Shaking things up

Kyle Riviere
kriviere@weeklycitizen.com
Weekly Citizen Sports Editor Kyle Riviere

There is no question about it, all signs are pointing to a Miami Heat "threepeat" this season. Heck, I think the city has already started to plan the parade and pre-order bottles of Dom Perignon and Crystal.

And why not? The Heat have made three straight NBA Finals appearances and won two in a row. They have basically their entire roster coming back--including the "Big Three" and four-time MVP LeBron James.

I picked Miami to win it all last year, and they did. Picking them again this season would be the safest bet but to tell you the truth, I'm tired of going chalk. I wanted to shake things up a bit. So, I will not be picking Miami to win that third straight title.

Instead, I'm going out on a limb and picking the Bulls. Remember, even without Derrek Rose, Chicago still made it to the second round of the playoffs last year and actually won one game against the Heat.

I think it'll certainly take Rose some time to get back into the swing of things but once he does, I expect him to go right back to being the dominant player we knew before he tore his ACL.

Having him back should jump-start this team and breathe new life into the franchise.

They already have a great rebounder and defender down low in Joakim Noah and a guy that can score in Carlos Boozer. Luol Deng will be back and healthy along with two valuable role players in Taj Gibson and Kirk Hinrich.

I like them over the Pacers. Indiana has a great front-court with Roy Hibbert and David West and an emerging star in Paul George, but they're missing one valuable piece: a point guard. Without one, they'll go far in the playoffs. but they won't win it all.

The Knicks just don't get consistent scoring from anyone other than Carmelo Anthony. Raymond Felton and J.R. Smith have been too streaky, and Amare Stoudemire hasn't fit well in the team formula since he arrived.

Tyson Chandler and Kenyon Martin are great rebounders and defenders inside, but they give you close to nothing offensively.

I've never really taken the Nets seriously, and I won't start now. They have a first-year head coach in Jason Kidd and the way they lost a home game seven last year in the first round of the playoffs to an undermanned Bulls team was alarming.

Their answer in the offseason was adding two aging stars in Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. That move would have been great 10 years ago but now, not so much.

Of course, people are looking to the Spurs in the west. I just think last year was their best chance to win, and they blew it.

Gary Neal, Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard have emerged, but Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili are getting very long in the tooth. I think they gave everything they had in last year's finals.

I'm still not sold on Jeremy Lin at point guard or Dwight Howard during crunch time. Therefore, I'm not looking for the Rockets to make a title run.

And even though the Clippers brought over Doc Rivers, I still think they're too soft down low with Blake Griffin and De'Andre Jordan.

The Thunder probably won't have a fully healthy Russell Westbrook until later in the season. And as we saw during the playoffs, that's a recipe for disaster. After trading away James Harden last year, all of the scoring will now be on the shoulders of Kevin Durant.

Even when Westbrook is himself again, both he and Durant will be forced to score over 25 a game to win. That's just too much to ask--especially during playoff time against top-echelon teams.

So, my big surprise pick out of the west is Golden State. Wow, I feel weird just typing that.

I really like their talented roster, and I love what Mark Jackson has done so far as their head coach.

Last year, the young squad got a good look at the playoffs, surprising everyone and making a run to the second round.

They bring back the sharp-shooting Stephen Curry along with his younger brother and rookie Seth Curry. Look for plenty of 3-pointers to reign down in Oakland between this combo.

Harrison Barnes emerged last year as a steady scorer, and Andre Iguodala adds scoring and versatility to the lineup.

And down low, you have two guys in Andrew Bogut and David Lee that can play inside and step out near the 3-point line and sink jumpshots.

I think using that college-like home atmosphere out in Oakland as fuel, they'll surprise everyone and make it to the finals to meet the Bulls. And with a resurgent Rose leading the charge, the Bulls will take home their seventh world title.