Analysis: After playing second-fiddle to the Mavericks in last year's championship series, Miami is prepared for another run. The cast of characters remains mostly intact, with new additions Shane Battier and Norris Cole joining the rotation. LeBron James appears likely to earn his third MVP trophy when the awards are handed out. Credit his overwhelming efficiency in submitting a stellar season that even the most jaded voters won't be able to ignore. James attempted the fewest three-pointers of his career (2.4 per game), making 36.2 percent, a career-high. As a result, his field goal percentage also climbed to a career-best 53.1 percent. James leads the Heat in points, rebounds, assists and steals. His running mate, Dwyane Wade, has been limited to the fewest minutes of his career (33.2 per game), but has still chipped in 22.1 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.3 blocks and 1.7 steals per game. If Miami again meets Chicago in the conference finals, they'll concede home court advantage. However, that didn't prove to be a detriment last year when the Heat ousted the Bulls in five games.
Analysis: For seemingly the third straight season, the Spurs geared up for "one last run" at a championship. But these aren't the same Spurs that dominated the last decade, even if the old guard of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker remains intact. Gone is the defense-first philosophy in favor of a style more reminiscent of Mike D'Antoni's Suns squads. The Spurs are second in the NBA in scoring, while ranking only 16th in points allowed. It's hard to argue the success of the new style, as it's enabled the Spurs to capture the No. 1 seed while limiting the minutes of Duncan (career-low 28.2 minutes per game) and Ginobili (23.3 minutes per game). However, a faster pace hasn't traditionally translated to playoff success, as D'Antoni's Suns proved with four playoff appearances in five years without reaching the NBA Finals. Perhaps the Spurs will shorten their bench (12 players average 6.4 or more points per game) and slow their pace during the postseason. After last year's first round loss to the No. 8-seed Grizzlies, they certainly won't be looking past any opponents.
Chances of Winning NBA Finals: Heat 18.4% - Spurs 36.2%