Forecast: Heat heavy favorites in East

ESPN.com's national Summer Forecast asked our panel of 100 voters to name the 2012-13 Eastern Conference champion. Well, only two teams earned votes, but it still wasn't close. The Miami Heat garnered 96 ballots, while the Boston Celtics swooped up the other four.


Full disclosure: One of those Boston votes came from this writer (go ahead with the "homer" references, the locals will be barking at me when they see my Finals prediction later this week). Let's be clear here: I'm not saying it's going to be easy, but if the Celtics stay healthy, the layer of depth added this offseason leads me to believe they have the potential to get over the Heat hump (especially considering an injury-depleted squad had two chances to eliminate Miami in last season's Eastern Conference finals).

Here's one thing we can all agree on: It's not surprising to see Miami get that many votes. Heck, I was worried about a 99-1 split after casting my ballot. The Heat are the landslide favorite for a reason and the offseason addition of Ray Allen only strengthens a championship core. With all due respect to the dark horses of the East, it'd be a whole lot of fun to see another Celtics-Heat series in late May. At this point, we'll settle for the opening-night battle in late October.