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The scouts break out their crystal balls for Sports Illustrated

October 20, 2009 |  3:30 pm

Ian Thomsen at has polled six NBA advance and personnel scouts in preparation for the upcoming season as part of their season preview blowout. No surprise the Lakers are expected to win the top seed in Western Conference, and the expectation is they'll advance in the playoffs. Click here for the full feature, but I'll go ahead and excerpt the part people really care about- the Finals:

"Now it gets interesting:Crystal-ball-2

Lakers beat Boston
Lakers beat Cleveland
Cleveland beats Lakers
Cleveland beats Lakers
Boston beats Lakers
San Antonio beats Boston

Two votes for the Lakers, two for the Cavaliers and one each for the Celtics and Spurs.

"I like the Celtics' overall team, but I like the starting five of the Lakers better," said the scout who picks L.A. over Boston. "The Lakers will have the better overall record and the team with home-court advantage will win Game 7."

"I don't know if [acquiring] Shaq was a good move, but they might win it despite Shaq," said one of the experts who goes for Cleveland. "I mean, I don't think Shaq is going to necessarily be a problem or that they're going to be worse by any means. In the end, I just have a lot of faith in LeBron."

"Rasheed will focus in and give them one good year," said a voter who likes Boston to beat L.A. "He's not going to be a detriment in any way. I always thought he was one of the most talented players in the league, and he can draw on that to find a role in the classic Celtics sixth-man way. He'll be their Bill Walton this year."

"[Richard] Jefferson has played for good teams in the Finals," concluded the scout who picks San Antonio to upset the Lakers on its way to the championship. "There will be a drop there for the Lakers, they'll have that post-championship coolness, and [Ron] Artest is going to screw their stuff up. Putting him in a major media market was not a great idea."