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The Lakers against the East

August 26, 2009 | 12:56 pm


With about a month to go before NBA training camps open, oddsmakers have picked the Lakers as clear favorites to repeat as NBA champions next June. Gambling site pegs the Lakers, who picked up Ron Artest in the free agent derby and lost Trevor Ariza, at roughly 2-1 odds to win again.

But who will come out of the Eastern Conference?

The Orlando Sentinel this month polled 11 NBA experts and the Cleveland Cavaliers, who traded for Shaquille O'Neal to help LeBron James win his first ring, emerged as the slight favorite, followed closely by the Boston Celtics, who signed free agent forward Rasheed Wallace to shore up their frontline. That pretty much matches Bodoglife's betting line, after the Lakers, to win the 2010 championship, with Cleveland at 10-3, Boston 5-1, and the Orlando Magic next at 8-1.

In the Sentinel poll, writer John Schuhmann picked the Cavaliers as the best team in the East: "They added Shaquille O'Neal and Anthony Parker, both of whom should help them match up better with Boston and Orlando, and they still have the best player in the world."

But Bill Walton favors the Celtics: "The three legitimate contenders in the East all got significantly better, but Boston easily improved the most. The title will come down to who controls the paint. The Celtics -- with superior talent, depth and versatility up front -- have positioned themselves perfectly for a run at No. 18."

-- Barry Stavro

Photo: Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James. Credit: Amy Sancetta / Associated Press