Who is the best team in the NBA right now, the Miami Heat or the Los Angeles Lakers?
Its July, after all. The regular season is still three months away.
The real question is, which team will be superior in June 2011?
Its a long road to the NBA Finals. There are 82 regular season games and three rounds of playoffs before we reach the proverbial "final battle."
So, which of the two Titans of the NBA benefits more from this marathon season?
Without question, the Miami Heat.
Miami has a new team consisting of several players who (apart from All Star Games and the Olympics) have not played together. It will take some time for them to come together as a cohesive unit.
Maybe it will take as long as thirty or forty games. No problem.
While they might not fire on all cylinders at first, they will nonetheless win most of their games on sheer talent alone. Then, when things start to click, look out.
The Lakers are essentially bringing back the same team they've had for the past three years. The marginal returns that might be realized from playing together are minimal at this point. In fact, given that its the "same old lineup," it would not be surprising to see some periods of regular season malaise, as have occurred in recent years.
The Heat is also a young team. The average age of its starting five is just over 26 years of age. They are built for the long haul.
The Lakers are an older team. The average age of its starting five is over 30 years of age. No matter how well a player keeps in shape, time catches up with everyone.
Finally, there's the Andew Bynum factor. He has the potential to be a key player in a potential Heat/Lakers final, but can he withstand the long season? At this point, there has to be a concern that his knee issues might be chronic, which is, unfortunately, not uncommon among big men (see Greg Oden).
If he wears down over the long season, and cannot be a significant factor in the Finals, the Lakers would lose a potentially crucial matchup advantage.
So, while its all well and good that B/R writers are busy comparing the Lakers and Heat as they appear right now, I think a forward thinking approach is more appropriate.
Who wins the hypothetical matchup in July 2010?
Who wins the real matchup at the end of the long road to the Finals?
The marathon favors Miami.