1. Boston Celtics – Return the same team that battled the Heat to seven games. They replace Ray Allen with Jason Terry as their spark off the bench.
*2. Philadelphia 76ers – Made a huge splash with the Andrew Bynum trade. There bench is much improved with sharpshooters Dorrell Wright and Nick Young.
*3. New York Knicks – There is a lot of scoring and depth, but the lack of defense will continue to keep this team from being special. (MS)
*4. Brooklyn Nets – The first year in Brooklyn will bring a playoff appearance, but unfortunately that appearance won’t last long. (MS)
5. Toronto Raptors – Jonas Valanciunas, their top pick from 2011 will make his debut and help Bargnani up front. Their backcourt has a new look as Kyle Lowry will start at the point and Jose Calderon will be the sixth man.
1. Indianapolis Pacers – They surprised everyone last season as they became a contender. With an excellent front court of West and Hibbert they must find someone to replace Darren Collison at the point.
*2. Chicago Bulls – They take an obvious hit with Derrick Rose out, but if he returns later on, the potential is still there for a deep playoff run. (MS)
3. Milwaukee Bucks – Explosive back court of Jennings and Ellis but somewhat weak in the front court.
4. Cleveland Cavaliers – Kyrie Irving is slowly climbing the ranks of point guards in the league but he needs some help around him.
5. Detroit Pistons – They are starting to piece together a solid squad, but mo town needs to show patience because they are still a few years away.
1. Miami Heat – LeBron finally got his elusive championship; and he, Wade, and company are positioned for a repeat. (MS)
*2. Atlanta Hawks – They went 40-26 last year mostly without Al Horford, so his presence this season should provide a boost. (MS)
3. Orlando Magic – Its transition time in Orlando now that Howard is in LA.
4. Washington Wizards – A Bradley Beal, John Wall backcourt has the Wizards fans excited.
5. Charlotte Bobcats – After 7 wins last season it can’t get much worse. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will be one to watch in Charlotte.
Matt’s Eastern Conference Playoff Teams
2.Indiana* – They are ready to take the leap to a division title, with some help from a Rose-less Bulls team
3.Boston* – Even with age and the loss of Ray Allen, the Celtics are still the favorite to win the Atlantic.
5.Philadelphia – They surprised many last year, but should be able to build on success this season, especially if Andrew Bynum’s health can hold up.
East Finals: Miami vs Indianapolis
East Champion: Miami
East Finals: Miami over Chicago (MS)
East Champion: Miami (MS)
1. San Antonio Spurs – As long as they have Duncan, Parker and Ginobili and sprinkle in young talent they will be a contender.
*2. Memphis Grizzlies – A very exciting team to watch, but must keep Gay and Randolph healthy.
*3. Dallas Mavericks – Two years removed from a championship the window is closing for them, as age and health have become a bit of a concern. (MS)
4. Houston Rockets – With the addition of James Harden they can battle for the 8th spot.
5. New Orleans Hornets – Everyone is excited to see how Anthony Davis’s game translates to the next level.
1. Oklahoma City Thunder – Every major piece returns from last year’s Western Conference championship team, so another run at the title is in store. (MS)
*2. Portland Trail Blazers – LaMarcus Aldridge must put an average team on his back.
*3. Denver Nuggets – They’re solid if not spectacular, and George Karl seems to get every ounce of talent out of his teams. (MS)
4. Minnesota Timberwolves – Certainly a sleeper, especially with Love missing some early action, but they showed enough flashes last year to sneak into this spot in 2012-13. (MS)
5. Utah Jazz – Have added some Williams (Mo and Marvin) to a solid front court of Millsap and Jefferson. They could battle for the 8th spot with good health.
1. Los Angeles Lakers – Even with some health issues early on, this All-Star cast should propel them to the top spot out West. (MS)
*2. Los Angeles Clippers – The little brothers of the Staples Center will be a tough out again this year. They need a good run in the playoffs to sway Chris Paul to return next year.
3. Golden State Warriors – The Warriors have made a commitment to Steph Curry, now its his turn to get them to the playoffs.
4. Phoenix Suns – No Nash, but Beasley and Scola could provide some excitement in the desert.
5. Sacramento Kings – DeMarcus Cousins is a monster down low, but they need the guards to produce.
Matt’s Western Conference Picks
3.San Antonio* – Like fine wine and certain cheeses, the Spurs just keep getting better with age.
4.Memphis – The core of Gasol, Gay, and Conley has been steady, and if Zach Randolph plays a full season they’ll be in the hunt in the Southwest.
6.LA Clippers – Griffin/Paul Year Two should be fun to watch, and adding oldies Lamar Odom and Grant Hill adds some depth.
West Finals: Oklahoma City vs San Antonio
West Finals : LA Lakers over Oklahoma City (MS)
West Champ: Oklahoma City
West Champ: LA Lakers (MS)
NBA Champion: Miami over LAL (MS)
NBA Champion: Miami in 6 games