It has been a chaotic NBA offseason, filled with player movement, promising draft picks and players making comebacks. The season begins in less than two months, and the rosters are basically all set.
There has been a power shift in the Western Conference when the Lakers landed Steve Nash and Dwight Howard. The Oklahoma City Thunder were thought to be the top seed for many years, but they will now have to deal with the reloaded Lakers, among others.
The East still belongs to the Miami Heat, but there are a handful of teams that have a reason to be optimistic. After failing to make the playoffs last season, these teams should make a return to the postseason in 2012-2013.
The Washington Wizards enter the season without lofty expectations, which might enable them to turn some heads this year. Though I’ve never considered John Wall to be an elite player, he should have plenty of talent around him now to do something. He has a couple of great guards to play alongside in Jordan Crawford and rookie Bradley Beal.
The frontcourt is solid across the board with Nene, Emeka Okafor and Jan Vesely. Toss in 27-year-old Trevor Ariza, and you have the makings of a team that could finally be headed in the right direction. Their depth could be a concern, especially if they are unable to keep everyone healthy throughout the season.
The Nets are expected to have a much better season with the acquisition of Joe Johnson. He and Deron Williams will give Brooklyn one of the deadliest offensive backcourt combinations in the league. Behind Johnson is a rising star in Marshon Brooks, who put on a clinic this summer in Orlando.
While the Gerald Wallace contract numbers might not make sense, this is a guy that has underrated value. He's not an elite shooter, but his athleticism is difficult to match. We know Kris Humphries is good for 15 points and 10 rebounds per night, and Brook Lopez should continue to get better. His talent and potential make him a top-three center in the East.
The signing of CJ Watson will prove to be a great one, especially when pairing him with Brooks off the bench. This team isn't as deep as most others, but the core group is solid. They should contend for a top-four spot in the Eastern Conference this season.
The Timberwolves made a lot of buzz this offseason. The biggest thing this team needs is for everyone to stay healthy. Ricky Rubio is coming back from a torn ACL, while Brandon Roy and his troublesome knees are making a comeback to the league. J.J. Barea was also injured for a significant amount of last season.
If Derrick Williams can make a big stride this season, the Wolves can make some noise out West. Kevin Love talked about how important winning is to him this summer, and he is making sure management takes notice.
The additions of Greg Stiemsma, Andrei Kirilenko and Chase Budinger were great, underrated moves in my opinion. All of these guys know their role, and they will quickly find where they fit in. For the first time in a long time, there seems to be some real optimism in Minnesota.
To me, the team that will improve the most this season is the Warriors.
These guys were devastated by injuries all of last season. If Steph Curry and Andrew Bogut return to health, they will be force in the West. This summer we saw that Klay Thompson is a true assassin. This starting backcourt of Curry and Thompson should be the highest-scoring combo in the league in my opinion.
There is plenty of talent to go around with this team.
Even guys like Jarrett Jack, Brandon Rush and Andris Biedrins are going to have to scratch and claw for playing time. The frontcourt should be solid with David Lee, Carl Landry and rookies Harrison Barnes, Festus Ezeli and Draymond Green. Richard Jefferson will provide the veteran leadership that this young team needs.
Don't be surprised when late in the year, you realize the Warriors are fighting for the fourth or fifth seed in the Western Conference.
Has any team in the league encountered more bad luck than the Trail Blazers?
Fingers are crossed in Portland that things finally get turned around. They have an All-Star power forward in LaMarcus Aldridge, who is finally returning to health. They were able to fend off the Wolves, who were going after forward Nicolas Batum this summer.
Add in a couple of special rookies, and things begin to look promising for the future.
Meyers Leonard is a work in progress, but Damian Lillard is the real deal. Lillard comes in ready to replace Raymond Felton at point guard and should have the offense running smoothly midway into the season.
Wesley Matthews and Ronnie Price will give the Blazers some quality minutes as well. We all know how injuries work with this franchise, so forgive Portland fans for being cautiously optimistic. They may not be a threat to the upper echelon of teams in the West, but they should compete for a playoff spot.