Steven Baybutt

The upcoming NBA season might just be the best one yet. The story lines are endless.

Kobe is going for his sixth title, which would put him in the conversation with Jordan (if he isn’t already). Durant and the Thunder will look to improve upon their breakout season in a loaded western conference. Carmelo will probably land with either the Knicks, Nets or Bulls by February. The Celtics reloaded with more All Stars from six years again in the O’Neals (Shaquille and the palace brawler, Jermaine). Rookies like John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Derrick Favors will look to prove their mettle in their first full NBA season. All of this and I haven’t even mentioned the pink elephant in the room, the Miami Heat.

The addition of LeBron and Bosh is the biggest addition to a team since the Lakers landed Shaq and Kobe in 1996 (sorry Garnett, Ray Allen and Celtics fans). The Heat is easily the most hated team since the Pistons of the early 1990s, and they haven’t played a game yet. The media circus around this team is unprecedented (live Sportscentersfrom Heat training camp, ESPN, really?). There hasn’t been more hype for a season in the history of the league (Jordan came back midway through 1995 and therefore avoided all the buildup). So with all of this swirling around, can they really live up to expectation?

The answer is simple, yes. LeBron will play like nobody has seen him play before. He will look to pass more, post up smaller defenders and will take smarter (thus fewer) shots. He will in all likelihood see a reduction in points per game, probably something down to 24 or 25 a game, but his assists, rebounds, steals and shooting percentages will all improve with having Wade and Bosh around. Wade will probably lead the team in scoring, while Bosh will see the biggest reduction in production because of the merger. Yet, will any of them grow unhappy? Probably not. There are very few teams in the league that have the defenders to match up with the big three of the Heat. Those teams, the Celtics, Magic and Lakers, are their main competition for the title.

The biggest weakness of the new look Heat is down low. They lack a proven center, as currently the depth chart lists Joel Anthony, Jamal Magloire and Dexter Pittman. The Lakers have Bynum and Gasol, the Magic have Dwight Howard and the Celtics have Perkins (once he returns from ACL surgery in March) and the O’Neals. All of these teams will be able to exploit the weakness upfront of the Heat. LeBron, Wade and Bosh will have their work cut out if they want to make up for this lack of frontcourt depth, but I have faith.

Eastern Conference Finals: Heat over Bulls

Western Conference Finals: Lakers over Mavs

Finals: Heat over Lakers

MVP: LeBron James