So what happens if Miami does escape the potent East? A whole crop of powerful teams loom in the Western Conference.
Last season, the Heat had to contend with the veteran San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals, and only one late-game collapse kept the Spurs from taking down Miami. The heroics of LeBron James and Ray Allen helped the Heat squeak by San Antonio in seven games.
This year, the Spurs return most of their championship-caliber squad, but they are not alone in the talented Western Conference. The Oklahoma City Thunder hope a return to health produces better results, the Denver Nuggets and Memphis Grizzlies will again feature talented squads and the Houston Rockets made perhaps the biggest splash in free agency by landing Dwight Howard.
So which teams will prove to be the biggest threats to the Miami Heat in a potential NBA Finals showdown? View the list to examine three Western Conference teams with a legitimate chance at winning the ring.