Atlanta Hawks: The loss of Childress is a serious blow but the bigger problem is that a lot of teams in the East made serious improvements while the Hawks stood pat. Don't expect them in the playoffs this year. They'll win fewer games this year than last, and will only go as far Josh Smith can take them, not Joe Johnson.
Boston Celtics: Best seed in the East for them. The Boston Three-party and Garnett's intensity carries them through another season. Don't expect 60 wins because without Posey they won't get them. The bigger loss will prove to be PJ Brown, though. A lot of Posey's production and defensive presence will be filled by Tony Allen who, talented though he be, will not be able to fill his shoes. PJ Brown shored up their frontline and provided veteran leadership to a bench that what way too young to have done anything.
Charlotte Bobcats: If Morrison can learn to be a spot up shooter that hits anywhere near 35+ percent of 3's they'll be happy at this point, provided he can learn to stay in front of his man, which is all they need him to do. Larry Brown could coax a 10 win improvement from these guys.
Chicago Bulls: Not going anywhere. They're a perimeter team with a rookie point guard, a mess at the 2 including a guy who can't shoot (Larry Hughes), a 6th man of the millenium (Ben Gordon) who will make the Hall of Fame if he decides to come off the bench his whole career but who doesn't want to, Kirk Heinrich who's been replaced by some kid, and no one seems happy. It's like they've forgotten that you need a post presence to win in this league.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Mo Williams is an improvement but all they really needed was someone to get the ball to LeBron and inbounding the ball to him isn't what I mean. LeBron deserves MVP every year with what he's done with this squad. Ben Wallace is deteriorating by the second and they need a better answer from the other forward spot, but the pieces are there for a run to the Finals.
Dallas Mavericks: Dirk's criticism of Avery Johnson aside, Johnson is a good coach and Dallas wasn't losing because of him but in spite of him. All the criticism of Dirk from early in his career still holds true, but he is what he is. Jason Kidd trade? Dumb. I'd like to have seen what this team could have done with Harris-Howard-Dirk. Suddenly they're old with a new coach and Howard is everyone's new favorite whipping boy. The best thing Kidd can do is teach him how to come back from negative media coverage and get him to grow up a little.
Denver Nuggets: Worse than they were last year. The only guy who played defense is gone. Not in the playoffs, and AI is gone at the end of the season.
Detroit Pistons: The core, provided it's not blown up, is good enough for a 2nd or 3rd seed in the East. Of course, they could just as easily be terrible as they're getting older and everyone's upset with everyone. They've run their course, and their window for a championship is closed.
Golden State Warriors: Baron Davis for Corey Maggette? Monta Ellis is good, but he can't do it alone. With a line-up like Ellis next to Jackson and Maggette, though, they'll score a lot, but who'll get them the ball? I'm sure Nelson will come up ith something, but they won't be in the playoffs.
Houston Rockets: So many questions: 1) Will Artest be a good boy? Probably, which will help them. 2) Will McGrady be healthy? Probably not. Artest will help them when McGrady goes down, but they need all three of their top players to get through the West. 3) Will Yao be healthy? The law of averages says yes, he has to make it through a season sometime. This team rises and falls with him. He goes down, they're sunk. 4) What about Battier? Great guy, I've always been a fan, but he'll be screwed with Artest in town. 5) Who else can play center when/if Yao gets hurt?
Indiana Pacers: Never trade big for small, but when you need a point guard and the big is Jermaine O'Neal you can sort of understand. Still, not likely to be a year where they step forawrd in any significant way. When your team is based on Mike Dunleavy, you're in trouble.
Los Angeles Clippers: Poor Baron. He thought he'd be playing with Elton Brand and gets screwed over. I'd feel for the guy if I didn't think he was overrated and overpaid. Oh, and they're not making the playoffs unless they happen to be the best defensive team in the league.
Los Angeles Lakers: A couple issues is all I have with this team: 1) Lamar Odom needs a place to play. But when you don't have a place for one of the better all around talents in the league, you're doing well. The problem is that he's too good to be backing up any of the other guys on the team who would play instead of him. If he'd come off the bench then he'd be my pick for 6th man of the year already. 2) Most of what people are saying about them having a great year this year is based upon Bynum's improvement. Let's see what he can do with Gasol taking up space. I like their chances, though. 3) Kobe not opting for surgery is going to come back and haunt them. He'll have played a year and a half of basketball straight without getting it fixed. Look, you're the best pure scorer in the league (not player, scorer) so you've got the opponent's best defender on you all game for 82 games last year, a deep playoff run, the Olympics, then again this year, and a deep playoff run. He'll be tired and that pinky will be problematic.
Memphis Grizzlies: OJ Mayo might be good, but he's not saving this team from anything. If they win one more game this year than last I'll be surprised.
Miami Heat: Biggest improvement from last year to this, guarenteed. That's easy to say when they won so few and they're getting Dwayne Wade, one of the best talents in the league, Shawn Marion, a dynamo everywhere, and Michael Beasley, who's aiming to be MVP his rookie year to play for them. I'd like them more if they had anyone besides those three, though. Still, with them they can make the playoffs in the East.
Milwaukee Bucks: Skiles'll get them to play defense. Redd and Jefferson will be good, like they are every year. Still, they won't be going anywhere this season.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Love is overrated and playing out of position. Jefferson is underrated. There's no one else on this team and they're not going anywhere.
New Jersey Nets: Devin Harris trade was great for them. But who knows how they'll mesh this year. I imagine them stuggling through the division getting used to one another. Look for Harris to have a good year, though.
New Orleans Hornets: My pick for best record in the West and maybe the league. Chris Paul is the best point guard in the league since Stockton (sorry Nash). They're good on paper, but better on the court.
New York Knicks: Trainwreck. Why would D'Antoni go there?
Oklahoma City Thunder: When they get a second option Kevin Durant will learn how easily he can score 20 points in a game. Right now, he's going to find it difficult.
Orlando Magic: Jameer Nelson is not their point guard, but people put down Rondo, too. Howard is good, but I'm convinced that most of his production is straight athleticism. They'll make the playoffs, but not do much.
Philadelphia 76ers: Will rival Heat for best improvement. Andre Miller, Andre Iguodala, Elton Brand, Samuel Dalembert - sounds like a playoff line up to me. Elton Brand was exactly what they needed. I'm excited to see what they can do, and how good Iguodala will look when he's a number 2 option (which he should be). Maybe Brand can even teach Dalembert to block shots without fouling.
Phoenix Suns: Old, confused, and hurt. Remember those 3 words, because you'll use them a lot talking about this team this year.
Portland Trailblazers: Don't underestimate what Oden will do for this team. They'll win close to 50 games and look around and say, "What were all those old guys talking about? That wasn't hard." Then proceed to do the same thing for the next 5 years. This crew will win a championship together in the next 5 years. When Kobe slows down, Ginobli reties, the Celtics are too old, it'll be the Hornets and the Blazers fighting it out.
Sacramento Kings: Kevin Martin is the only reason to watch this team.
San Antonio Spurs: Same old, same old. Too good to count out, ever. If I had one year to win a championship and was to build a team from scratch, I'm picking Duncan. The guy does everything for you and does everything well. LeBron might be the best player in the league, but Duncan is everything you could want. Besides all that, I'd never count the Spurs out in an odd year.
Toronto Raptors: Bosh and O'Neal are probably the best frontcourt in the league on paper. Let's see what happens. They have the players to do well.
Utah Jazz: If Paul is the best point guard in the league, Williams is right on his heels. For some reason I feel people overlook Williams, but that's ok, because they overlook the Jazz in general. They are one of the best 5 teams in the league (Celtics, Lakers, Spurs, Hornets, and Jazz).
Washington Wizards: Arena is the question mark. And who knows what will happen without him, and with him for that matter.