With the NBA tip-off just more than a month away, the excitement is palpable across the country as fans prepare for one of the most hyped seasons ever.
In fact, it's so hyped, Phil Jackson was actually available for a comment during the off season.
Now, that's saying something.
Unless you've been trapped in some closet like R. Kelly for the entire summer, you know that the NBA seems to have two teams clearly ahead of the rest of the pack: The Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat.
The two-time defending champs versus the odds-on favorite. The idea of this potential Finals match up makes the two teams' fans start giggling like little school girls.
Or Justin Bieber.
The two teams have been analyzed ad nauseam over how they would match up in a seven-game series. So many questions have fired up debates across the country:
Who wins head-to-head, Bryant or Wade?
Can Ron Artest slow-down LeBron James at all?
Will the Heat have an answer for the Lakers' length?
The one thing people haven't talked about, however, is the bench. When two teams have such top quality starting fives, it's normally the supporting cast that will decide who wears the jewelry.
So who has the best bench?
These two gentlemen are absolutely essential to their respective team's successes. If either one of them got injured, there would be some panic in both of those locker rooms.
Haslem proved himself as an asset for the Heat, and was rightfully rewarded this summer with a five-year deal. He's near a double-double for his career, plays strong post defense and hustles like Rick Ross.
Minus the obesity.
Odom, on the other hand, isn't a prototypical big man. Despite some lapses in judgment, he can handle the ball like a point guard, take bigs off the dribble, and score at the rim with the best of them.
Scoring in the social world is a different story. He picked the wrong Kardashian.
The Pick: Lamar Odom
While Haslem will be tough to chase around for Odom, Haslem does not have the length to match the Lakers' bigs, which is critical in defending Los Angeles.
Odom's ability to stretch the floor and take people off-the-dribble will force the Heat defense to collapse, leaving space for his teammates.
Miller and Brown have completely different playing styles, but it's completely clear why they were both coveted during the off season.
They can score. Plain and simple.
The Heat struck gold in free agency with the ex-Wizard. Miller has put up nearly 14 points per game while shooting more than 40% from distance, and that has earned him a prominent role in Miami's second unit.
To be fair, he could be averaging 20 on 60% shooting and he'd still be a bench guy. He'll never beat out the Flash.
The Lakers re-signed Brown for a bit of a bargain. The former Michigan State Spartan took a chance at a three-peat over money, and L.A. fans should be pleased.
His numbers may not be monumental, but his play is momentum-changing, something critical in games against quality opponents.
Sadly, his value is much less when playing the Timberwolves.
The Pick: Mike Miller
No one denies that Brown's hops higher make Vladimir Yashchenko jealous. The reason he loses out is that Miller is so much more reliable from distance, which will stretch the Lakers' defense.
Neither of these players will have the ball in crucial moments, but that does not mean their importance should be underestimated.
Smush Parker didn't have the ball much, but man, did he screw everything up in L.A.
Arroyo isn't a very well known commodity around the league, but his abilities could put him on that level this year. His knack for passing will make him a very popular man with the revamped Heat.
Couple that with his dashing good looks, and Miami is a perfect home for him.
Blake is a different story. He left Los Angeles' embarrassment of a team for the purple and gold and will help spell the aging Derek Fisher. His built for the triangle offense, as his pass-first mentality will help him gain some respect from his new teammates.
Mainly, Mr. Bryant. No one else matters.
The Pick: Steve Blake
The Maryland alum wins this due to his potential impact. With Fisher more than likely playing fewer minutes this year, and Mario Chalmers, Wade and even LeBron playing point, it just seems as if Blake will get to put a bigger stamp on the game.
Two players who are extremely vibrant, talkative, loud, and whiny.
The only difference is that House speaks English.
House loves to spot up and shoot, and not much else. He can be a pesky defender, but if he had his way, he'd stay in the corner on offense for all 48 minutes, waiting for the ball to come to him.
Can you say, "team player?"
Vujacic isn't much better. He's struggled mightily as of late with his shot, but when he's on, it's automatic. His downfall is that when he isn't doing anything productive, he goes out of his way to complain.
Which sounds a lot like the Democratic Party.
The Pick: Eddie House
This may be the closest race of them all, but House is such a constant threat from three that he takes it.
Teams can't double off him like they did to Vujacic all through out the 2009-2010 season. If the Slovenian wants the upper hand back, he's going to need to get back his consistency.
The reputations and roles of these two players are completely different, but the Lakers and Heat brought them in for the same reasons.
They both play with strength, toughness and poise.
Anthony is an extremely underrated center and plans to change that. He averages well over one block per game in very limited minutes and plays interior defense extremely well without fouling.
Something that nearly no one can say anymore.
Barnes parallels Anthony's aggressive, but on the perimeter. He prides himself on stopping the top wing players in the NBA, and the Lakers brought him in to lock down scorers too quick for Ron Artest.
Sadly, they didn't bring him in to win "Most Domestic Disputes in a Year," but it appears Barnes is on his way.
The Pick: Matt Barnes
Barnes will see the court plenty while attempting to slow down James and Wade, and being a 49 percent shooter from the field will prevent teams from doubling off him.
Anthony might be in a bind as he gives up four inches in height and even more in wingspan to the prominent Lakers down low.
Veteran leadership is key to any championship team, especially during the dog days in the middle of the year.
But would it surprise anyone if both these guys had kids who were in the NBA Draft next year? No, because they make Cloris Leachman look spry.
Howard had a bit of a renaissance in Portland last season. His numbers weren't phenomenal, but he aptly filled in the middle for the injured Trail Blazers and helped mentor an inexperienced team.
His leadership could be critical on teaching a brand new roster how to mesh in Miami. Or he may hit the South Beach retirement home early.
Ratliff, conversely, enters a situation full of Finals-tested players. His role will be to relieve Andrew Bynum's knees with strong interior defense.
No one's asking to him score, but he can still throw down a jam if he needs to do.
Just don't expect him to show up in NBA Jam anytime soon.
The Pick: Juwan Howard
Neither player will get the playing time necessary to repeat their influence from last season.
Howard will be behind Chris Bosh, Haslem, and possibly Joel Anthony, while Ratliff is the fourth big below the triumvirate of Odom, Bynum and Pau Gasol.
Howard just seems to have more left in the tank, so he inches out the victory.
While it is crystal clear that neither of these guys will see a ton of time on the court, they still will make the roster and have the opportunity to make their presence felt.
Therefore, we shall analyze both teams' last resorts. Hooray!
Jones is known strictly for his ability to shoot. Over his career, he's shot nearly 40% from distance making him an instant commodity. However, his inability to play a full season makes him a liability as well.
It's no wonder he's a 12th man with that level of risk.
Walton, contrastingly, is known for his intangibles. Lakers coach Phil Jackson loves his ability to spread the ball around in the offense, and his numbers in limited minutes aren't too shabby either.
Unfortunately, he's been hurt more than Cubs fans.
The Pick: Luke Walton
At this point in the roster, teams are looking for guys who can help the team function.
The Heat already have so many top-shelf scorers on their roster, having Jones seems like gluttony.
Walton doesn't expect to score much, knows his role and can help the Lake Show if he can stay healthy.
Los Angeles Lakers: 4
Miami Heat: 3
Yes, these are just preliminary assessments of the projected 12-man rosters the two squads will sport on opening night.
Things can change, but these are the fellas Miami and Los Angeles should get used to cheering for each night.
Unless it's House or Vujacic. Then booing will be appropriate at some point.
Rookies also may make an impact during the year, but it's impossible to assess their roles as of now.
With such star-studded rosters for both the Heat and Lakers, it's unlikely any of the new talent will explode into a major contributor this season.
However, if Devin Ebanks becomes the next Tayshaun Prince, just know I called it.