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1. Dallas Mavericks (63-19)
The reigning NBA champions will be back and better than ever now that they have Caron Butler back in the starting lineup to replace DeShawn Stevenson. The team has a number of aging veterans with Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion and Jason Kidd, but that's no reason to doubt this Mavericks team. They're dangerous as ever now that they have the championship they've been striving for since the turn of the millennium.
A number one seed only seems appropriate for the best team in the NBA.
2. Los Angeles Lakers (60-22)
Could this be the last significant run Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers make? It could be unless they make a strong push for Dwight Howard and surround him with talent to begin the newest era of Lakers basketball.
Bryant may be 32 and dealing with injuries and fatigue, but if I've learned anything about the NBA it's to never doubt Kobe. He, Pau Gasol, and Andrew Bynum will be looking for their third championship in the past four seasons.
3. Oklahoma City Thunder (59-23)
The scariest team in the NBA outside of Miami, the Thunder are littered with players reeking of athleticism and hunger with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook leading the forefront. There might be talk that the team is going through a minor crisis with both players attempting to fight for the role of offensive leader, but I wouldn't have any doubts about this Thunder team.
With the progression of players like Durant, Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and James Harden, the Thunder will be looking to make a significant push to the Finals after coming up short last year with a Conference Finals loss to the eventual champion Dallas Mavericks.
4. San Antonio Spurs (55-27)
Much like the Boston Celtics, this too could be the last chance for a significant run at the title for a dynasty. Unlike the Celtics though, the Spurs have reigned supreme as one of the NBA's top dynasties since the late-1990's and has continued to assert its authority each and every year by hitting the 50-win mark.
Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili are approaching the wrong side of 30 and it's going to be a huge surprise if they can guide their team through a conference that's packed with veteran-laden dynasties and up-and-coming, athletic squads.
5. Portland Trail Blazers (52-30)
The wild card of the NBA. Portland could very well find themselves near the top of the Western Conference if they get key players healthy and ready to play. Both Brandon Roy and Greg Oden have continued to suffer from setbacks with Roy's knees derailing what was once a promising NBA career and Oden just aching everywhere.
Even without those two, the Blazers are in prime shape to make a run at the championship. LaMarcus Aldridge proved last season that he's ready to lead this team by averaging 22 points and nine boards per while Wesley Matthews stepped up into the role of perimeter threat. They're joined by the athletic Gerald Wallace and newcomer Raymond Felton who will be replacing Andre Miller.
6. Memphis Grizzlies (48-34)
Think the Memphis Grizzlies will regress after that monumental playoff run last year? Doubt it. The Grizzlies have arrived and they're here to stay. Memphis features one of the NBA's top frontcourts with Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. Star small forward Rudy Gay, who was forced to miss the post season after suffering an injury late in the regular season, will be one of the team's top offensive options.
The Grizzlies are an extremely dangerous team with suitable post presences that would give any team fits, but they're going to need to improve in the backcourt when it comes to the offensive side of the ball as Mike Conley, Jr. and Tony Allen hardly provide any support.
7. New Orleans Hornets (46-36)
Possibly the last time you see Chris Paul in a New Orleans Hornets uniform, the organization will be doing all it can to keep CP3 in Louisiana and happy. After winning the Southwest Division in 2008, the Hornets have failed to win 50 games and haven't finished better than third since. This is mostly a result of every other team in the division improving with young talent while the Hornets have remained stagnant with their moves.
With Paul and David West continuing to lead this team, it's tough to think that they'll be able to lead the Hornets any further than the second round after another average season. The Hornets will need to give CP3 at least one more scorer and another perimeter threat if they want to keep him around and not fade into obscurity.
8. Los Angeles Clippers (44-38)
Surprise, surprise. Look who felt like crashing the party. After an impressive season (30-52 is impressive in Clipper standards), the other team in Los Angeles is looking to leave its imprint on the face of the NBA with their first post season appearance since 2006. With young talent in Blake Griffin and Eric Gordon leading the way, a Clippers postseason appearance will be anticipated and beloved by all that love watching entertaining basketball.
It'll be tough for the Clippers to make it, however, as they'll have to fend off the likes of Houston, Denver, Utah, Golden State and Phoenix just to secure the eighth seed.