1. Boston Celtics
Last year's champs. Number one until they get beat.
2. Los Angeles Lakers
Bryant, Gasol, Bynum, and Odom. Can't get much better then that. Last year's runner-up. The Lakers should make a run to the end again, and in my prediction win it all.
3. New Orleans Hornets
Chris Paul proved last year that he's the best point guard in the league. Newly-acquired James Posey will help the Hornets with his playoff experience and tough defense. Add in other players like Tyson Chandler, David West, and Peja Stojakovic, this team will be very hard to eliminate come playoff time.
4. Utah Jazz
The Jazz might have the best all-around starting five in the league, with the exception of the Lakers. Although the Jazz didn't like the outcome of the playoffs last year, they did gain experience, and that's important for a young team. After a great run in the Olympics, Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer will be ready to lead the Jazz deep in the playoffs.
5. Detroit Pistons
You can always count on the Pistons to have a 50-win season and get deep into the playoffs. Chauncey Billups was banged up and not himself last year in the playoffs, but the Pistons still advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals. They also have nice young upcoming stars in Rodney Stuckey and Jason Maxiell.
6. San Antonio Spurs
It seems like every regular season the Spurs fly under the radar—that is, until the playoffs start. I guess that's how they like it.
Even though Manu Ginobili will miss some time due to injury, you can always count on Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and head coach Gregg Popovich to lead the Spurs to the promised land.
7. Toronto Raptors
I am really high on the Raptors this year. Jermaine O'Neal has had a lot of injury problems (although I just think he was tired of playing in Indiana), but I see him having a great year. He has slimmed down and is determined to get back to his old self.
With one of the leagues best young players in Chris Bosh, and an amazing point guard in Jose Calderon, the Raptors could very well be a scary contender in the East. Andrea Bargnani has also played real well in this years preseason. However, if he doesn't step his game up, by the end of the year he will be considered a first-pick bust.
P.S. Jason Kapano is the BEST shooter in the game
8. Houston Rockets
You can always think what if...but what if this is the year that the Houston Rockets finally stay healthy? As of right now, the Rockets look like a top-five team—that is, if they can avoid the injury bug. With Ron Artest coming to town to join T-Mac and Yao, this team looks to be for real. Remember, the Rockets did win a historic 22 games in a row last year.
9. Orlando Magic
With Superman Dwight Howard, as well as Hedo Turkoglu—who came out of nowhere to have an All-Star type of season, and Rashard Lewis who can shoot from anywhere. The Magic look to continue their push to the top in the Eastern Conference.
10. Cleveland Cavaliers
If LeBron was on the Knicks, the Knicks would be in the number 9 slot. No matter who plays around him he will still win you games. However, with Mo Williams leaving Milwaukee to come to Cleveland, LeBron finally as a real point guard to play with, and that might just be what the King has been looking for.
11. Phoenix Suns
Even with Shaq coming to the desert, the Suns still failed to reach the Finals. On the other hand, a whole year of Shaq playing alongside two-time MVP Steve Nash and stud Amare Stoudemire could mean anything is possible in Phoenix.
12. Dallas Mavericks
In my opinion, Avery Johnson was a pretty damn good coach, but I guess he just wasn't the right fit in Dallas. Now with a new head coach in Rick Carlisle, and a weird offseason for Josh Howard, the Mavs should still mark their spot in the 2008-09 playoffs. With Hall of Famer Jason Kidd and All-Star Dirk Nowitzki, this team is still loaded with talent.
13. Philadelphia 76ers
What a run Philly had last year! It seemed to come out of no where. Now with the addition of Elton Brand, th Sixers could be a scary contender in the East. With a young stud in Andre Igoudala and an rising star in Thaddeus Young, the sky is the limit.
14. Portland Trail Blazers
I know everyone is high on the Blazers this year, but who knows how they will play? They were just an average team last year, and with great young talent players like Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge, Greg Oden, and Rudy Fernandez, they will most likely have some chemistry issues to start the year. However, I do see them earning a spot in this year's playoffs.
15. Denver Nuggets
The loss of Marcus Camby will hurt the Nuggets tremendously, but with players like Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony they still could make a run to the playoffs. However, defense wins championships and the Nuggets have absolutely none.
16. Miami Heat
The Heat should drastically be better then their 15-win season last year. Dwyane Wade has looked like a lock for the season MVP before the year has even started. He is completely healthy, and with Shawn Marion and rookie Michael Beasley by his side, the Heat look to become the force they once were in the East.
17. Atlanta Hawks
The Hawks gave a scare to the NBA champions Boston Celtics last year in the playoffs before losing in seven games. That will give the Hawks confidence—and if they make the playoffs more experience, which is very important. It is also nice to have young All-Star-caliber players in Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Al Horford, and Marvin Williams.
18. Chicago Bulls
A lot of people were picking the Bulls to come out of the East last year—shows how much they know. However, with a new head coach, first-overall pick Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, and Ben Gordon, Chicago looks to get back on track this year.
19. Milwaukee Bucks
New head coach Scott Skiles will make sure the Bucks become a skilled defensive team. The addition of Richard Jefferson and rookie Joe Alexander should help Michael Redd and company in having a much better season than last.
20. Charlotte Bobcats
With Larry Brown as the head coach, and players like Jason Richardson, Gerald Wallace, Raymond Felton, Emeka Okafor, and rookie D.J Augustin, the Bobcats have the talent to finally become a contender in the East.
21. Los Angeles Clippers
Elton Brand surprisingly left and Corey Maggette moved to Golden State. On a good note, the Clippers did acquire Baron Davis, Ricky Davis, and Marcus Camby. Their squad also features Al Thornton and Chris Kaman. I would not be surprised at all to see this team grab a spot in this year's playoffs.
22. Indiana Pacers
Even though Jermaine O'Neal has left Indiana, they did get T.J Ford in return, who will contribute more to the Pacers than Jamaal Tinsley gave them. Young star Danny Granger will break out and try to lead the Pacers into the postseason. They did just miss the playoffs by one game last year.
23. Sacramento Kings
With stud Kevin Martin, and players like John Salmons, Francisco Garcia, and veteran Brad Miller, the Kings could surprise people. Also, point guard Beno Udrih does not get much respect around the league, but he can play.
24. Washington Wizards
I wish I could rank the Wizards higher, but I just can't. They have more injuries then any other team in the league.
We all know about Gilbert Arenas being out probably until January, but center Brendan Haywood—coming off his finest season as a pro—could be lost for the entire season following surgery on his right wrist to repair ligament damage. That is terrible news for Washington fans. How much can Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison do?
25. Golden State Warriors
The good news is that they acquired Corey Maggette—the bad new is that they lost Baron Davis to free agency, Monta Ellis to injury, and with them possibly any hope for competing for a playoff spot.
26. New Jersey Nets
The Nets' first full season without stars Jason Kidd and Richard Jefferson should be a very long year. Despite some good young talent, Vince Carter is getting older by the day, and wins will come hard for New Jersey.
I'm sure the Nets cannot wait until 2010 comes so they can take a shot at getting LeBron James.
27. Minnesota Timberwolves
The Timberwolves knew they would have some tough years ahead when they traded away future Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett. However, they did get Al Jefferson in return, who is evolving into one of the best big men in the game.
With additions like Mike Miller and rookie Kevin Love, the T-Wolves are just a couple more years away from competing in the tough Western Conference.
28. Memphis Grizzlies
The Grizzlies had a rough 2007-08 season, going just 22-60, and were criticized and mocked for trading away All-Star Pau Gasol. However, with Pau's younger brother Marc—who looks like he can be a very nice NBA player—as well as young stars Rudy Gay and OJ Mayo, this team will complie a nice highlight reel this season. But that's about it.
29. New York Knicks
With new head coach Mike D’Antoni, could this finally be the year the Knicks become a contender in the East? The answer is no. Come on, New York—make a believer out of all of us!
30. Oklahoma City Thunder
Anyway, this team should be at the bottom of the standings by year's end. With Rookie of the Year Kevin Durant, and nice young players in Jeff Green and Russell Westbrook, the Thunder are years away.