by Ryno of Predictem.com
Atlanta Hawks: You can always rely on the Hawks to reach the playoffs but not advance very far once they get there. They return more or less the same team this year, so it shouldn’t be much different. Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Al Horford and Jamal Crawford are all capable of taking games over. This is a strong, fast, athletic team that can shoot the ball well. The biggest issue is at point guard where Mike Bibby is aging but Jeff Teague isn’t ready yet to take over.
Boston Celtics: The Celtics are getting older but they just keep getting better and better every year. Their biggest issue was size down low but they certainly corrected that with the addition of Shaquille O’Neal and Jermaine O’Neal. Rajon Rondo, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen still carry this team, but they have solid depth with Delonte West, Luke Harangody, Glen Davis and Marquis Daniels.
Charlotte Bobcats: The Bobcats finally broke through and made the playoffs last year. Now, they’re ready to take that next step. With Raymond Felton gone, D.J. Augustin is ready to step in at point guard. He will be a key to this team’s success. Stephen Jackson and Gerald Wallace are the two stars for Charlotte, but they need some help from guys like Augustin, Boris Diaw and Tyrus Thomas.
Chicago Bulls: The Bulls had a huge offseason, acquiring Carlos Boozer, Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver and C.J. Watson. Once Boozer returns from injury, it may be time for the Bulls to take that next step and compete for a top seed in the East. This is still Derrick Rose’s team, but he has plenty of help around him, with Luol Deng, Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and the newbies.
Cleveland Cavaliers: This team may go from No. 1 to last place. And it’s all because LeBron James left for Miami. The Cavs are now depleted. They will have to lean on Mo Williams, Antawn Jamison, Anderson Varejao and J.J. Hickson to carry the load.
Dallas Mavericks: The Mavs have the talent to compete among the top teams in the West. Dirk Nowitzki is still an elite player and Jason Kidd is still a very good point guard. Jason Terry, Shawn Marion and Caron Butler give the Mavs some terrific wing options. Down low, they added Tyson Chandler. And they have plenty of bench options with Brendan Haywood, J.J. Barea and sharp shooter Rodrigue Beaubois.
Denver Nuggets: With Carmelo Anthony trade rumors swirling, this could be the last hurrah for the Nuggets. Carmelo and Chauncey Billups are one of the best duos in the NBA, but they need help around them. Chris Andersen, Nene, Ty Lawson and Al Harrington and J.R. Smith all need to step up.
Detroit Pistons: The Pistons have a lot of very good players on their roster, but it’s a matter of getting the talent to come together. They have a ton of scoring guards with Rodney Stuckey, Rip Hamilton, Ben Gordon, Tracy McGrady and Will Bynum. And they may not have a terrific frontcourt, but they have plenty of big men to throw out there, including Ben Wallace, Charlie Villanueva, Chris Wilcox, Jason Maxiell and Greg Monroe.
Golden State Warriors: The Warriors like to run, run, run. They may not play a lot of defense, but they will try to outscore their opponents. Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry form one of the most exciting backcourts in the NBA. Both diminutive guards are multi-talented and can light up the scoreboard. David Lee was a huge addition down low. And watch out for Reggie Williams, a second-year wing who has star potential.
Houston Rockets: The good news is that Yao Ming is back. The talent surrounding him is now a bunch of young players. Aaron Brooks, Courtney Lee, Kyle Lowry, Kevin Martin and Patrick Patterson give the Rockets some exciting, fast, young options. Down low, they have a number of reliable options including Yao, Luis Scola and Shane Battier.
Indiana Pacers: Danny Granger is a great player and will carry this team, but there isn’t much hope for the Pacers to not be one of the worst teams in the NBA. Outside of Granger, there isn’t any sure-fire talent. Darren Collison has potential at point guard, but the success of the team will rely on the development of potential phenom Paul George and Tyler Hansbrough.
Los Angeles Clippers: Blake Griffin finally will be able to play for the Clippers. This team has the talent to compete for a playoff spot. They are solid down low with Griffin, Chris Kaman and DeAndre Jordan. They have a dynamic backcourt with Baron Davis and Eric Gordon, who may be the new star of the team.
Los Angeles Lakers: The defending champs are ready to defend their title once again. Kobe Bryant isn’t slowing down any time soon. And neither is Pau Gasol. The core of the team remains in place with Kobe, Pau, Derek Fisher, Ron Artest and Lamar Odom. There is no doubt the Lakers will be right there in the end again this season.
Memphis Grizzlies: This team showed promise last season and nearly slipped into playoff contention. With a solid core of Rudy Gay, O.J. Mayo, Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, this team has plenty of scoring options. Mayo and Gay are All-Star-caliber guards, and the Grizzlies have excellent size down low with Gasol, Randolph and Hasheem Thabeet.
Miami Heat: The big story in the NBA resides in Miami, where the Heat have three of the top players in the NBA. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh hope to lead the Heat to 70 wins. But they must stay healthy and get contributions from role players like Udonis Haslem, Mike Miller, Mario Chalmers and Eddie House.
Milwaukee Bucks: The Bucks are coming off a playoff appearance. They are led by young electrifying point guard Brandon Jennings, who is nearly impossible to stop when he has the ball in his hands. John Salmons and Corey Maggette give the Bucks some solid scoring options on the wings, and Andrew Bogut is capable of averaging a double-double.
Minnesota Timberwolves: The T-Wolves are probably the youngest team in the NBA, and after trading Al Jefferson they don’t have much talent left. Kevin Love, Jonny Flynn and Michael Beasley all have star potential, as does rookie Wesley Johnson. Love and Beasley are sure to put up the stats, but Flynn and Johnson will be the difference if the T-Wolves exceed expectations.
New Jersey Nets: The Nets will once again be one of the worst teams in the league. Brook Lopez is a terrific center, and Devin Harris has always been a very good player. But after that, there isn’t much talent on this roster. Don’t expect Derrick Favors to contribute much as a rookie.
New Orleans Hornets: Chris Paul is finally healthy again. He will always give the Hornets a chance to win games. He is the best at running pick and rolls, so expect big things out of David West and Emeka Okafor. The Hornets need the Peja Stojakovic of a few years ago to reemerge.
New York Knicks: The Knicks picked up Amar’e Stoudemire, Anthony Randolph and Raymond Felton in the offseason, but they still will be lucky to win 30 games. They have some nice returning pieces in Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler and Toney Douglas. Talent is great, but playing well together is another thing.
Oklahoma City Thunder: The Thunder made a huge splash last year by nearly knocking off the Lakers in the first round of the playoffs. Kevin Durant won the scoring title and then won a gold medal as the star of Team USA. Durant and Russell Westbrook, who also won a gold medal over the summer, are a dynamic duo. This team is the real deal.
Orlando Magic: The Magic are now perennial contenders for the NBA Championship. Dwight Howard is one of the best big men in the league and he commands a lot of attention. With shooters like Rashard Lewis, Vince Carter, J.J. Redick and Jameer Nelson on the perimeter, it’s tough to stop the Magic with such a strong force down low.
Philadelphia 76ers: The Sixers have the talent all around to win a lot of games. But playing well together is another thing. They hope new coach Doug Collins is the answer. Andre Iguodala and Elton Brand are the leaders of this team. Jrue Holiday is a promising young point guard who could emerge sooner than later. And Spencer Hawes and Marreese Speights give the Sixers some size and length down low.
Phoenix Suns: The Suns are still a contender in the West as long as they have Steve Nash. In the offseason, they added Hedo Turkoglu to try to get closer to the elite teams. They certainly are led by older players but the Suns can still shoot the ball and will try to run as much as possible. Their weakness will be size down low.
Portland Trail Blazers: Brandon Roy is an absolute star. Andre Miller is a top-10 point guard. But Roy and Miller need help around them. The Blazers have a lot of good players but they need a couple of those guys, like Nicolas Batum, LaMarcus Aldridge, Greg Oden and Rudy Fernandez, to become great players.
Sacramento Kings: The Kings are a young team that won’t win many games. But Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins are the future for Sacramento. Evans won Rookie of the Year last year as a versatile point guard who can do it all. Cousins is a strong, bulky big man who should compete for Rookie of the Year this season.
San Antonio Spurs: The Spurs may be old and boring, but they are still a very good team. Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili have been an extremely successful trio for years in the NBA, and they will be again this year, as long as they can all stay healthy. The future of the Spurs rests in the hands of three players - DeJuan Blair, George Hill and rookie Tiago Splitter.
Toronto Raptors: The Raptors don’t have much hope to win many games this season. Andrea Bargnani is a good player, but he should not be a team’s best player. Jose Calderon is a solid point guard who will gives his team a chance to win some games. The future of this team relies somewhat on the development of second-year wing DeMar DeRozan.
Utah Jazz: The Jazz lost Carlos Boozer in the offseason but replaced him with Al Jefferson, who may be even better. Teaming him with Deron Williams could be dangerous. Williams has plenty of other options to dish to as well, such as Paul Millsap, Andrei Kirilenko and C.J. Miles.
Washington Wizards: Wizards fans are excited to watch No. 1 pick John Wall, a super athletic, fast point guard with unlimited potential. Wall and Gilbert Arenas should be an exciting duo for Washington. If Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee continue to improve, this team could be a sleeper in the East.