Never mind the Lakers' new monster-like lineup. Don't worry about the maturing Thunder. According to a Sports Illustrated poll of NBA insiders, including head coaches, general managers and other executives, the Miami Heat are the early favorites to take home next year's Larry O'Brien trophy. Which, you know, duh.
Sports Illustrated's Sam Amick conducted the informal poll of 20 front office execs and head coaches, which found 16 of the 20 saying the Heat are their favorites to clench the championship. One put them in second place, and a two others put them at third. The Lakers and Thunder each got two first place votes each, but the Lakers did get a few more second place votes than the Thunder. So, if anything, at this point the question seems to be who will challenge the Heat in the Finals more than who will actually win the Finals.
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The consensus among the voters is that, much like the Heat in 2010-11, the Lakers will need a bit of adjustment period so the talents of Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Steve Nash, Metta World Peace and Dwight Howard jell together.
"LeBron and Dwyane Wade will carry the Heat once again," said one Western Conference exec. "The Lakers will need to jell and stay healthy, but with their new mix of players they will be tough to beat."
"LeBron is chasing history," said an Eastern Conference exec. "The pressure is off in a sense because he has a title in his back pocket."