Miami Heat: We're sorry to say it, but the Heat is going to win the NBA title this year. Watching the "Big Three" get their comeuppance a season ago was tons of fun, but it might have been the worst thing long-term. LeBron and Co. is more motivated than ever. They already have the talent. Just give them the trophy.
Chicago Bulls: Derrick Rose is a beast, and his supporting cast is only getting better. If anyone from the East is going to knock off the Heat (which they're not), it's the Bulls.
Dallas Mavericks: Don't overlook the defending champs, who lost some nice role players but also added the battle-tested Lamar Odom.
Oklahoma City Thunder: Kevin Durant makes any team dangerous, and the Thunder's big men could be difference-makers. It would not be surprising at all to see this squad make it to the finals.
Boston Celtics: We keep waiting for this aging group to fall apart. It hasn't happened yet.
Los Angeles Lakers: The botched Chris Paul trade will hang over the Lakers all season. We're not ready to full-scale bail on them, but we have a feeling they're in for a serious victory drop. Still, if Kobe Bryant is healthy they have a shot.
New York Knicks: Can they play enough defense? That's the big question. If they can, they will be a formidable playoff team. If not, they'll be the Suns, Part II -- an exciting regular-season team that couldn't get it in the spring.
NEXT NEXT LEVEL
Orlando Magic: Sorry, just not seeing it. It feels like the window has closed. But if Dwight Howard can shut out the distractions, Orlando can still be dangerous.
San Antonio Spurs: One more go-round? Probably not, but you never know.
Los Angeles Clippers: Chris Paul makes this team suddenly relevant. We're not sure about their interior depth, but maybe they can flip one of their 5 million point guards for another big man during the year ...
Their main issues weren't exactly addressed. They still seem thin at center and shooting guard while being overstocked at both forward spots and point guard. But there is no denying the overall talent upgrades with the addition of Ricky Rubio, Derrick Williams and J.J. Barea and the coaching infusion with proven winner Rick Adelman.
It will be interesting to see how all the pieces fit together. Can the Wolves play Kevin Love, Williams, Michael Beasley (and maybe even Wes Johnson) at the same time? How will Rubio transition into the NBA? Is there a redundancy at power forward if Love and Williams are both best-suited to play there? Can Beasley be effective and happy while taking fewer shots? Can Darko Milicic and/or Nikola Pekovic provide quality minutes at center?
That's a ton of questions. But it will, at the very least, be a lot of fun learning the answers. And for the first time in several years, we're not talking ourselves into an optimistic prognostication. The Wolves will win at least 25 games this season, we believe. That would project to 30-plus victories in a normal year, which would basically be double what they did during the Rambis era. It might seem like a big leap, but that's what we see the additional talent and Adelman adding up to.
Your thoughts, as always, in the comments.