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NBA season preview capsules

POSTED December 23, 2011 12:51 p.m.

A look at the 30 NBA teams, in predicted order of finish:

EASTERN CONFERENCE
ATLANTIC DIVISION
BOSTON CELTICS
LAST SEASON:
56-26, lost to Miami 4-1 in conference semifinals.
STARTING FIVE: G Ray Allen (16.5 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 2.7apg), G Rajon Rondo (10.6 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 11.2 apg, 2.25 spg), F Paul Pierce (18.9 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 3.3 apg), F Kevin Garnett (14.9 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 2.4 apg), C Jermaine O’Neal (5.4 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 1.25 bpg).
KEY ADDITIONS: G Keyon Dooling (trade, Bucks), F Brandon Bass (trade, Magic), F Chris Wilcox (free agent, Pistons), F/G Marquis Daniels (free agent, Kings).
KEY LOSSES: F Glen Davis (trade, Magic), C Shaquille O’Neal (retired), G Delonte West (free agent, Mavericks).
COACH: Doc Rivers, eighth season with Celtics, 13th season overall; 507-406.
EYES ON: Rondo. The star point guard’s feelings might have been bruised when he was mentioned in trade talks involving Chris Paul. But Rondo says he’s excited to stay with the Celtics. His knack for delivering the ball to Pierce, Garnett and Allen just where they like it is critical to the team’s success.
OUTLOOK: The loss of F Jeff Green for the season after an aortic aneurysm was discovered during a physical is a big blow. But the Celtics loaded up with veterans who are used to seeing considerable playing time off the bench and can give the aging starters rest with so many games in such a short period. Rivers says this could be the last chance for an NBA title run with the Big Three as they enter their fifth season together, but Pierce says the coach might just be using that as motivation.

NEW YORK KNICKS
LAST SEASON:
42-40, lost to Boston 4-0 in first round.
STARTING FIVE: G Toney Douglas (10.6 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 3.0 apg), G Landry Fields (9.7 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 1.9 apg), F Carmelo Anthony (25.6 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 2.9 apg), F Amare Stoudemire (25.3 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 2.6 apg), C Tyson Chandler (10.1 ppg, 9.4 rpg, 1.1 bpg).
KEY ADDITIONS: C Chandler (trade, Mavericks), G Mike Bibby (free agent, Heat), G Baron Davis (free agent, Cavaliers), G Iman Shumpert (draft, No. 17).
KEY LOSSES: G Chauncey Billups (waived-amnesty), F Shawne Williams (free agent, Nets), C Ronny Turiaf (trade, Wizards).
COACH: Mike D’Antoni, fourth season with Knicks, 10th season overall; 370-315.
EYES ON: Davis and Bibby. With the frontcourt set but Douglas streaky, the Knicks need at least one of the veteran point guards to show he still has something left.
OUTLOOK: The acquisition of Chandler shows the Knicks are serious about defending, and if they follow through on it they have enough talent to win a playoff series for the first time since 2000.

PHILADELPHIA 76ERS
LAST SEASON:
41-41, lost to Miami 4-1 in first round.
STARTING FIVE: G Jrue Holiday (14.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 6.5 apg), G Jodie Meeks (10.5 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 1.1 apg), F Andre Iguodala (14.1 ppg, 6.3 apg, 5.8 rpg), F Elton Brand (15.0 ppg, 8.3 rpg), C Spencer Hawes (7.2 ppg, 5.7 rpg).
KEY ADDITIONS: F/C Nikola Vucevic (draft, No. 16). Owners Joshua Harris and Adam Aron.
KEY LOSSES: None.
COACH: Doug Collins, second season with 76ers, 10th season overall; 332-288.
EYES ON: Holiday. Collins predicted his second-year point guard would blossom into an All-Star and become the player who can lead the Sixers deep into the playoffs.
OUTLOOK: A new ownership group that has revitalized the fan base with slashed ticket prices, a new mascot and an overhaul of the game night fan experience has Philadelphia buzzing about the 76ers for the first time in years. It’s up to Brand, Iguodala and Holiday to keep the excitement going on the court and lead the Sixers to their first winning record in seven seasons. The Atlantic Division title is a realistic accomplishment.

NEW JERSEY NETS
LAST SEASON:
24-58, missed playoffs.
STARTING FIVE: G Deron Williams (15.0 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 7.6 apg, 1.3 spg), G Anthony Morrow (13.2 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 1.2 apg), F Damion James (4.4 ppg, 3.4 rpg), F Shawne Williams (7.1 ppg, 3.7 rpg), C Brook Lopez (20.4 ppg, 6.0 rpg).
KEY ADDITIONS: F Shawne Williams (free agent, Knicks), F Sheldon Williams (free agent, Knicks), Rookie G MarShon Brooks (draft, No. 25).
KEY LOSSES: F Kris Humphries (free agent), G Sasha Vujacic (free agent, Turkey), F Travis Outlaw (waived-amnesty).
COACH: Avery Johnson, second season with Nets, sixth season overall; 218-128.
EYES ON: Deron Williams. The point guard can opt out of his contract after this season and it is likely he will unless the Nets either get a lot better, make a deal to bring in another star or first-round draft pick MarShon Brooks proves to be the steal of the draft.
OUTLOOK: The Nets were a horrible team when they joined the NBA minus Dr. J and they will be leaving for Brooklyn next season in roughly the same situation after failing in their bid to acquire Dwight Howard from Orlando.

TORONTO RAPTORS
LAST SEASON:
22-60, missed playoffs.
STARTING FIVE: G Jose Calderon (9.8 ppg, 8.9 apg, 3.0 rpg), G DeMar DeRozan (17.2 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 1.8 apg), F James Johnson (7.1 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 2.3 apg), F Andrea Bargnani (21.4 ppg, 5.2 rpg), C Amir Johnson (6.2 ppg, 4.8 rpg).
KEY ADDITIONS: F Rasual Butler (free agent, Bulls), G Gary Forbes (free agent, Nuggets), F Anthony Carter (free agent, Knicks), C Jamaal Magliore (free agent, Heat), C Aaron Gray (free agent, Hornets).
KEY LOSSES: G Sonny Weems (free agent, Europe), F Reggie Evans (not re-signed).
COACH: Dwane Casey, first season with Raptors, third season overall; 53-69.
EYES ON: DeRozan. Doubled his scoring average from 8.6 to 17.2 points from his rookie to second season, and must continue to improve if the Raptors have any chance of doing the same.
OUTLOOK: Casey brings a defensive mindset from Dallas, but the Raptors might not have the personnel to become a good defensive team yet.

SOUTHEAST DIVISION
MIAMI HEAT
LAST SEASON:
58-24, lost to Dallas 4-2 in NBA finals.
STARTING FIVE: G Mario Chalmers (6.4 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 2.5 rpg), G Dwyane Wade (25.5 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 4.6 apg), F LeBron James (26.7 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 7.0 apg), F Chris Bosh (18.7 ppg, 8.3 rpg), C Joel Anthony (2.0 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 1.2 bpg).
KEY ADDITIONS: F Shane Battier (free agent, Grizzlies), G Norris Cole (draft, No. 28).
KEY LOSSES: C Zydrunas Ilgauskas (retired), G Mike Bibby (free agent, Knicks).
COACH: Erik Spoelstra, fourth season with Heat, fourth season overall; 148-98.
EYES ON: James and Wade, of course. Two of the game’s best scorers, they both believe they can be even better together in Year 2 of their pairing in Miami. James improved his mid-range and post games over the offseason, while Wade said he reported to camp in his best preseason shape yet.
OUTLOOK: Clearly, nothing besides the NBA title will satisfy Miami this season. Bosh has added bulk and wants to get back to double-double form, and having a healthy Udonis Haslem for a full season will obviously help. Questions persist at point guard and center, but Spoelstra often used unconventional lineups last season and will often again this year.

ATLANTA HAWKS
LAST SEASON:
44-38, lost to Chicago 4-2 in conference semifinals.
STARTING FIVE: G Jeff Teague (5.2 ppg, 2.0 apg), G Joe Johnson (18.2 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 4.7 apg), F Marvin Williams (10.4 ppg, 4.8 rpg), F Josh Smith (16.5 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 3.3 apg. 1.6 bpg, 1.3 spg), C Al Horford (15.3 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 3.5 apg).
KEY ADDITIONS: G/F Tracy McGrady (free agent, Pistons), F Vladimir Radmanovic (free agent, Warriors), G/F Jerry Stackhouse (free agent, Heat).
KEY LOSSES: G Jamal Crawford (free agent, Trail Blazers), G/F Damien Wilkins (free agent, Pistons), F/C Josh Powell (free agent).
COACH: Larry Drew, second season with Hawks, second season overall; 44-38.
EYES ON: Jeff Teague. With Kirk Hinrich recovering from shoulder surgery and possibly out until February, Teague has his first chance to grab a starting job. Drew is asking Teague, who had a strong playoff series against the Bulls, to make full use of his speed and quickness to give the Hawks explosiveness at point guard they have lacked in recent seasons with Mike Bibby and Hinrich.
OUTLOOK: The Hawks have played in the second round of the playoffs three straight years but are in danger of falling back in the Eastern Conference. They appeared to have no interest in bidding to re-sign Crawford and might have difficulty replacing his scoring. Atlanta has taken a cost-cutting approach by signing McGrady and Radmanovic to veteran minimum deals and inviting Stackhouse to camp without a guaranteed contract. The 32-year-old McGrady could be a bargain as he provides a needed veteran presence while playing a backup role at three spots, including behind Teague.

ORLANDO MAGIC
LAST SEASON:
52-30, lost to Atlanta 4-2 in first round.
STARTING FIVE: G Jameer Nelson (13.1 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 6.0 apg, 1.0 spg), G Jason Richardson (15.6 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 1.8 apg), F Hedo Turkoglu (10.8 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 4.2 apg), F Ryan Anderson (10.6 ppg, 5.5 rpg), C Dwight Howard (22.9 ppg, 14.1 rpg, 2.4 bpg).
KEY ADDITIONS: C/F Glen Davis (trade, Celtics), G Von Wafer (trade, Celtics).
KEY LOSSES: F Brandon Bass (trade, Celtics).
COACH: Stan Van Gundy, fifth season with Magic, eighth season overall; 334-179.
EYES ON: Howard. The All-Star center’s preseason trade request ignited a full-scale, daily soap opera around the Magic that won’t go away until he either is dealt or management convinces him to re-sign. It also has put a spotlight on general manager Otis Smith, who must figure out the best end game for a franchise that has sour memories of losing Shaquille O’Neal to the Lakers in 1996.
OUTLOOK: It’s nearly impossible to gauge where this team can go until the Howard drama is resolved. But if he stays throughout the season, there is potential for the Magic to be a threat. They still would likely need another big man, but Davis does bring some much-needed toughness and rebounding help for Howard. Also, the re-signing of Richardson and his promise to be more assertive offensively give Orlando stability at the guard spot as well with J.J. Redick coming off the bench.

WASHINGTON WIZARDS
LAST SEASON:
23-59, missed playoffs.
STARTING FIVE: G John Wall (16.4 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 8.3 apg), G Nick Young (17.4 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 1.2 apg), F Rashard Lewis (11.7 ppg, 5.1 rpg), F Andray Blatche (16.8 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 2.3 apg), C JaVale McGee (10.1 ppg, 8.0 rpg).
KEY ADDITIONS: F Ronny Turiaf (trade, Knicks), G Roger Mason (free agent, Knicks), F Jan Vesely (draft, No. 6), F Chris Singleton (draft, No. 18).
KEY LOSSES: F Josh Howard (free agent, Jazz), F Yi Jianlian (free agent)
COACH: Flip Saunders, third season with Wizards, 16th season overall; 636-511.
EYES ON: Wall. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 draft is far and away Washington’s best player, and the centerpiece of the team’s rebuilding efforts. He’ll need a lot of help and improvement from Blatche and McGee.
OUTLOOK: Saunders has his work cut out with a roster filled by young players — and no veteran additions of real significance — and the coach lashed out after a poor showing at both ends of the court in Washington’s first exhibition game. There figure to be plenty of other opportunities for him to lose patience in what shapes up as a trying regular season.

CHARLOTTE BOBCATS
LAST SEASON:
34-48, missed playoffs.
STARTING FIVE: G D.J. Augustin (14.4 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 2.7 apg, 0.7 spg), G Gerald Henderson (9.6 ppg, 3 rpg, 1.5 apg), F Corey Maggette (12 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 1.3 apg), F Tyrus Thomas (10.2 ppg, 5.7 rpg), C Boris Diaw (8.8 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 2.4 apg).
KEY ADDITIONS: F Melvin Ely (free agent, Nuggets), F D.J. Brown (free agent, Knicks), G Reggie Williams (free agent, Warriors).
KEY LOSSES: C Kwame Brown (free agent, Warriors).
COACH: Paul Silas, second season with Bobcats, 12th season overall; 380-429.
EYES ON: Maggette. Silas is looking for Maggette for leadership and to be the team’s 20-point a night guy. Developing youngsters Henderson and Augustin look to build on good seasons a year ago and the Bobcats are excited about rookie lottery picks Kemba Walker and Bismack Biyombo.
OUTLOOK: The Bobcats are clearly in the midst of rebuilding for the future and aren’t expected to compete this year for the playoffs. Outside of Gana Diop, they don’t have a true big man, which means Diaw will have to play a lot of center. The Bobcats will look to play small ball and push it up the court.

CENTRAL DIVISION
CHICAGO BULLS
LAST SEASON:
62-20, lost to Miami 4-1 in conference finals.
STARTING FIVE: G Derrick Rose (25.0 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 7.7 apg), G Richard Hamilton (14.1 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 3.1 apg), F Luol Deng (17.4 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 2.8 apg), F Carlos Boozer (17.5 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 2.5 apg), C Joakim Noah (11.7 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 2.2 apg, 1.5 bpg).
KEY ADDITIONS: Hamilton (free agent, Detroit).
KEY LOSSES: C Kurt Thomas (free agent, Portland).
COACH: Tom Thibodeau, second season with Bulls, second season overall; 62-20.
EYES ON: Boozer. After agreeing to a five-year, $75 million contract and joining the Bulls in a sign-and-trade, Boozer missed big chunks of last season with injuries and was limited in the postseason by a turf toe problem. Fair or not, fans made it clear they weren’t happy with him, particularly in the playoffs, and he seemed to take that as a challenge. Boozer appears to be in better shape after shedding about 20 pounds in the offseason, a good sign for the Bulls.
OUTLOOK: The Bulls are aiming high, and it’s not hard to see why. They’re coming off their best season since the Michael Jordan-Scottie Pippen era, with the reigning MVP leading a team that won a league-high 62 games.

INDIANA PACERS
LAST SEASON:
37-45, lost to Chicago 4-1 in first round.
STARTING FIVE: G Darren Collison (13.2 ppg, 5.1 apg, 2.8 rpg), G Paul George (7.8 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 1.0 spg), F Danny Granger (20.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 2.6 apg), F David West (18.9 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 2.3 apg), C Roy Hibbert (12.7 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 1.8 bpg).
KEY ADDITIONS: F David West (free agent, Hornets), G George Hill (trade, Spurs).
KEY LOSSES: G Mike Dunleavy (free agent, Bucks), F Josh McRoberts (free agent, Lakers).
COACH: Frank Vogel, first season with Pacers, first season overall; 20-18 as interim coach for Pacers last season.
EYES ON: George Hill. The Indianapolis native comes home after being traded from the Spurs and offers the Pacers a perimeter player who can shoot well from the outside, create off the dribble and excel on defense. He’s a potential starter at point guard and shooting guard. Vogel likes the experience Hill gained while learning from Spurs guard Tony Parker.
OUTLOOK: This is the year the Pacers have been waiting for. They finally were able to make a big move by adding West, an experienced and proven scorer to go with Granger. Hill provides depth and could help push George to reach his enormous potential. Indiana’s youth and quality depth should be beneficial in this condensed season. The Pacers made the playoffs last season, and they won’t be satisfied with just getting there in 2012.

MILWAUKEE BUCKS
LAST SEASON:
35-47, missed playoffs.
STARTING FIVE: G Brandon Jennings (16.2 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 4.8 apg, 1.5 spg), G Stephen Jackson (18.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 3.6 apg), F Carlos Delfino (11.5 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.3 apg), F Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (6.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg), C Andrew Bogut (12.8 ppg, 11.1 rpg, 2.0 apg, 2.6 bpg).
KEY ADDITIONS: Jackson (trade, Bobcats), G Beno Udrih (trade, Kings), F Mike Dunleavy (free agent, Pacers).
KEY LOSSES: G John Salmons (trade, Kings), F Corey Maggette (trade, Bobcats).
COACH: Scott Skiles, fourth season with Bucks, 12th season overall; 396-382.
EYES ON: Bogut. The Bucks’ big man essentially couldn’t shoot with his right hand last season as he dealt with complications from his traumatic arm injury in April 2010. Had surgery to get his elbow cleaned up and spent the offseason working on shooting. If he can stay healthy, he should be more of an offensive force.
OUTLOOK: The Bucks played very good defense last season but simply couldn’t score. If Jackson can fit in, he could provide a large portion of the offense they were missing and the Bucks could be back in playoff contention.

DETROIT PISTONS
LAST SEASON:
30-52, missed playoffs.
STARTING FIVE: G Rodney Stuckey (15.5 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 5.2 apg), G Ben Gordon (11.2 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 2.1 apg), F Tayshaun Prince (14.1 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 2.8 apg), F Charlie Villanueva (11.1 ppg, 3.9 rpg), C Greg Monroe (9.4 ppg, 7.5 rpg).
KEY ADDITIONS: G Brandon Knight (draft, No. 8), G/F Damien Wilkins (free agent, Hawks).
KEY LOSSES: G/F Richard Hamilton (waived-amnesty, Bulls), G Tracy McGrady (free agent Hawks), F/C Chris Wilcox (free agent, Celtics).
COACH: Lawrence Frank, first season with Pistons, eighth season overall; 225-241.
EYES ON: Stuckey. He was Detroit’s top scorer last season and recently agreed to stay with the team after being a restricted free agent. It’s not clear whether he’ll play more point guard or shooting guard this season, but the Pistons would love for him to become a consistent star.
OUTLOOK: The Pistons would be hard pressed to have a more embarrassing season than 2010-11, when players struggled to co-exist with coach John Kuester. Frank was hired to try to achieve more success with what is largely the same roster. Monroe was a bright spot as a rookie last season, and perhaps the same will be said about Knight.

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS
LAST SEASON:
19-63, missed playoffs.
STARTING FIVE: G Anthony Parker (8.3 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 3.0 apg, 2.3 spg), G Kyrie Irving (rookie), F Antawn Jamison (18.0 ppg, 6.7 rpg), F Omri Casspi (8.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg), C Anderson Varejao (9.1 ppg, 9.7 rpg).
KEY ADDITIONS: G Kyrie Irving (draft, No. 1), F Tristan Thompson (draft, No. 4), F Omri Casspi (trade, Kings).
KEY LOSSES: F J.J. Hickson (trade, Kings), G Baron Davis (waived-amnesty, Knicks).
COACH: Byron Scott, second season with Cavaliers, 12th season overall; 371-418.
EYES ON: Irving. The Cavaliers are starting over around the 19-year-old point guard and No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft. Irving only played in 11 games at Duke because of a foot injury, but the smooth youngster is healthy and appears to be wise beyond his years on and off the court.
OUTLOOK: The second year without LeBron James will likely be as long and difficult as the first. The Cavs are in full rebuilding mode, and this season will be devoted to developing Irving and Thompson, the fourth overall pick. Scott has a track record of making huge jumps in previous second seasons in New Jersey and New Orleans. The Cavs, though, are probably in for another long one and a spot in the draft lottery.

WESTERN CONFERENCE
SOUTHWEST DIVISION
DALLAS MAVERICKS
LAST SEASON:
57-25, beat Miami 4-2 in NBA finals.
STARTING FIVE: G Jason Kidd (8.2 apg, 7.9 ppg, 4.4 rpg), G Vince Carter (14 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 2.0 apg), F Dirk Nowitzki (23 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 2.6 apg), F Shawn Marion (12.5 ppg, 6.9 rpg, C Brendan Haywood (4.4 ppg, 5.2 rpg).
KEY ADDITIONS: F Lamar Odom (trade, Lakers), G Vince Carter (free agent, Suns), G Delonte West (free agent, Celtics).
KEY LOSSES: C Tyson Chandler (trade, Knicks), G J.J. Barea (free agent, Timberwolves), F Caron Butler (free agent, Clippers).
COACH: Rick Carlisle, fourth season with Mavericks, 10th season overall; 443-295.
EYES ON: Chemistry/rotation. Carlisle will have to manage them both, and everyone knows it. But these guys are all committed to making it work. They say how players sacrificed numbers for the greater good last season and it resulted in a championship. Odom and Carter come in knowing what’s expected and vowing to be part of the solution.
OUTLOOK: The regular season will be tough because of their age, the compressed season and the fact everyone will want to take down the champs. The real test will come in the playoffs. They won’t be favorites, but if the chemistry and rotation come together, Nowitzki, Kidd and Carlisle have shown they have what it takes to win it all.

SAN ANTONIO SPURS
LAST SEASON:
61-21, lost to Memphis 4-2 in first round.
STARTING FIVE: G Tony Parker (17.5 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 6.6 apg), G Manu Ginobili (17.4 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 4.9 apg), F Richard Jefferson (11.0 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 2.5 apg), F Tim Duncan (13.4 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 2.7 apg), C DeJuan Blair (8.3 ppg, 7.0 rpg).
KEY ADDITIONS: G T.J. Ford (free agent, Pacers), F Kawhi Leonard (draft, No. 15).
KEY LOSSES: G George Hill (trade, Pacers), F Antonio McDyess (retired).
COACH: Gregg Popovich, 16th season with Spurs, 16th season overall; 1,180-797.
EYES ON: Duncan. This could be the farewell tour for the two-time MVP. The 35-year-old is in the final year of his contract and says retirement isn’t on his mind. But another early playoff exit could leave him with little incentive to keep playing.
OUTLOOK: The Spurs were exposed in last year’s playoffs as old and undersized, and they haven’t done much to get younger or bigger. If Duncan and Ginobili can stay healthy — and that’s a big if — the Spurs will remain strong but may still prove Parker right when he said this team is no longer built to contend.

MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES
LAST SEASON:
46-36, lost to Oklahoma City 4-3 in conference semifinals.
STARTING FIVE: G Mike Conley (13.7 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 6.5 apg, 1.78 spg), G Tony Allen (8.9 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 1.79 spg), F Rudy Gay (19.8 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 2.8 apg, 1.69 spg), F Zach Randolph (20.1 ppg, 12.2 rpg), C Marc Gasol (11.7 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 2.5 apg, 1.68 bpg).
KEY ADDITIONS: G Jeremy Pargo (free agent, Maccabi Tel-Aviv), G Josh Selby (draft, No. 49).
KEY LOSSES: F Shane Battier (free agent, Heat).
COACH: Lionel Hollins, parts of five seasons with Grizzlies, two full seasons; 117-150.
EYES ON: Gay. His return to a team that made its deepest run in the playoffs in franchise history while he was injured will be key to success. He has looked healthy in the preseason, and the starters seem to have camaraderie. Production from the backup point guard position will help stabilize the bench.
OUTLOOK: Memphis no longer can sneak up on people. Many are whispering the Grizzlies’ along with the Oklahoma City Thunder as the near future of the Western Conference. Gay’s return should add offensive punch, and Memphis has a blend of young players with lots of playing experience. Conley needs to continue his improvement running the team, and Gasol should build on a playoff performance that earned him a four-year contract before this season.

HOUSTON ROCKETS
LAST SEASON:
43-39, missed playoffs.
STARTING FIVE: G Kyle Lowry (13.5 ppg, 3.77 rpg, 6.1 apg), G Kevin Martin (23.5 ppg, 3.15 rpg, 2.41 apg), F Jordan Hill (5.6 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 0.4 apg), F Luis Scola (18.3 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 2.26 apg), F Chase Budinger (9.8 ppg, 3.43 rpg).
KEY ADDITIONS: F Marcus Morris (draft, No. 14), F Chandler Parsons (draft, No. 38), G Jonny Flynn (trade, Timberwolves).
KEY LOSSES: F Chuck Hayes (free agent, Kings), C Yao Ming (retired).
COACH: Kevin McHale, first season with Rockets, third season overall; 39-55.
EYES ON: G/F Terrence Williams. The former Louisville star is getting a new lease on his career in Houston after a troubled season and a half in New Jersey. A first-round pick in 2009, Williams clashed with Nets coach Avery Johnson, but has the ability to become the Rockets’ most versatile scorer.
OUTLOOK: The Rockets are still smarting from the foiled trade that would’ve brought Pau Gasol to town and set more transforming moves into motion. Instead, they’ll go with much of the same cast they had last season and still lacking a proven big man.

NEW ORLEANS HORNETS
LAST SEASON:
46-36, lost to Los Angeles Lakers 4-2 in first round.
STARTING FIVE: G Jarrett Jack (8.5 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 2.6 apg), G Eric Gordon (22.3 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 4.4 apg), F Trevor Ariza (11 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 2.2 apg), F Carl Landry (11.9 ppg, 4.6 rpg), C Emeka Okafor (10.3 ppg, 9.5 rpg).
KEY ADDITIONS: G Eric Gordon (trade, Clippers), C Chris Kaman (trade, Clippers), F Al-Farouq Aminu (trade, Clippers).
KEY LOSSES: G Chris Paul (trade, Clippers), F David West Tony Allen (free agent, Pacers).
COACH: Monty Williams, second season with Hornets, second season overall; 46-36.
EYES ON: Gordon. Heading into his fourth NBA season, Gordon is an emerging star who also has had success with the US national team. The Hornets hope he can emerge as the new face of the franchise now that four-time All-Star Chris Paul has been traded to avoid losing him in free agency.
OUTLOOK: Williams has a defense-first philosophy that last season was effective in keeping the Hornets in games until the fourth quarter, when Paul and West were often able pull out victories. It was barely good enough last season to get the Hornets into the playoffs as a seventh seed. Getting to the postseason this season will be tougher.

NORTHWEST DIVISION
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
LAST SEASON:
55-27, lost to Dallas 4-1 in conference finals.
STARTING FIVE: PG Russell Westbrook (21.9 ppg, 8.2 apg, 1.9 spg), SG Thabo Sefolosha (6.0 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 1.8 apg), SF Kevin Durant (27.7 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 2.7 apg), PF Serge Ibaka (9.9 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 2.4 bpg), C Kendrick Perkins (6.0 ppg, 8.0 rpg).
KEY ADDITIONS: G Reggie Jackson (draft, No. 24).
KEY LOSSES: None.
COACH: Scott Brooks, fourth season with Thunder, fourth season overall; 127-106.
EYES ON: Westbrook. Once criticized because he wasn’t a pure point guard, Westbrook became an All-Star at the position last season. With that came stardom and praise but also heavy criticism when he ended up taking more shots than Durant, the two-time NBA scoring champion, in a couple of playoff games. If the Thunder don’t lock him up before the season starts, he’s also playing to determine what his next contract will be worth.
OUTLOOK: Oklahoma City brings back its entire 10-man rotation from last season’s stretch run, with the only roster changes coming with players who rarely played getting replaced by other reserves who’ll face an uphill battle to earn playing time. The Thunder entered an abbreviated training camp as one of the few NBA teams with everyone in place, and they also have young legs to handle the rigors of a condensed schedule. In the end, though, this team will be measured by whether it can duplicate or improve upon the run to the West finals last season.

PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS
LAST SEASON:
48-34, lost to Dallas in first round.
STARTING FIVE: G Raymond Felton (15.5 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 8.3 apg), G Wesley Matthews (15.9 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 2.0 apg), F LaMarcus Aldridge (21.8 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 2.1 apg), F Gerald Wallace (15.7 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 2.4 apg), C Marcus Camby (4.7 ppg, 10.3 rpg, 2.1 apg).
KEY ADDITIONS: G Raymond Felton (trade, Nuggets), G Jamal Crawford (free agent, Hawks), F Craig Smith (free agent, Clippers), C/F Kurt Thomas (free agent, Bulls).
KEY LOSSES: G Brandon Roy (retired-amnesty), G Andre Miller (trade, Nuggets), G/F Rudy Fernandez (trade, Mavericks).
COACH: Nate McMillan, seventh season with Trail Blazers, 12th season overall; 458-429.
EYES ON: LaMarcus Aldridge. Many say Aldridge should have been an All-Star last season but he missed the cut. He took over the team when guard Brandon Roy was injured, and is expected to do the same in Roy’s absence.
OUTLOOK: The Blazers were hit by the retirement of Roy and a setback for C Greg Oden, but they responded by adding depth in the free agency market with Crawford, Smith and Thomas. The key will be how Felton meshes with team, which is expected to run more than it did last season with Miller at the point.

DENVER NUGGETS
LAST SEASON:
50-32, lost to Oklahoma City 4-1 in first round.
STARTING FIVE: G Ty Lawson (11.7 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 4.7 apg,), G Andre Miller (12.7 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 7.0 apg), F Danilo Gallinari (15.6 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 1.7 apg), F Nene (14.5 ppg, 7.6 rpg), G/F Arron Afflalo (12.6 ppg, 3.6 rpb, 2.4 apg).
KEY ADDITIONS: G/F Rudy Fernandez and F Corey Brewer (trade with Dallas), G Andre Miller (trade with Portland), F Kenneth Faried (rookie out of Morehead State).
KEY LOSSES: F Kenyon Martin (China), F Wilson Chandler (China), G J.R. Smith (China), G Raymond Felton (trade).
COACH: George Karl, eighth season with Nuggets, 24th season overall; 1,036-703.
EYES ON: Nene. The team is counting on a big season from their Brazilian center after signing him to a five-year deal worth up to $67 million. Nene entertained offers to leave Denver, but decided to stay in the city where he began his career in 2002.
OUTLOOK: The Nuggets are a team without a superstar, which worked out well in the short term after the blockbuster deal that sent Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks. Denver went 18-7 down the stretch to make the playoffs. Karl is eager to see if his approach — rotating in fresh bodies off a deep bench — can work over the course of a long season. The team locked up Afflalo in a five-year deal on the eve of its first preseason game. Karl considers Afflalo the “glue guy” of the team.

UTAH JAZZ
LAST SEASON:
39-43, missed playoffs.
STARTING FIVE: G Devin Harris (15.2 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 7.1 apg, 1.0 spg), G Raja Bell (8.0 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 1.7 apg), F Gordon Hayward (5.4 ppg, 1.9 rpg), F Paul Millsap (17.3 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 2.5 apg), C Al Jefferson (18.6 ppg, 9.7 rpg, 1.8 apg).
KEY ADDITIONS: F Josh Howard (free agent, Wizards), C Enes Kanter (draft, No. 3), G Alec Burks (draft, No. 12).
KEY LOSSES: F Andrei Kirilenko (free agent, Russia), G Ronnie Price (free agent, Suns).
COACH: Tyrone Corbin, second season with Jazz, second season overall; 8-20.
EYES ON: Corbin. He has a chance for a fresh start after the mess created when Hall of Famer Jerry Sloan abruptly retired and Deron Williams was traded. Corbin has four players 21 or younger, including F Derrick Favors, who was part of the February trade. Corbin will focus on improved defense starting with a better-conditioned Jefferson. But the team has a handful of potential starting combinations with so many big men and a healthy Mehmet Okur, plus Millsap, Hayward, C.J. Miles and Burks can play several positions.
OUTLOOK: The team is a mystery because it has so much youth and potential with four lottery picks and two former All-Stars (Harris and Okur). But how quickly players come together under Corbin remains to be seen. Jazz officials refuse to use the term rebuilding, but the team needs to get off to a quick start, with 13 of the first 19 games in the condensed season at home.

MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES
LAST SEASON:
17-65, missed playoffs.
STARTING FIVE: G Ricky Rubio (4.8 ppg, 4.0 apg, 3.2 rpg, 1.6 spg for Regal Barcelona), G Wes Johnson (9.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg), F Michael Beasley (19.2 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 2.2 apg), F Kevin Love (20.2 ppg, 15.2 rpg), C Darko Milicic (6.7 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 2.2 bpg).
KEY ADDITIONS: G Ricky Rubio (2009 draft, No. 5), G J.J. Barea (free agent, Mavericks), F Derrick Williams (draft, No. 2), coach Rick Adelman (Rockets).
KEY LOSSES: Coach Kurt Rambis (fired), PG Jonny Flynn (trade, Rockets).
COACH: Rick Adelman, first season with Timberwolves, 21st season overall; 945-616.
EYES ON: Rubio. Wunderkind point guard was the fifth overall pick in 2009, but decided to stay in Spain the last two years to work on his game and reduce the size of his buyout. His fancy passing and floppy hair have already made him a fan favorite in Minnesota. His game appeared to regress last season in Europe, so how will it translate to the NBA?
OUTLOOK: Positively rosy by this franchise’s lackluster standards. Wolves went 32-132 in two seasons under Rambis, who was fired this summer. Adelman, who ranks eighth all-time in wins, surprised many by taking on the task of turning around one of the youngest teams in the league. The arrival of Rubio and Williams, the No. 2 overall pick, to team with the All-Star Love has the Timberwolves expecting to not be the laughing stock of the league anymore. Hey, you’ve got to start somewhere.

PACIFIC DIVISION
LOS ANGELES LAKERS
LAST SEASON:
57-25, lost to Dallas 4-0 in conference semifinals.
STARTING FIVE: G Kobe Bryant (25.3 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 4.7 apg), G Derek Fisher (6.8 ppg, 2.7 apg, 1.9 rpg), F Matt Barnes (6.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg), F Pau Gasol (18.8 ppg, 10.2 rpg, 3.3 apg), C Andrew Bynum (11.3 ppg, 9.4 rpg, 1.4 apg).
KEY ADDITIONS: F Josh McRoberts (free agent, Pacers), F Jason Kapono (free agent, 76ers), F Troy Murphy (free agent, Celtics).
KEY LOSSES: F Lamar Odom (traded, Mavericks), G Shannon Brown (free agent, Phoenix), coach Phil Jackson (retired).
COACH: Mike Brown, first season with Kings, sixth season overall; 272-138.
EYES ON: Gasol. The Spanish 7-footer nearly was traded to Houston this month when the Lakers’ attempt to land Chris Paul was voided by the NBA, but the Lakers need him to get over the hurt immediately after they parted with Odom, who was shockingly traded to Dallas for nothing after he was angered by his inclusion in the same deal.
OUTLOOK: The Lakers’ hopes of returning to title contention took a major blow with the loss of Odom, the NBA’s top sixth man last year. Brown’s first training camp started with the disastrous failed trade for Paul, and almost none of Kobe Bryant’s supporting cast feels comfortable. That might be too much distraction for the thinner Lakers to overcome in their first season after Jackson’s retirement.

LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS
LAST SEASON:
32-50, missed playoffs.
STARTING FIVE: G Chris Paul (15.8 ppg, 9.8 apg, 4.1 rpg), G Chauncey Billups (16.8 ppg, 5.4 apg, 2.6 rpg), F Caron Butler (15.0 ppg, 4.1 rpg), F Blake Griffin (22.5 ppg, 12.1 rpg, 3.8 apg), C DeAndre Jordan (7.1 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 1.8 bpg).
KEY ADDITIONS: G Paul (trade, Hornets), G Billups (waived-amnesty, Knicks), F Butler (free agent, Mavericks).
KEY LOSSES: G Eric Gordon (traded, Hornets), C Chris Kaman (traded, Hornets), F Al-Farouq Aminu (traded, Hornets).
COACH: Vinny Del Negro, second season with Clippers, fourth season overall; 114-132.
EYES ON: Paul. The four-time All-Star arrived early in training camp in a blockbuster trade with New Orleans, with the Clippers upending their roster to acquire the point guard. Paul overlooked the Clippers’ long tradition of ineptitude and teamed up with Griffin for what’s suddenly one of the league’s most intriguing teams in Lob City — Griffin’s phrase for the Clippers’ future.
OUTLOOK: Nobody knows exactly what’s possible for the Clippers with the additions of Paul, Butler and Billups, who add veteran savvy around Griffin’s formidable young talent. But they’re clearly a playoff threat after managing just one winning season in the past 19 years. Quick success also might be important to persuade Paul to stick around for the long term beyond a contract that could end next year.

PHOENIX SUNS
LAST SEASON:
40-42, missed playoffs.
STARTING FIVE: G Steve Nash (14.6 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 11.4 apg), G Jared Dudley (10.6 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 1.3 apg), F Grant Hill (13.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 2.5 apg), F Channing Frye (12.7 ppg, 6.7 rpg), C Marcin Gortat (13.0 ppg in 50 games with Suns, 9.3 rpg).
KEY ADDITIONS: G Shannon Brown (free agent, Lakers), G Sebastian Telfair (free agent, Timberwolves), G Ronnie Price (free agent, Jazz), F Markieff Morris (draft, No. 13).
KEY LOSSES: G Vince Carter (waived, Mavericks).
COACH: Alvin Gentry, fourth season with Suns, 11th season overall; 289-309.
EYES ON: Gortat. The Polish center thrived in the pick and roll with Nash and looks to improve even more given a full season with the point guard, who led the league in assists last season at age 37.
OUTLOOK: The Suns are sticking with old-timers Nash and Hill for another season while indicating they will be more liable to make a free agent splash next offseason. The team should be entertaining as always. Newcomer Brown is a nice fit for its fast-tempo style and the addition of assistant coach Elston Turner is designed to improve the long-suffering defense, but Phoenix will have to fight to avoid failing to make the playoffs for a second straight season.

GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
LAST SEASON:
36-46, missed playoffs.
STARTING FIVE: PG Stephen Curry (18.6 ppg, 5.8 apg, 3.9 rpg), SG Monta Ellis (24.1 ppg, 5.6 apg, 3.5 rpg), SF Dorell Wright (16.4 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 3.0 apg), PF David Lee (16.5 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 3.2 apg), C Andris Biedrins (5.0 ppg, 7.2 rpg).
KEY ADDITIONS: C Kwame Brown (free agent, Bobcats).
KEY LOSSES: G Charlie Bell (waived-amnesty).
COACH: Mark Jackson, first season as a head coach at any level.
EYES ON: Biedrins. After showing promise earlier in his career, the Latvian center has been Golden State’s biggest disappointment the last two years. The Warriors missed in free agency trying to acquire a more prolific center with Tyson Chandler (Knicks) or DeAndre Jordan (Clippers) to team with the dynamic backcourt duo of Ellis and Curry and are counting on Biedrins to make strides.
OUTLOOK: The Warriors improved by 10 games last season and Jackson has guaranteed the franchise will make the playoffs in his first year. With almost the exact same roster as a year ago, the Warriors will need more than rhetoric from the former broadcaster to put together a winning season in the deep Western Conference.

SACRAMENTO KINGS
LAST SEASON:
24-58, missed playoffs.
STARTING FIVE: PG Tyreke Evans (17.8 ppg, 5.6 apg, 4.8 rpg), SG Marcus Thornton (21.3 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 3.4 apg), SF John Salmons (14.0 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 3.5 apg), PF Chuck Hayes (7.9 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 2.7 apg), C DeMarcus Cousins (14.1 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 2.5 apg).
KEY ADDITIONS: Hayes (free agent, Rockets).
KEY LOSSES: C Samuel Dalembert (free agent, unsigned).
COACH: Paul Westphal, third season with Kings, 10th season overall; 316-274.
EYES ON: Cousins. The second-year center had an intriguing rookie season, mixing in big-play performances with temper tantrums and outbursts against teammates, coaches and referees. The always animated Cousins showed up in spectacular shape for training camp and is working to control his emotions this season.
OUTLOOK: If the Kings can stay healthy, they could be one of the NBA’s more improved teams. Former BYU sensation Jimmer Fredette gives Sacramento some backcourt depth and allows Evans, the 2009-10 Rookie of the Year, a chance to also play shooting guard. After owning the league’s worst record for the first half of the year, Sacramento acquired Thornton from New Orleans and had a late season-season surge behind a healthy Evans that showed maybe the franchise isn’t that far away from making the playoffs again.


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