I know everyone and their brother is picking the Miami Heat to repeat this season. Even a recent NBA.com survey asking NBA general managers their thoughts have them almost unanimously picking Miami to win it all.
But I don't think Miami will repeat this season.
Everyone forgets the Celtics went up against Miami three games to two last season. The Celtics played the entire series with a hobbled Ray Allen and without Avery Bradley, Jeff Green and Chris Wilcox.
This year Boston has rebuilt and fortified its bench, specifically giving coach Doc Rivers the players to match up with the Heat's Dwayne Wade and LeBron James. The Celtics are deeper than they have ever been in the Paul Pierce-Kevin Garnett era.
The Celtics may not have a player as good as LeBron, but they have a deeper roster, top-to-bottom, than any other team in the Eastern conference. Celtics' general manager Danny Ainge has shown he'll make any move necessary to make Boston a contender.
The other factor hurting Miami is that the Heat signed Boston's Ray Allen as a free agent.
This signing has amped up the bad blood in the rivalry and will give the Celtics that added motivation to overtake Miami in the playoffs. The fact that Allen hasn't been able to get over his hurt feelings towards the Celtics this offseason, according to this recent report by Jimmy Toscano at CSNNE.com, will only add to the dynamic between the teams.
Will the Miami Heat repeat as Champs?
LeBron is already used to playing with a target on his back, a target that has been squarely on him since his infamous decision to leave Cleveland and come to Miami.
The Heat's championship win last season quieted LeBron's critics and allowed him to stake his claim as the best player in basketball.
Now comes the hard part.
Can the Heat do it again? Certainly if Dwayne Wade stays healthy and LeBron is motivated enough to play through the entire season.
But if the Heat try and coast through the season and then flip a switch come playoff time, look out.
The Celtics are ready for Miami this time and the outcome will be different.