L.A. Lakers, Boston Celtics: Which Team Makes It Back to the NBA Finals First?

The 2011 NBA Finals will not include either the Boston Celtics or the Los Angeles Lakers, and as the rest of the league rejoices at the thought of a Finals series that doesn't involve the NBA's most successful franchises, fans of each team are left to wonder how long will it take to return to the top.

The Celtics played a stronger conference semifinals series than the Lakers but still fell in five games to the Miami Heat, while the Lakers failed to show up at all against the Dallas Mavericks and were swept in four games.

The journey back to the top of their respective conferences will be a difficult task for the Lakers and the Celtics, but which legendary franchise has the best shot at getting there first?

Boston managed to win one more postseason game than the Lakers, but at first glance, it appears that their chances of returning to the NBA Finals are slim unless major roster upgrades are made.

The Celtics were roundly criticized for their decision to trade center Kendrick Perkins to the Oklahoma City Thunder at midseason, and based on the manner of their playoff exit, the criticism was well warranted.

Without a true post defensive presence the Celtics were routinely challenged in the paint by the younger and more athletic Miami Heat, and Jermaine O'Neal and Nenad Krstic proved to be less than worthy substitutes for Perkins.

Perkins was not a great player in terms of numbers, but the Celtics were unable to replace the toughness and edge he provided, and the Miami Heat exposed that flaw.

Jeff Green didn't play horribly in his brief time as a Celtic, but he really didn't seem to fit all that well either, and as a result, Boston's rebuilding project may begin with him.

If the Celtics choose to pursue a high profile free agent such as Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard, Green could serve as a suitable starting point for what would surely be a multi-player deal.
Article Source: Bleacher Report - Los Angeles Lakers