L.A. Lakers- With Andrew Bynum coming back off his season-ending surgury and Kobe Bryant coming off an MVP season, I expect the Lakers to finish first in the West. Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum will be one the premier front-court's in the NBA. Altough they lost Ronny Turiaf, they still have a solid bench. Just remember, they traded for Pau in the middle of season and they still finished with the best record.
New Orleans Hornets- With Chris Paul coming off an MVP caliber season, and the Hornets having a very good young core; I expect the hornets to have a very good season. In last year's playoffs they lacked play playoff experience, but with the signing off James Posey; I expect the Hornets to go very deep into the playoffs.
Houston Rockets- The only reason this team is #3, is because the addition of Ron Artest. When Ron-Ron is on his game, he can be one of the best defender's in the league and a great scorer. They won 22 straight games last year and about half of them were without Yao. If this team has no injuries throughout the season, they will finally get out of the first round.
Utah Jazz- Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer are one of the best duo's in the NBA, and they are playing very well in the Olympics right now as well. They have a deep bench, and they should have a very good season.
San Antonio Spurs- This team wont win another NBA championship, but they will definitely make it to the playoffs. Tim Duncan is getting old but he's still a 20/10 guy, but the west is so strong; that I see the Spurs making an early playoff exit. They did very little in free agency as well, so this team has not got better.
Portland Trail Blazers- The Blazers are one of the youngest teams in the NBA, and have many future All-Stars. Greg Oden is returning from his injury, and by the looks of it he is now 100% healthy. Jay Bayless was the Summer League MVP, and he was a steal at #13(via trade). Brandon Roy, is the leader of this team; which shows you how good they'll be in years to come.
Phoenix Suns- Last season, the Suns traded Shawn Marion for Shaquille O'Neal to help them in the playoffs and that did not work. In fact, they lost in the first round. The team is one year older, and have not improved that much this off-season except by drafting Robin Lopez. I see an early exit for Suns in the 2009 NBA playoffs.
Dallas Mavericks- Last season, the Mavericks felt like they had to make a big trade. They did just that, trading for Jason Kidd; a proven All-Star in the past. It was a trade that was suppose to get them back in the finals, except they lost in the first round. This team is one year older, and have not improved this off-season. If they make the playoffs, expect an early exit as well.
L.A. Clippers- They lost Elton Brand, but they got two great players in return. Baron Davis and Marcus Camby are the two key players the Clippers picked up this off-season. Drafting Eric Gordon was also a very good pick up in the draft. This team has improved tremendously this off-season. I expect the Mavericks and Clippers to fight for the eighth seed in the West.
This is my Playoff Picture for the 2008-2009 NBA season.