The new NBA season tips off on Tuesday night. Will anyone manage to turn up the Heat on reigning champions Miami?

LeBron James promised multiple championships (seven, in fact) when he arrived with the Miami Heat. Now he’s got one ring on his hand, are we about to see the start of a dynasty on South Beach?

The Heat start as favourites (3/1 with Unibet.com) to retain their title next June, having brought back the Big Three and adding Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis, two outside shooters who can complement the threat of Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and James in a revised system which should help them put even more points on the board this year.

In the Eastern Conference, they’re look unbeatable – with a hobbled Chicago Bulls unlikely to stampede, leaving fast-improving Indiana as their most likely foes as ageing Boston fades away and the Knicks and Nets strive in vain to move up after an imperfect off-season.

However the Heat can expect a rigorous two-pronged challenge from the best of the West. After losing 4-1 in last year’s Finals, Oklahoma City return the bulk of their roster with one more year’s experience with only the late trading of James Harden throwing a degree of uncertainty over their bright long-term future.

That continuity is the reason that the Thunder are second favourites for the title, just ahead of the Los Angeles Lakers with little separating the would-be rivals in the Conference stakes.

The arrival of Steve Nash and Dwight Howard has given the Lakers a new feel and a legitimate shot at the Championship, even though it may take a few months for them to hit top gear.

In the Most Valuable Player race, James will be motivated to claim the honour for a fourth time with OKC’s Kevin Durant. But take a peek at Dwight Howard, who could contend if the star-studded Lakers can sparkle in unison.

New Orleans Hornets’ forward Anthony Davis, fresh from winning Olympic gold with the United States in London, to fulfil his billing as the number one Draft pick and earn the Rookie of the Year prize. He is every inch a class act but let’s keep an eye on Portland’s GB international Joel Freeland, whose march from staking supermarket shelves to the NBA is now complete.

“Each year I’ve progressed, and it’s been substantial,” said the 6-foot-10 Freeland, who moved from Malaga in the summer. “So, to keep seeing myself progress in something I love to do is an amazing feeling.”

Mark’s Tips

Atlantic Division: Philadelphia

Central Division: Indiana

Southeast Division: Miami

Northwest Division: Oklahoma City

Pacific Division: Los Angeles Clippers

Southwest Division: San Antonio

Eastern Conference:  Miami

Western Conference: Los Angeles Lakers

Champs: Lakers

Read a comprehensive team-by-team NBA preview in the new issue of MVP Magazine – on sale now

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