OK, very premature but previewing a match-up of the NBA's two best teams is irresistible.
Each team has unique qualities that give them a competitive advantage. I will focus on some of the big categories and who has the advantage.
The Miami Heat no doubt have the edge in talent. They have two of the NBA's top three players and Chris Bosh is in the top 10. Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol are both all-star caliber players, but LeBron James and Dwayne Wade are just too talented for me to give the Lakers.
The Heat have filled their roster with solid talent and while they are a little bit top heavy, they still have enough talent overall to beat out the Lakers in that category.
This is an obvious one. As of right know the Lakers sixth man is Lamar Odom while the Heat's sixth man is likely going to be Mike Miller. That's a pretty substantial difference. The Miami Heat are focusing on building a roster of players who are there to play specific role for a smaller pay check.
The Lakers have multiple quality reserves that can log meaningful minutes. While the Miami Heat have more talent at the top, the Lakers have significantly more talent when it comes to fourth and fifth options as well as the bench.
Obviously the Los Angeles Lakers take the cake when it comes to experience. I believe experience can be broken down into three categories.
First, the season experience. The Lakers average age is around 29-years-old. The Lakers have the experience to win games and put themselves in a position to succeed. The players on the Lakers roster know how to win.
The Miami Heat have experience on the roster however their players are younger than the Lakers, and don't know how to win consistently. The Heat players have solid experience, but they are no competition for the Lakers players.
The second type of experience is playoff experience. The Lakers win again when it comes to playoff experience. The Heat have two players on the rosters with rings, while the Lakers won back to back titles, not to mention their back to back to back titles at the beginning of the decade.
The last type of experience is how a player performs in the clutch. Now this may not be specifically due to experience, but I think it falls under that category. Here I think it is a push. Kobe Bryant is easily the most clutch player in the game, although LeBron is a close second.
When there is five seconds left on the clock and your down by one, the Lakers go to Kobe, while the Heat go to James. The Lakers win here, but when you are down by five with a minute to go, the Heat have both James and Wade, this goes to the Heat.
Point Guard: Push
Mario Chalmers will likely surpass Derek Fisher as far as talent goes next season, but Derek Fisher's leadership skills are definitely a valuable asset to the team. While Mario Chalmers is younger and definitely has a step on Fisher, but Fisher has the playoff experience and the influence in the locker room to make a big impact on the Lakers this season.
Shooting guard: Lakers by an inch
Dwayne Wade is probably the third best player in the game, while Kobe is arguably first. If Kobe has an advantage over Wade it is a slight one. Wade is more athletic, but when Kobe gets hot, it's all over.
Small Forward: Heat
Ron Artest is a solid player, but he is no match for LeBron James. LeBron is one of the elite players in the game and can do it all. He can score, pass, and rebound. Ron Artest is a great defender and it will be interesting to watch LeBron and Artest go at it in this match-up.
Power Forward: Push
Chris Bosh and Pau Gasol are both all-star caliber players who can do it all. They are two of the elite scoring big men in the game. They both averaged a double double last season and are very consistent.
If Andrew Bynum can stay healthy he can be a huge impact player for the Lakers, the problem is keeping him on the floor. The Heat have two options at center. Whether they choose Udonis Haslem or Illgauskas to start, they will not be contain Bynum effectively.
Sixth man: Lakers
Lamar Odom is a significantly better option off the bench than Mike Miller. Miller is a solid player, but his uses are limited to three-point shooting. Odom is a versatile player who can step outside the three point line, but also averages 10 rebounds a game. Any time a player can come off the bench and get you a double double every night you know you have a good team.
Seeing as the Heat will have very limited options off the bench going into the season, you have to give the advantage to the Lakers. They have quite a few viable options off the bench, especially if Shannon Brown returns next season. Sasha Vujacic, Steve Blake, and Luke Walton are all reliable players. The Heat have three second round picks and likely some minimum players to fill out the roster so the Lakers win again.
I don't think anyone will be surprised by this one. Phil Jackson is one of the greatest coaches in basketball history and Eric Spoelstra is new to being a head coach. Spoelstra is in the right place at the right time, Phil Jackson helped build this team.
The Heat are a going to be a great team, but like Dwayne Wade said, the Lakers are the team to beat. If there is one team that can stop the Lakers from winning their third straight title it's the Heat. This Lakers group has been playing together for quite a few years and has the necessary experience to win another title.
I would say that in the next six years while Miami's big three are still under contact, they will win more titles than the Lakers. Like I said before, the average age of a Lakers player is about 29. They are getting older, but when it comes to the 2011-2012 season, there is no doubt in my mind the Lakers should be the favorites.
My Prediction: Miami and LA in the championship Lakers in seven.
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