1. Dallas- Definitely a default pick, unless Lakers are able to pull a Howard trade. Odom gives them another dimension but losing Chandler is big. If they can make a late run for Samuel Dalembert, I would feel better. (note: if they can pull a move for Howard, they become favorite to win the whole thing)
2. Los Angeles Lakers- Losing Odom is huge blow to not only the talent but the chemistry, Josh McRoberts will help them with size and toughness but Lakers still need help in the backcourt.
3. Oklahoma City- Youth isn't wasted on the young as OKC continues to progress. The big question is can a team with so many players under 25 win a championship. History says no
4. Memphis- The return of Rudy Gay, along with Z-Bo and Marc Gasol gives Memphis claim to best frontcourt in NBA (sorry NY). Mike Conley has to progress from "serviceable" at point guard. A tough, battletested team could be a darkhorse contender for Finals
5. San Antonio- I know you shouldn't count out Popovich, Duncan, Manu, and Parker but at some point enough is enough. Just call them Tex-Mex Boston. Out of respect for what they have done, there "know how" will let them not fall to far
6. Los Angeles Clippers- The Staples Center may have playoff double headers this year as the Clippers with CP3 in the fold after the long drama. Chauncy Billups, despite his grumblings, is too much of a pro to be disruptive despite what now looks like a role as a backup. Losing Gordon hurts but look for Mo Williams to be moved to find an adequate replacement. Big Key: Paul opted in until 2013
6. Denver- Resigning Nene was huge and resigning Arron Afflalo is important. With all the "knuckleheads" in China, the Nuggets still have an interesting collection of depth if not having a main guy. The x-factor is Danilo Gallinari. If he emerges as the 20-point scorer many feel he can be Denver will be something to watch
7. Portland - A Mash unit before the season even starts as Brandon Roy had to retire and Greg Oden is likely done again. Add on LaMarcus Aldridge's heart and Rip City will have a tough start to season. Gerald Wallace is rumored to be on the way out. If all pieces were together, they were a conference finals contender but now eight is about all I see
8. Denver- Resigning Nene was huge and resigning Arron Afflalo is important. With all the "knuckleheads" in China, the Nuggets still have an interesting collection of depth if not having a main guy. The x-factor is Danilo Gallinari. If he emerges as the 20-point scorer many feel he can be Denver will be something to watch
Western Conference All-Stars
Starters: Kobe Bryant, Marc Gasol*, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin.
Reserves: Zach Randolph, Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, Gerald Wallace , Rudy Gay, Eric Gordon, Manu Ginobili
* If Bynum or DeAndre Jordan starts at center, I boycott the game... Yeah I'm Lyin
1. Miami- With minimal changes and the Big 3 returning, the Heat are poised to have not only the best record in East but in the NBA. The regular season essentially becomes a 4 plus month warmup to the playoffs and even then, NBA public wants to see how this team (specifically LBJ) reacts in the finals
2. Chicago- Rip Hamilton or not, the Bulls bring back the core of their time. The biggest question: Is Carlos Boozer able to stay healthy? And if so, is he the true post scorer they though he was was?
3. New York- Whether Tyson Chandler makes the Knicks a title contender this year is highly debatable but he does upgrade a non existant defense. The questions will surround the backcourt of rookie Iman Shumpert, Toney Douglas and 92- year old Mike Bibby
4. Boston- The compressed schedule hurts Boston the most as KG, Ray, and Paul entered their combined 47th season of NBA basketball. The Celtics will try to get through with minimal injuries and manage minutes closely to get ready for the playoffs , sacrificing wins for health
5. Orlando- The D12 saga will dominate the headlines all season. If he stays all season, Magic are still capable of finishing fifth. If not,.....
6. Atlanta- The Hawks find themselves in a familar position even with the loss of Crawford. They will wow you at times, they will have you scratching your head at others. Does J-Smoove finish the year with the Hawks?
7. Milwaukee- Year Two under Scott Skiles becomes a pivotal year for Brandon Jennings who took a step back from the other young point guards in the league. If Skiles can harness Jennings mercurial talent, along with a healthy Bogut, the fiery Captain Jack, the Bucks will be a bitch (in a good way) to score on most nights
8. Indiana- I like the David West move but don't like a team where Danny Granger is the best player. Despite challenging the Bulls in last year's playoffs, I don't think the Pacer are able to make a jump forward and hold down eighth
Eastern Conference All-Stars
Starters: Derrick Rose, Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony.
Reserves: Amare Stoudamire, Al Horford, Stephen Jackson, John Wall, Joe Johnson, Deron Williams, Danny Granger