- New York Knicks (I am feeling my Knicks this season!!!)*
- Boston Celtics*
- Toronto Raptors
- New Jersey Nets
- Philadelphia 76ers
Analysis: This is the season my Knicks will return to being a perennial contender. In signing Tyson Chandler (albeit at high price), we solidified our glaring weakness: interior defense. Now Amare Stoudamire can go back to his natural position at the 4-spot, while Carmelo Anthony will continue to thrive at the 3. As long as coach Mike D’Antoni can pay at least a little bit attention to defense, this division is ours’ for the taking.
The Celtics are getting old folks – and quite cantankerous. Kevin Garnett called out commissioner David Stern for having “rushed camps” in one of the strangest metaphors ever uttered from an athlete. Sure they still have the Big Three in Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen as well as coach Doc Rivers, but they will still have issues with depth with glen “Big Baby” Davis in Orlando. We also have to figure in the potential chemistry issues with Rajon Rondo, especially since they tried to trade him.
Toronto and Jersey may end up swapping places depending on the Nets’ personnel. If Jersey lands Dwight Howard in a trade, the Nets will finish higher than Toronto (and possibly Boston) and take Orlando’s playoff spot.
Meanwhile, someone needs to wake 76ers fans to let them know that their team will be competing.
- Chicago Bulls*
- Indiana Pacers*
- Milwaukee Bucks*
- Detroit Pistons
- Cleveland Cavaliers
Analysis: This is the Bulls’ division, and it’s not even close. Along with all-world point guard Derrick Rose, Chicago signed Rip Hamilton to a 2-year contract which should give the Bulls a second scorer that they desperately missed. That way, Carlos Boozer can focus on doing the dirty work down low, which will make the Bulls a more complete team.
The Pacers are going to be much improved, especially after signing power forward David West to a 2-year contract. That will enable Tyler Hansborough to return to his sixth-man role in which he thrived last season. It also gives Danny Granger the scoring help that he needs. Pacers fans need to show up and rock the house this season because this team is going to make some noise.
The Milwaukee Bucks should be among the beneficiaries of the lockout because the reduced season will reduce the wear and tear on center Andrew Bogut. Having point guard Brandon Jennings healthy for an abbreviated season would also help tremendously. It’s time to “fear the deer” again.
The Pistons and Cavaliers will be in a battle for last place. While the Pistons might be a little bit better, the Cavs are going to stink up the joint despite the presence of rookie Kyrie Irving. Plus, I would love to see a team owned by “Whiny” Dan Gilbert suffer.
- Miami Heat*
- Atlanta Hawks*
- Orlando Magic*
- Charlotte Bobcats
- Washington Wizards
Analysis: This is an easy division to evaluate. The Heat are head and shoulders the class of the division, with no real challengers nor even playoff prospects. The Hawks have the talent to make a run at a playoff spot.
As for the Magic, it all depends on Dwight Howard. If the Magic miraculously keep him, then they will finish above Atlanta. If Orlando gets crap in return for him, then they will have a hard time finishing above Charlotte.
Speaking of Charlotte, the Bobcats have gotten a lot younger over the summer, but had a decent draft led by last year’s NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player Kemba Walker. I do question their depth and wonder if they will score enough points to be in half of their games.
Aside from their jersey color change, the Wizards will be the same bad team. And while they’re at it, their name should be changed back to the “Bullets”.
- Dallas Mavericks*
- Memphis Grizzlies*
- San Antonio Spurs*
- Houston Rockets
- New Orleans Hornets
Analysis: This is by far the toughest division in the NBA. Any of the top four teams could contend for the division crown, with three of the teams (Mavs, Grizzlies, and Spurs) viable threats in the Western Conference. While the Mavs lost Tyson Chandler to my Knicks a few weeks ago, they still have stud Dirk Nowitski, Jason Terry and Jason Kidd. I almost forgot to mention that they obtained Lamar Odom from the Lakers for next to nothing.
Memphis is a team on the rise. The Grizzlies re-signed Marc Gasol a week ago, thus they will bring back a frontcourt that includes Zach Randolph and healthier Rudy Gay. The Fed-Ex Forum should be rocking every home game thanks to their playoff run last season.
The Spurs are a consistent bunch that is there seemingly every year in the Western Conference. I’m not counting them out this season, though they are a bit long in the tooth.
As for the Hornets, I’m just waiting for the league to stop tripping and contract them. The NBA should had never allowed the Hornets to leave Charlotte in the first place.
- Oklahoma City Thunder*
- Denver Nuggets*
- Portland Trailblazers
- Utah Jazz
- Minnesota Timberwolves
Analysis: The Thunder is the clear class of this division. While the Nuggets will contend for a playoff spot, the only way the Nuggets win this division is if OKC falls asleep at the wheel – literally. As for the rest of the division, the last three team are stuck in rebuilding mode. Jazz fans are missing Jerry Sloan already.
- Los Angeles Lakers*
- Los Angeles Clippers*
- Phoenix Suns*
- Golden State Warriors
- Sacramento Kings
Analysis: The Lakers will still win this division, but barely over the Clippers. While I understand that it normally takes a majority of a season for new pieces to jell, I just love this Clippers team. Wow, talk about something I never thought I’d say out loud.
This may be the last playoff run the Suns will make with Steve Nash and Grant Hill in the twilight of their careers. Golden State is a team on the rise, but the jury is out until new coach Mark Jackson’s season is over. Speaking of seasons being over, it has to suck being a Kings fan these days. Maybe things will change once they move to Las Vegas? Just sayin’…
*-denotes playoff teams
Eastern Conference Champions: Miami Heat
Western Conference Champions: Oklahoma City Thunder