The Miami Heat are back-to-back NBA Champions. They have arguably the best trio of stars in the game with Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, and LeBron James. They still have their key role players locked up for at least another year in guys like Shane Battier, Chris Anderson, and Mr. Clutch himself Ray Allen. And somehow Pat Riley has found a way to make the roster even better by adding center and former 1st overall pick Greg Oden. They even got Michael Beasley to come back for a second stint with the Heat to try and resurrect his once promising career.
All that being said, this will without a doubt be the toughest year for Miami to try and take home the Larry O'Brian trophy because of the competition they now have to face at the top of the Eastern Conference.
Let's start with the team that pushed Miami to a seven game series in the Eastern Conference finals last May. The Indiana Pacers are the anti-Heat. Their offense is driven by the point guard position and runs through their big man in the middle, Roy Hibbert, who established himself as one of the league's best last postseason. Indiana plays tough, physical defense that is also anchored by Hibbert as he erases any penetration that gets past the outer defenders. One of the biggest reasons Miami was able to squeak by The Pacers (besides Lebron James being LeBron James) was backup point guard DJ Augustine and his inability to play under the intense pressure Miami's defenders put on him when he was in the game. Augustine is gone this year and in his place is the very capable C.J. Watson, who filled in admirably for the injured Derrick Rose last season for the Bulls.
Speaking of Derrick Rose, the Chicago point guard is returning from his year off to heal from ACL surgery and should be the freshest player in the league. Let me say that again. Derrick Rose, the man who took the Bulls to the Eastern Conference finals in 2011, the former league MVP is going to be the freshest player in the league. Chicago already made it to the Eastern conference semi-finals without him. Now he's back and should provide Noah, Deng, and rising star Jimmy Butler with the scoring punch needed to legitimately challenge for a trip to the finals once again.
You know who else has their eyes on the NBA Finals? How about the Brooklyn Nets who made the biggest move of the offseason so far by trading for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett from Boston. Add those former champions to Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, and Brook Lopez and you've got arguably the best starting lineup in the NBA. Round out that roster with another former champion (who beat Miami in the finals) Jason Terry, perennial lock-down defender Andrei Kirilenko, and two solid big men coming off the bench in Reggie Evans and Andray Blatche, and you have possibly the biggest threat to Miami in the Eastern conference to date.
This is all without talking about Carmelo's Knicks and any one of the teams out west that could potentially meet Miami in the finals. So before everyone starts talking about a Three-peat (trade-marked by Pat Riley), let's see how the season starts to play out.