Well, the preseason is underway and now is to categorize my picks for teams in the up and coming season (no individual awards because obviously the season hasn't even started).
Atlantic: Boston Celtics- is there really another team in this division that can compete with the veteran Celtics? A healthy KG is the key ingredient if the Celtics want to go back to the top of the Eastern Conference heap. New acquistion and former NBA champ Rasheed Wallace could help the Celtics as he is an excellent role player.
Central: Cleveland Cavaliers- Can Shaq help the King win a ring? It may be possible. Cleveland needs Shaq to match up against the NBA's new dominant big man (Dwight Howard) and veteran KG. If Cleveland doesn't win it this year, would it be considered a disappointment?
Atlantic: Orlando Magic- The defending Eastern Conference Champions I believe had a chance to make the Finals more competitive if they didn't play a not-so-ready Jameer Nelson and should have kept playing Rafer Alston. This could be not as easy as the other divisions because the Atlanta Hawks have improved the last couple of seasons and should get to the playoffs again this year.
"Sleeper Team": New Jersey Nets- this team has young talent and looked alright the first half of the season last year but went downhill after that. Still, NJ could improve this year.
Down and Out Team: The Miami Heat- as good as Dwayne Wade is and as strong as he is, it is very hard to carry a team a full 82 games, especially with a club that hardly made any noise in the off-season. The former NBA champs are going to look at a lower seed this year (and possibly not make the playoffs).
Pacific: LA Lakers- The reigning NBA champs made a defensive move by acquiring Ron Artest and now Artest no longer has to worry guarding Kobe but supporting him. However, I think Trevor Ariza was key to the Lakers' title run last year as he proved to be a solid role player along with Pau Gasol. Can they repeat? There is a chance but could Denver learn from last year?
Northwest: I will say Denver but Portland looks to improve on last year's 50 win season. Denver is a complete team that is lead by 'Melo and "Mr. Big Shot" Chauncey Billups. This is the team in the competitive Western Confernce that could test LA once again.
Southwest: San Antonio- the experienced and veteran ball club is slowing down a little bit but nothing to major and are always one of the favorites in the NBA for the title. Dallas looks good but I give the edge to San Antonio here.
"Sleeper Team": Golden State- This is a talented ball club that is capable of getting wins even over the Western Confernece's elite. This is also the same team that became the first 8 seed in the first-round seven game format to upset a 1-seed.
Down and Out Team: Houston Rockets- they lost the injury-plagued Yao Ming for the season and the retired Dikembe Mutombo. They have Ariza and some other people, but I do not see anyone who can stand out and help carry this ball club on their own.
Your thoughts, opinions, comments, or predictions.......
I like your writeups. I think Atlanta will be the sleeper team in the East, Cleveland and Miami will disappoint. In the West, I agree with Golden State being potentially a sleeper, and Dallas/LA Clippers (yep) disappointing.
As a Wizards and Kings fan, this will be another long season. I just hope Arenas leads them to the playoffs at least.