team, failing to keep key pieces in Mark Cuban's quest to clear cap room for the future. While still dangerous, the Lakers and Spurs don't have the speed or athletic ability to hold off Oklahoma City any longer.
The Heat will reach the Finals again but won't be able to handle the dynamic duo of Durant and Westbrook.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times