The Finals (or who will the Spurs beat?)
The Spurs are the same team as last year's team, but deeper with Van Exel, Finley, and the continued development of their foreign players. They're winning it all unless Duncan gets hurt.
The Spurs will be beat either the Heat, Pacers or Pistons. Here's a look at each of them.
Heat: Wade and Shaq could probably get them to the finals alone, but there are issues. 1) Shaq's not getting younger and the Pistons contain him pretty well. 2) When you have superstars you're supposed to surround them with strong role players, so they get Walker, Williams, and Payton? On a good night Walker will come up with offensive rebounds and nice passes. Unfortunately those good nights are surrounded by nights of ill advised threes and sulking when he doesn't get the ball enough. Williams can be erratic and Payton should have retired three years ago. Did I mention none of these guys play defense?
It will take an MVP performance out of Shaq or Wade to get this team into the finals.
Pistons: When Larry Brown left the Pacers, the Pacers got better. When he left the Sixers, the Sixers got worse. The talented Pistons have strong veterans and promising youth, which is similar to what the Pacers had when Bird took over. The veterans will want to prove that Brown got too much credit for their success, and they'll have a strong season.
Pacers: Sports Illustrated put Ron Artest with Larry Bird on the cover. I didn't know how to react. Artest will have a great season, and maybe Jonathan Bender, Sarunas Jasikevicius, or Danny Granger will come up big to replace Reggie "the flop" Miller. This team of thugs and cry babies will continue to annoy me as they keep winning
So the Heat have the two best players, the Pistons have the best starting five, and the Pacers have the best depth. I'll go with the team with best two players. The Heat will lose to the Spurs in the finals.