The NBA preseason is dismissed by many, but it is extremely vital to a team's development. Rookies use the time to adjust to the speed of the pro game, while head coaches both new and old establish the philosophies that will carry their respective squads throughout the season.
This year, many teams have used the exhibition schedule to their full advantage, either building off of the success of the previous campaign or integrating new players into their system. In both conferences, teams that aren't considered among the league's elite have surprised so far this preseason.
Whether those teams will be able to ride that wave of solid play into the regular season remains to be seen, but if so, then the perennial contenders will have a new batch of playoff party crashers to worry about in 2012-13.