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Here we go again

Kyle Riviere
Weekly Citizen Sports Editor Kyle Riviere

As I make my preseason NBA picks, I've discovered the harsh reality that it's really a no-win situation for me.

Nobody wants to be the guy who always picks chalk and goes with the sure thing. And that's exactly who I'd be if I picked the Heat and Thunder to meet in the Finals for the second straight year.

However, I hate to be that other guy that almost breaks his leg jumping on to the bandwagon and instantly falls victim to the "trendy pick." That's what I'd be if I picked the new-look Lakers.

Well, with those being my options, I'll go with the former. It's hard not to go with two teams that have proven so much like the Heat and Thunder.

Picking the Heat is the surest bet anyone could make. Their whole team comes back from last year, and they added sharp-shooting Ray Allen in the offseason.

It's a scary thought, but LeBron James will probably be better this year than he's ever been. With last year's championship win, he finally has that gorilla off of his back. And if he stays with the aggressive, post-up and penetrating style he found in the playoffs, he will be downright unstoppable.

There is no one in the Eastern Conference that can challenge the Heat.

The Celtics have too many guys close to drawing Social Security. They were already old, and now they've added a 35-year-old Jason Terry.

Any other year, the Bulls would be serious contenders, but their all-everything point guard Derrick Rose is a gigantic question mark.

After tearing up his knee in last year's playoffs, he will probably miss most of this season and when he does come back, he'll still be far from 100 percent.

The new-look Brooklyn Nets could make a little noise. With the acquisitions of Joe Johnson and Gerald Wallace, I wouldn't be surprised if they got a top-four seed in the playoffs, but they're still not ready to compete for a championship.

In the Western Conference, I think the Mavericks will be much-improved and be a dark horse team with the additions of O.J. Mayo, Elton Brand and Chris Kaman

The Clippers will be a very dangerous squad now with a healthy Chauncey Billups. They added a player in Matt Barnes that is known for his gritty perimeter defense.

However, I still don't think they're tough or consistent enough inside to win a championship.

That brings me to the Spurs. If they were going to win it, it should have been last year. They had quite a few players that joined AARP last season, and now they're just a year older.

And speaking of age, it's the main reason I'm not jumping on the Laker bandwagon. There are too many question marks there.

It's hard to believe, but Kobe Bryant has played for 16 years now. That's a lot of wear and tear and as added strain on his body, he competed in the Olympics over the summer. I just don't think his body will hold up for a championship run.

It's the same when it comes to Steve Nash. Nash is 38 years old and has always been known to be a defensive liability.

As for Pau Gasol, he has to shake out of the funk he's been in since the 2010 playoffs because right now, the best Gasol plays in Memphis (Mark Gasol of the Grizzlies).

Much has been made of the arrival of Dwight Howard. Sure, he'll get a ton of easy alley-oop dunks courtesy of Nash, but what's going to happen late in games? His achilles heel has always been abysmal free-throw shooting and his under-developed post-game. Those are things that could get exploited in key moments of playoff games.

The Lakers have all of these question marks, but the Thunder does not.

You know exactly what you're going to get as they return all of their key guys from a team that made it to the Finals last year--with the exception of James Harden.

He was traded to the Rockets Saturday night. No doubt, Harden was huge off of the bench for them, but I think they did a good job of masking his absence. From Houston, they acquired a guy in Kevin Martin that has averaged 18 points a game over his career and a promising rookie from Connecticut in Jeremy Lamb.

And as long as they have Kevin Durant, I'm not betting against them to make it to the Finals again.

After being humbled by the Heat in five games, they'll be much hungrier. I think it'll drive them to a game seven in Miami. However, in the end, the Heat just has too many horses. James, Wade and Bosh will gallop their way to back-to-back titles.