WHO WINS IT ALL?
Didn't have room to put my picks in our season preview section Sunday, so let's tackle that issue here.
Boston is a threat to repeat but you have to wonder what its hunger level is. Validation can make the heart - and the team - grow soft. But looking at the Eastern Conference picture, it's still going to come down to the Celtics and Pistons.
They have basically the same rosters back from last year, though the Celtics did lose key reserve James Posey.
I'm still not sold on Orlando's backcourt being good enough to get to the Finals. Philly helped itself with Elton Brand and plays solid defense but it still has a major problem with its perimeter shooting. If the Sixers can pull off a deal for a gunner, they'll make the East the Big Three.
Cleveland is also a threat as long as LeBron is breathing. But the Celtics and Pistons would have to play below their potential to lose a playoff series to the Cavs.
Hate to think I'm a homer but is the really a better team than the Pistons? They have one heck of a backcourt trio and a deeper frontcourt with Kwame Brown coming off the bench. So far what I've seen from Michael Curry, the Pistons have another fine coach running the show.
Out West, everything runs through Los Angeles. There are still health issues with Andrew Bynum but if all their pieces are healthy in the playoffs, who's going to beat the Lakers?
San Antonio, Phoenix and Dallas are getting old and Houston can't stay healthy. Utah always seems to be one player away from taking the next step. Portland will be very good very soon but it won't go far in the playoffs just yet. The biggest threat to the Lakers is New Orleans. The Hornets were not a fluke last season. Chris Paul is one of the top five players in the league and the frontcourt is solid. With the addition of Posey, they're even more dangerous.
So, I'll say Pistons beat the Cavs in the conference finals and the Lakers will knock off Paul & Co. in the West.
That leaves a Pistons-Lakers Final, which sounds a whole lot better to the networks than Tampa Bay-Philadelphia. And it's the Lakers prevailing in six games.