Which team will rule the next decade?
The Lakers may be the team of right now (and, perhaps, next season, according to a majority of our panel of 93 NBA experts). But will the reigning champs have to make way for the next wave over the next 10 years?
You Make The Call
Which of our predictions are off the mark? Which are on key? Here's what you had to say.
• Wrap: Dime Live
Pat Riley has assembled a virtual All-Star team in Miami, arming the Heat with three of the biggest young guns in the game in LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. And with South Beach's three brightest stars all under 30 years old, Miami appears primed to make its mark on the league for the foreseeable future.
But while the Heat were runaway winners this offseason, they'll have some stiff competition on the court. The Thunder stayed relatively silent throughout the summer despite having just one playoff appearance on their books. But with one of the game's rising stars in Kevin Durant and a roster brimming with young talent, some of our staff is already sold. And don't forget about the Lakers, whose case is made by one glance at their ring fingers.
For the current decade (January 1, 2010 to December 31, 2019), which team will be considered the greatest? Here's how we see things:
2010-11 Forecast: Team of the Decade
2009-10 record: 47-35
Future Power Ranking: No. 1
Avg. age: 28 | '10 All-Stars: 3
Oklahoma City Thunder
2009-10 record: 50-32
Future Power Ranking: No. 3
Avg. age: 24 | '10 All-Stars: 1
Los Angeles Lakers
2009-10 record: 57-25
Future Power Ranking: No. 2
Avg. age: 29 | '10 All-Stars: 2
2009-10 record: 41-41
Future Power Ranking: No. 4
Avg. age: 27 | '10 All-Stars: 1
|Also receiving votes: L.A. Clippers (1), New York (1), Orlando (1)|
Experts: Team of the Decade?
Henry Abbott, TrueHoop: Miami Heat.
They're going to win a lot of games, draw a ton of attention, and shake up a lot of traditional ideas about how teams are formed, what traditional teams look like and who holds the power in the NBA. What has started as a story loaded with anger and betrayal will, with titles, come to look like a new model.
J.A. Adande, ESPN.com: Miami Heat.
It might not happen immediately, but the Heat have too much talent and Pat Riley is too savvy to let it go to waste. Riley will patch up whatever holes become evident on the roster and address any coaching issues that come up (even if he handles them himself). You might hate them, but you'd better get used to seeing them in June.
Kevin Arnovitz, TrueHoop: Miami Heat.
The Heat have three top-15 players in the primes of their careers. They certainly won't win every title, but they should be in the conversation for as long as their core remains in place.
Larry Coon, ESPN.com: Miami Heat.
While 2011 won't be their year, the 2010s definitely will be their decade. Pat Riley will complete the remake over the next couple years, parlaying trades and midlevel signings into a solid supporting cast around (insert your favorite nickname for Bron, Wade and Bosh here). Once that happens, look out.
Zach Harper, TrueHoop Network: Oklahoma City Thunder.
The reason I'm so high on the future of the Thunder is not because of Kevin Durant's scoring ability, Scott Brooks' seemingly brilliant coaching or Sam Presti being the perfect architect for a franchise designing a title run.
It's because they were a top-10 defensive team in the NBA last season, even though seven of their nine rotation players were under 26 years old. Getting a team this young to surround the best pure scorer in the NBA with great defense gives them a huge advantage in growing toward a title or three.
John Hollinger, ESPN.com: Miami Heat.
Not only have they managed to put together a star-studded trio, but they should be able to add talent in the coming years by using their cap exceptions. The biggest threat isn't even from another team -- it's from the next collective bargaining agreement. A hard cap, or one that further restricts the use of exceptions, will wreak havoc with Miami's ability to augment the roster around Bosh, Wade and James.
Chris Sheridan, ESPN.com: Oklahoma City Thunder.
It comes back to Kevin Durant, my pick for player of the decade, and what a special talent he is. The Thunder have also surrounded him with solid, young, complementary pieces that have only begun to scratch the surface of what they are capable of (especially Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka; I am not as sold on Jeff Green), and they have a great coach who is still young enough to relate to such a young team. If the core sticks together, the sky is the limit -- especially over the last five years of the decade.
Marc Stein, ESPN.com: Los Angeles Lakers.
Hate to keep dragging the business side of the game into the discussion, but the prospect of a lockout and the uncertainty of what the next collective bargaining agreement will bring in terms of teams' ability to put pieces around their stars can't be ignored. The Heat have a better chance in this area than any one Heater has of denying Kobe in the player of the decade hunt, but the worst-case lockout/CBA scenarios give the Lakers another leg up here.