The 2010-11 NBA season promises to be quite predictable—if you believe the sports book in Vegas, that is.
Miami is listed as the odds on favorite to win the title at +175 and the Lakers aren't far behind at +300.
Other than those two, no other team has better 10-to-1 odds to walk home with the Larry O'Brien trophy.
So can't we just pretty much pencil in Miami and Los Angeles in the Finals and call it a day? Well, odds are (pun intended)...yes, we can.
But things don't always unfold the way we think the should.
Injuries happen (see: Kevin Garnett and Manu Ginobili in 2008, Isiah Thomas in 1988...hell, even Bill Russell in 1958); Midseason trades swing conferences that are up for grabs (like Rasheed Wallace with the Pistons in 2004), or lineups that are great on papers just don't mesh well together (something along the lines of the 2003-04 Lakers with Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal, Gary Payton, and Karl Malone).
Obviously, any of these factors could apply to this year's campaign—maybe Andrew Bynum just can't stay healthy and Pau Gasol goes down a few weeks before the playoffs and isn't 100 percent in the postseason.
Maybe the Bulls somehow swing a deal for Carmelo Anthony while hanging onto Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer.
Or maybe, in a half-court game, the Heat just can't generate enough offense to consistently score against teams with a significant interior presence, such as Boston, Orlando, or Los Angeles (not to say it will happen...just that it could happen).
So perhaps Miami and L.A. are destined to meet in the Finals, but the margin of error is small enough that if something disastrous happens, it opens the door for a handful of other teams.
Let's take a look at how each team would fare in a perfect world where all their stars properly aligned and how it would turn out if all hell broke loose.
Starting in alphabetical order.