Kevin Durant, center, and the rest of the Oklahoma City Thunder could represent… (Larry W. Smith / EPA )
With the NBA playoffs around the corner, writers from around Tribune Co., the parent of the Los Angeles Times and other papers, predict which teams will be playing for the championship in June. Check back throughout the day for their responses and join the conversation with a comment of your own.
Teddy Greenstein, Chicago Tribune
I’ll take the team with the Big Three, but not the celebrated LeBron-Wade-Bosh combo. I’ll go with the Durant-Westbrook-Harden triumvirate that makes Oklahoma City an even more lethal offensive club than the flashy Heat.
I’m predicting a Miami knockout in the Eastern Conference Finals, courtesy of the Bulls. Chicago should have a surge of confidence after rallying against the Heat last week even though Derrick Rose played his worst game since learning how to walk.
But that will be an energy-zapping series, with the Bulls and Heat bludgeoning each other over seven games. The Thunder will be fresh, and shot-swatting star Serge Ibaka will help protect the rim as Oklahoma City beats the Bulls in six games.
Shandel Richardson, South Florida Sun Sentinel
Even though it seems like the end of the world every time the Miami Heat loses, expect them back in the NBA Finals for a second straight year. The reason? The Heat are simply too good. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are too much for their nearest competitor, the Chicago Bulls. We saw what happened last year when the Heat rolled past the Bulls after falling to them in the regular season.
Picking Miami's opponent is a bit more difficult, but it looks like the same argument could be made for the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference. The Thunder may lack experience, but they make up for it with the league's best foursome of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Serge Ibaka. A Heat vs. Thunder matchup would be one of the most star-studded Finals in league history.
[Updated at 12:38 p.m.:
Ben Bolch, Los Angeles Times
Those who love the underdogs will be disappointed by a Finals that matches Miami against Oklahoma City.
Now that the young Thunder's growing pains are over and the Heat's Big Three have had nearly two full seasons to work out the kinks (and the egos), it's going to be an epic, up-and-down Finals for the ages but not the aged.
Oklahoma City will ultimately prevail in seven games because although the Heat's three superstars trump the Thunder's two, Oklahoma City is the more complete team. James Harden, Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins are the quality complementary players who will make the difference against a feast-or-famine Heat lineup.]
[Updated at 1:59 p.m.
Brian Schmitz, Orlando Sentinel
Oklahoma City, start organizing that parade route.
The Thunder will win the NBA title this season, beating the Miami Heat.
Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and a deep young roster won't be denied this time around after being short-circuited by the Dallas Mavs in the West finals last season.
The defending champion Mavs aren't the same team, failing to keep key pieces in Mark Cuban's quest to clear cap room for the future. While still dangerous, the L.A. Lakers and the San Antonio Spurs don't have the speed and athletic ability to hold off Oklahoma City any longer.