If the L.A. Lakers and Miami Heat Fail To Reach the NBA Finals, Who Will?

The Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat are favored to meet in the 2011 NBA Finals, but contrary to popular opinion, there is no guarantee that either team will make it.

NBA commissioner David Stern must be giddy with anticipation of a potential Finals' matchup featuring three of the game's top five players in Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, and LeBron James, but there are numerous factors to consider before June.

Both teams must be able to escape the injury bug that nearly derailed the Lakers' championship march last season, and in Miami's case, a loss of either Wade or James would probably be insurmountable.

Miami has other talent besides Wade and James, but those two players give the Heat something that no other team can boast of in two top-five talents.

Wade and James will be the most dominant players at their position in the majority of games they play. But if either misses significant time due to injury, is Bosh capable of dominating his match-up in the same manner?

Not likely.

Bosh is a great talent to be sure, but the gap between him and other power forwards is much smaller than the chasm that exists between Wade, James, and their contemporaries.

Miami would be extremely competitive without James or Wade, but it's hard to see them reaching the NBA Finals on the backs of Bosh, and Wade or James alone.

In fact, there is a strong chance that Bosh, Wade, and James could be healthy all season long and still fail to reach the Finals, because of other intangibles such as chemistry.

It's cool to speculate on how far the Heat's potential could carry them in the postseason. But until they play a single regular-season game who knows how they will perform as a unit?

I'm aware of the fact that all three are great friends and they have experience playing together on the U.S. National team, and various NBA All-Star teams, all of which means...

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