After a frantic and whirlwind summer the NBA is finally set to open training camp and tip off its preseason.
The free agency period has come and gone, in its wake some teams became stronger while others are no longer contenders.
Miami may have been the biggest winner but several other teams bolstered their rosters as well.
The league has to be ecstatic as Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and Boston all improved this offseason. While other teams such as Golden State, Portland, Oklahoma City, and Milwaukee look to ascend to the fore front of contenders.
We will now examine the "REAL" top 30 teams and players in the NBA as they stand today.
Toronto won't be as bad as last year's Nets team, then again not sure we'll ever see a team that bad again. Still, the Raptors lost their franchise player in Chris Bosh and proven producer in Hedo Turkuglo.
Look for Toronto to use this as a year to prepare its players for playoff contention in 2012.
The Wizards may be better than most expect, but don't anticipate them making the playoffs this year.
John Wall's development and progression will be worth monitoring as he truly seems to be an electric and skilled player.
The Timberwolves had a great chance to add quality players this summer but instead just stockpiled players at positions of strength which didn't make much sense.
Minnesota has talent but whether it will be able to showcase it is another question.
With Danny Granger and Darren Collison things are looking up for Indiana.
The Pacers may contend for an eighth playoff seed in the East, but they're probably a year or two away from getting back into the postseason.
The Cavaliers won't go from first to worst, but they may come close.
Mo Williams and JJ Hickson will get a chance to prove what they can do minus LeBron James.
It's going to be a long and frustrating season in the Big Easy.
Expect Chris Paul to be traded sometime before the deadline and for the Hornets to go into rebuilding mode. They should be able to get some hefty compensation in return for one of the league's best players.
Sacramento looks to be on the upswing.
The Kings may be on the rise, but they're still a year or two from getting back into the playoffs.
Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins should form a formidable duo for years to come.
Like the Kings, the Nets are also headed in the right direction.
The Nets made the perfect hire by naming Avery Johnson their head coach. Johnson cares about his players and will help develop the plethora of talent that is being assembled.
Expect for the Nets to more than double their win total from last season.
The 76ers have a capable duo in Elton Brand and Andre Iguodala.
Philadelphia has a shot at being the eighth seed in the East, but in order to do so it must improve its consistency and effort.
The Bobcats made the playoffs last year but will be hard pressed to get back in this year.
You have to figure that spots one through six are taken, so the Bobcats will be fighting with the Knicks, Pistons and 76ers for one of the last two seeds.
Grizzlies have young talent that is just about ready to break through.
Expect Memphis to battle for a lower seed in the Western Conference. The Grizzlies can end up with the seventh or eighth spot. More than likely they'll have to wait til 2012 to get into the postseason.
No team besides the Miami Heat is a bigger enigma entering this season than the Warriors.
Golden State can easily make the playoffs and can just as easily win less than 30 games. It all depends on how they come out and perform in 2010.
Amare said the Knicks are back, not sure whether to believe him or not.
The Knicks will definitely be better than last year thanks to their offseason additions. If they can land Carmelo they would move up to somewhere in between five and twelve on our list.
Many feel the Pistons are dead. Beware because there is nothing more dangerous than a cornered animal.
Expect for Detroit to have a decent season and get back into the playoffs. Once in this team has the ability to pull off a shocker.
The Clippers are going to the playoffs this year.... maybe.
Can't believe those words were just said but anticipate a bigger and better Clippers team in 2010. It's more than likely that they'll end up facing the Lakers in a first round playoff battle for Los Angeles bragging rights.
The Rockets have talent and always seem to be mentioned as a possible destination for stars seeking trades.
Houston needs for Yao to stay healthy for a full season. If he does they will make the playoffs and will be a formidable opponent.
Jerry Sloan always gets the best from his players, expect this season to be no different.
Utah missed their window to beat the Lakers but will still be a solid playoff team thanks to star guard Deron Williams and others.
The Nuggets were originally ranked fifth on our list but we expect for Carmelo to depart before the season begins.
It's a shame Carmelo is moving on because this team did have the pieces to challenge the Lakers for the Western Conference title.
The Hawks are a good but not great team.
If Atlanta had managed to sign Shaq they would have been in the top ten and would have taken a step closer to beating Boston or Orlando.
It may not be time to "Fear The Deer" but Milwaukee is going to be a contender in 2010.
The Bucks added several pieces which have given them a deep and talented team. If Michael Redd can revert to the player he was three years ago then the Bucks, who have several talented youngsters, will be a very tough out in a seven game playoff series.
The Spurs trio of Ginobili, Parker and Duncan will have one more chance to ride majestically together.
Come next year the championship trio will be dismantled but in 2010 expect a hungry and motivated Spurs team to come out and fight for western conference supremacy.
The Thunder front office should be applauded for quickly working to build a contender for years to come.
Oklahoma City has an array of young talent and play makers. Last year showed they can compete with the very best teams in the league. Expect the Thunder to take another stride in the right direction in 2010.
The Suns just seem to be extremely unlucky as a team. On numerous occasions they appeared ready to take the next step only to somehow falter again.
While Amare's departure hurts, expect the Suns to once again contend for a western conference title and a shot at the NBA Finals.
They're not the Jordan and Pippen Bulls but Chicago is getting there.
This season look for the Bulls to be much improved over last years team. The addition of Boozer and several other role players along with the development of Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson will enable the Bulls to contend for an eastern conference title.
Chicago should win its division and make a second round playoff appearance.
The Blazers are poised to take a major step forward this year.
Thanks to a roster that has been stocked up with talent, look for Portland to pose a serious threat to a Lakers return to the NBA Finals.
It probably won;t be this year but sometime in the near future, small markets Oklahoma City and Portland are going to drive NBA league executives crazy by facing off in the Western conference Finals multiple times.
The Mavericks were so close to winning a title back in 2006, since then the team has seemed to underachieve one year after another.
This may be the Mavericks last chance to make it back to the Finals before Mark Cuban decides to blow up the blue print and start rebuilding,
Expect for Orlando and Miami to engage in a season long battle for their division title.
The Magic have a talented core of players but needed to acquire Chris Paul in order to take that next step. As is the Magic have a roster capable of winning a title but it would be a shock to see them do so.
Dwyane Wade was right when he said last season would be his last first round exit for a while. How far the Heat will go this year no one truly knows but they have the talent to win it all.
Expect Miami to finish with one of the best regular season records in league history. Once the playoffs start there will be plenty of obstacles in their way which must be over come for the South Beach Super Team to hoist the trophy.
Boston was a few rebounds or an untimely injury away from winning their second title in three years.
The Celtics will be back and they'll be bigger than ever too.
The additions of Shaq and Jermiane O'Neal are meant to assure that the Celtics chances will not be ruined because of a Kendrick Perkins injury.
As long as they hold the trophy they deserve to be atop our list.
Kobe Bryant is already one of the greatest players ever but this season he has a chance to become an undisputed legend.
The Lakers have a roster loaded with talent and will embark on their greatest challenge ever.
Can't wait til the Christmas Day showdown with the Heat.
This list can change based on how young stars and old veterans play this season. In particular players such as LaMarcus Aldridge, Brandon Jennings, and others will be worth keeping an eye on.
How can a guy average 25 points a game and not make the All Star team?
Whatever the reason it's time for the league to recognize and reward the talents of Monte Ellis. Til that time he'll continue to make himself an offensive force in the league.
Andre Iguodala doesn't get the recognition he deserves.
He is an extremely talented player but needs to take his team to the playoffs in order to move up in the list.
David Lee has shown during his career that he can fill up the stat sheet.
Lee is a gifted athlete who brings max effort night in and night out. The Warriors got a double-double machine when they signed the young and talented big man.
His best days may be behind him but Billups is still an NBA star.
Billups is one of the leagues best point guards and leaders. He is still a productive member and captain for the Nuggets. Chauncey is also the best point guard in the league when it comes to his post up game.
Manu is an extremely versatile and talented player.
If Manu can stay healthy he will once again show the league that he is an elite player.
Josh Smith is a physically gifted player that can be explosive at times.
Thanks to his leaping ability, athleticism and size, Smith is a stellar play maker. He needs to improve his jump shot in order to take his game to another level.
He may be young but Brook Lopez is already one of the NBA's best big men.
Look for Lopez to have a breakout season as he and the Nets will be vastly improved form last year.
Aussie Aussie Aussie Oi Oi Oi.
Andrew Bogut is the pride of Australian basketball. The big man from down under has shown flashes of being a great player. Expect for him and Milwaukee to both take a step up the ladder together this season.
Despite being in the twilight of his career, Paul Pierce remains as one of the leagues best scorers.
Pierce has lost a step or two but he can still explode on any given night. As is he remains a captain and contributor on an elite Celtics squad.
Evans showed last year that he is going to be one of the best point guards in the NBA for years to come.
He has incredible ball handling skills and does an excellent job of getting to the rim. If Evans develops a solid jumper he will be practically unstoppable.
Curry has been a joy to watch since his Davidson days.
As a rookie Curry showed why he is such a special player. Blessed with an incredible ability to put the rock in the basket, Curry now needs to work on bulking up.
Yao would be ranked much higher if only he could stay healthy.
During his career Yao has proved that he is not some Shawn Bradley or Manute Bol type of big man. Yao is the real deal but like Tracy McGrady he can't shake off the injury bug. The Rockets will look to limit Yao's minutes this season in an effort to prolong his career.
Wallace is one of the most unheralded stars in the league.
From sweet slam dunks to big time blocks, the Bobcats can count on Wallace being a productive player at both ends of the court.
Joe Johnson may have peaked as a player but he still has a few good seasons ahead of him.
Johnson has a sweet jumper and an all around solid game. He's a pretty good defender too but needs to come out and show he can lead a team further than he has up to this point of his career.
Boozer isn't flashy but he doesn't need to be.
This guy is basically an automatic double double every game. He quietly goes about his business and puts up great numbers each and every year.
He may not be a household name, but Danny Granger is a star in the making.
In order for Granger to get recognized as a star, he must find a way to get the Pacers into the playoffs. He has all the skills to be great but needs to prove he can lead a winning team.
Garnett is a shadow of his former self, but that's still better than over 90 percent of the league.
KG will never be as good as he was a few years back but he is still a prominent player on one of the leagues best teams. In his prime I contend that Garnett may have been the best power forward of the last 25 years.
Amare when healthy is an offensive force.
The Knicks will be vastly improved thanks to his addition. While his defensive game should be better for a guy with his size and athleticism, Amare won't need to play much of it under coach Mike D'Antoni.
Bosh is still a bit of a mystery. He's only 26 so we're about to discover just what his prime has to offer.
Up to this point Bosh has been a stellar offensive player and a decent one defensively. Expect Miami's training staff to add 15-20 lbs of muscle mass to his frame in the next year. If this happens bosh should be a much more dominant post presence.
It's funny how the guy that was once the fifth wheel in Boston is now its best player.
Rondo's speed and agility make him a special player. He can get into the paint at will and is a solid defender as well.
Imagine how good he could be if he developed a semi decent jump shot. Rondo would be absolutely unstoppable if that happened.
Derick Rose is set for a big year in 2010.
Rose has shown an incredible combination of quickness, strength and an ability to finish strong at the rim. The Bulls should have probably held on to Kirk Heinrich so they could have used Rose at the two spot a bit more. Regardless look for him to have his best year yet.
Gasol may look like a wookie more than a human but he's still one of the leagues best big men.
He can do it all for a big man. He gets big boards, blocks and has a good low post offensive game. Gasol also gives the Lakers a ton of energy with his effort.
Wonder how often Kobe thanks the basketball gods for having brought him Gasol? Without him the Lakers are just a good team, with him they're the NBA's best two years running.
Tim Duncan is well past his prime but he's still an incredibly productive player.
No one is a better role model for young NBA fans than Duncan. The guy has always been a class act. You've never seen Duncan involved in any off court drama.
As for his skills they're still some of the best when it comes to offense from the post. Duncan has mastered the use of the glass/backboard. He may have lost a couple steps but he can still bang with the best of them down-low.
Carmelo has got a ton of skills on the offensive end of the floor.
Anthony may be ranked higher by many but he needs to be a better all around player for that to occur. A possible change of scenery may help light a fire inside of him again.
Nash has sick offensive skills on a basketball court.
For the last eight years plus Nash has been one of the NBA's best point guards. He has incredible court vision which compliments his great passing and ball handling abilities.
Brandon Roy is a well rounded NBA star.
While he may not get the hype of many elite players that's about to change next season. Look for Roy and the Blazers to both garner national attention and praise for their play this year.
If I could take one point guard in the league right now to build a team around it would probably be Deron Williams.
Williams is a multifaceted player capable of beating you off the dribble, pass or spot up jumper. In order for him to get more national attention, he has to either leave Utah or make them serious contenders.
Can't recall ever seeing a 7 foot player with a better shot than Dirks.
People knock Dirk as being a soft player but that's not an accurate assessment. The guy doesn't mind banging down-low and gets boards. It just so happens that his best attribute is his shooting so he tends to play farther away from the paint than most power forwards.
Chris Paul is one of the most talented and skilled players in the league.
Once he gets traded Paul will receive much more exposure and will have a renewed determination to prove himself.
Dwight Howard is the NBA's best big man.
A ferocious monster on the court, Howard is the exact opposite off of it. He is definitely Superman like with his split personalities.
Howard is dominant on defense, but needs to find a way to improve on his offensive game. If he does Dwight might end up on top of this list one day.
While he still has room to improve Kevin Durant is already one of the NBA's best players.
Durant has a silky smooth jump shot and a load of talent. He's long, lean and athletic.
Durant will be a force in the league for the next decade. Imagine how sick Portland's roster would be had they taken Durant over Oden.
Dwyane Wade may not be the most talented or physically gifted player in the league but he may very well be its best.
Since entering the NBA, Wade has shown that the fire which burns within him is enough to scorch most opponents. Wade is an incredibly skilled player that can beat you on both ends of the court with his play making ability.
Depending on what happens early this season Wade may end up on top of the list by the start of 2011.
How many game winners did Kobe nail last season? Eight, nine, ten?
While his age and arthritic finger may soon pose a problem look for Kobe to come out hungry and determined in 2010. The chance to win a sixth title will drive him to workout and prepare for this year like none before.
Bryant is extremely talented and has one of the leagues best basketball IQ's. He has a great jump shot and can still beat you off the dribble. Bryant is also one of the leagues best defenders.
Kobe is the leader and star on the two time defending NBA champions. As long as he remains one of the leagues best so will his team.
He's a two time MVP and he's only 25 years old. Try and let that sink in for a moment, he is 25 years old and he's been the leagues best player twice.
LeBron James may not be a king yet but that's just his first ring away. When it comes to skills LeBron is head and shoulders above the pack. Never before has the league had a player with his combination of size, speed, skill, and strength.
LeBron can dribble, shoot, drive, pass, defend, block, etc etc. You name it he can do it. He's also one of the few players in the league capable of playing all five positions.
James needs to give up the pregame dances, mime photography and playing with baby powder. This is the year where he has all the motivation and none of the excuses. To be truly great he has to win it all and do so right away.