The preseason brings with it renewed hope, with the heartbreak of last season—unless you're the Miami Heat—forgotten in favor of working towards a resurgent 2012-13.
However, some of this hope will not last long, and as teams fail to live up to the expectations they set prior to the season, title aspirations will fade. The following teams will find that out this year.
New York Knicks
Can the Knicks be counted as a legitimate title contender? There are many in New York who would have you believe so.
Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire will ensure that they stay in most games, and the presence of Tyson Chandler and Steve Novak certainly gives the impression of a team that could go somewhere.
However, in an age where everything in sports is getting younger, the Knicks decided that what they actually needed were older players, so they brought in Kurt Thomas, Rasheed Wallace, Jason Kidd and Marcus Camby.
All of these players are aged between 38 and 40, which suggests that the Knicks are adopting a “win now” attitude. The problem with this is that the same problems will remain, with Anthony and Stoudemire at the heart of them, either through ball-hogging or polluting team chemistry.
Mike Woodson could find that his first full season in charge is a very long one indeed.
San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs looked great for long periods of last season, but when it came to the Conference Finals, the Oklahoma City Thunder proved too much for them.
They are still contenders, that's for certain, but the team faces a similar problem to the one the Knicks have brought upon themselves.
Tim Duncan remains the heart of the team, but at 36, the concern is that both he and Manu Ginobli will struggle to reach previous heights as the years go by.
The Spurs' season is still somewhat dependant on Duncan, so Gregg Popovich will need solid contributions from Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green throughout the entire season if the team is to make a real challenge.
A poor start to the year could ensure that the title remains out of reach for another year
A new city, a new start. Such a cleaning of the slate inevitably brings with it a rise in expectations. The Nets have played that up with their offseason moves, bringing in Gerald Williams and Joe Johnson.
Johnson averaged 19 points per game last year and the hope is that he can link with Williams, with one drawing the defense and allowing the other the freedom to shoot.
This source of encouragement also accounts for the worry. New teammates bring an obvious possibility of disharmony, and the early part of the season is where this will show the most.
The new players will need time to integrate themselves, and the new location isn't going to make things easier. This is exacerbated by the issue of depth. Past the starters, there are doubts about the bench players—excepting Marshon Brooks—and this will keep them from true contention.
The feeling persists that the Nets are going somewhere, but the early part of this season will ensure that this year isn't when it happens.