Winning three championships in a row is certainly no easy task. However, many people believe the Los Angeles Lakers are the favorites to do just that. However, if the Lakers hope to hoist the Larry O'Brien trophy again this spring, they will have to take down the league's best and brightest.
Playoff time is all about exploiting matchup advantages against the opposition. So, let's take a look at every contending team's biggest advantage against the Lakers come playoff time.
While the Lakers have been considered a deep basketball team for many years, the Dallas Mavericks are easily the deepest team in the league.
When fully healthy, the team's rotation goes 10 to 11 players deep. If the playoffs started today, the teams would be playing in the conference semifinals. Lamar Odom, Matt Barnes, Shannon Brown and Steve Blake would all have to bring their A-games to contend with the Mavericks' depth.
On the other hand, the Mavericks have much to prove in the playoffs. No one is convinced, yet the Mavericks won't fold when the stakes are high.
Obviously, you can't rely on what happened in the regular season as an indication of what will unfold in the playoffs.
However, if there is one advantage the Miami Heat could possibly have over the Lakers in a finals matchup it is confidence. The Heat have beaten the Lakers twice this season. Not to mention, the Lakers are the only elite team the Heat has had any success against this season.
Derrick Rose is most likely going to win the MVP award this season, and he could be a matchup nightmare for the Lakers if the teams met in the NBA Finals.
The Lakers' problems defending point guards the last few seasons are well known. The Lakers' best bet would be to possibly try Kobe Bryant or Ron Artest guarding Rose.
The San Antonio Spurs will be heading into the playoffs with home-court advantage in every round. This is not the only advantage the Spurs would have against the Lakers in a seven game series, but it is certainly the biggest one.
The Spurs' reliance on offense this season has me very suspect of the team's success come playoff time. In addition, the team does not have a superstar to rely on. Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili are all too old and/or unproductive to be considered superstars anymore.
If the two teams lock horns in the conference finals, and if the Lakers are able to steal one of the first two games in San Antonio, the series could end quickly.
What makes this matchup so entertaining is the distinct advantages the two teams hold over one another.
The Lakers' big advantage comes in the frontcourt, and the Oklahoma City Thunder is clearly more athletic and younger than the veteran Lakers.
Last year's series was a buzzer-beater away from going to a Game 7. Another playoff series would largely be hinged on which team would be able to force its distinct advantage against the other team.
As far as I am concerned, the Lakers should fear the Thunder more than the Spurs and Mavericks this spring.
Much like the Lakers, the Boston Celtics have the swagger, experience and elite talent to make a deep playoff run.
The two teams have faced one another in two of the last three finals, with each team winning a championship. A rubber match could (hopefully) be on the horizon this spring.
However, after trading Kendrick Perkins, the Celtics may have more to prove this spring than originally thought.