5. Chicago Bulls versus Golden State Warriors
Chicago and Golden State both have a lot to prove next season. Though neither team is expected to roll through the regular season, their talent, drive and depth make them legitimate dark horse threats in the playoffs. The return of the 2010-11 MVP, Derrick Rose, gives the Bulls a puncher’s chance at dethroning the Heat or overcoming Indiana and Brooklyn in the playoffs.
The Warriors have had a taste of success, but won’t be happy without bringing home a championship. The offseason acquisition of Andre Iguodala gives the Warriors the ability to lock down the best player on opposing teams, whether they be Rose or LeBron James.
4. Indiana Pacers versus Houston Rockets
Indiana took the Miami Heat to seven games in their Eastern Conference Championship series. The Pacers believe they could have matched up with the Spurs and won the long-awaited championship. With the ever-improving Paul George and beastly Roy Hibbert, the Pacers could physically out-match many teams.
Their most exciting matchup would come in the form of Dwight Howard and the Houston Rockets. Howard and Hibbert would bring the most exciting battle of centers seen in the Finals for nearly a decade. Both teams are young, driven and talented enough to shock the NBA with championship seasons.
3. Miami Heat versus San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs know they were a Tim Duncan tip-in away from winning their fifth championship. Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili likley have one good season left together before the younger Spurs (Kawhi Leonard, Tiago Splitter, Danny Green) take over as the head honchos.
With the window shrinking rapidly, the Spurs are going to be using every trick in the book to get another ring. It would be all the sweeter to take down the reigning champs and prevent the Heat from accomplishing the legendary three-peat.
2. Brooklyn Nets versus San Antonio Spurs
Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Joe Johnson, Duncan, Parker, Ginobili. Watching the old guys go at each other would be one of the most exciting series of the decade. Both the Nets and the Spurs have champions that are giving up their bodies for the chance to capture one last title.
Garnett and Pierce, though newcomers to Brooklyn, are not likely to have many more seasons left. Both deserve another shot at a ring and both, if given the chance, will do all they can to win four games. The brand of basketball would be fundamentally sound, slow-paced, but a joy to watch.
1. Miami Heat versus Oklahoma City Thunder
A rematch of the 2012 Finals, a Heat-Thunder matchup in 2014 would be the most highly anticipated series in recent memory. The Thunder would be fighting tooth-and-nail to win their first championship. They sincerely believe that if Russell Westbrook had not been injured, they would have had a second straight appearance in the Finals.
Kevin Durant and Westbrook know that championship opportunities are far and few between. Pride will have them fighting to avoid being the runner-up twice to the Heat, book-ending their sought after three-peat.