2010-2011 NBA Preview: Power Ranking All 30 Teams

Wesley Kaminsky@@Wesley_KaminskyCorrespondent IIISeptember 22, 2010

2010-2011 NBA Preview: Power Ranking All 30 Teams

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    MIAMI - JULY 09:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat is introduced during a welcome party at American Airlines Arena on July 9, 2010 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
    Marc Serota/Getty Images

    It was the most historic offseason in NBA history, with big name stars going to new places. 

    The Heat struck gold when Pat Riley landed LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. Can they co-exist? 

    As good as the Heat got, the Lakers are still the team to beat, and got even better. 

    It will be a crazy NBA season. Fasten your seat belts.

No. 30: Toronto Raptors

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    ATLANTA - DECEMBER 02:  Andrea Bargnani #7 of the Toronto Raptors against the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena on December 2, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph,
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    2009-2010 record: 40-42

    The Raptors are in trouble this season and it will be a long year. After losing Chris Bosh, the Raptors are counting on Andrea Bargnani even more this season. Looking at their roster, I can’t see how they aren’t one of the worst in the NBA. 

    The Raptors made no major moves during the offseason. Over-paying Amir Johnson, acquiring Leandro Barbosa, and drafting Ed Davis highlighted their offseason. I still cannot understand why they gave Johnson a five-year, $34 million deal. Maybe I’ll be proven wrong this season, but I don’t see it. 

    With Chris Bosh’s presence gone, the Raptors are hoping Ed Davis can be the guy to fill that void. Davis, out of North Carolina, never lived up to the hype in college, struggling to find a rhythm on offense, and suffering injuries. He definitely could have benefited from another year in college. 

    Prediction: 17-65

No. 29: Minnesota Timberwolves

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    NEW YORK - JUNE 24:  Wesley Johnson stands with NBA Commisioner David Stern after being drafted by The Minnesota Timberwolves at Madison Square Garden on June 24, 2010 in New York City.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downlo
    Al Bello/Getty Images

    2009-2010 record: 15-67

    Last season the Timberwolves had just 15 wins, and during the offseason got rid of Al Jefferson and replaced him with Darko Milicic. I'm still trying to understand what Darko has ever done to deserve a four-year, $20 million deal. With Kevin Love healthy and looking impressive during the FIBA world championships, the Wolves had a nice frontcourt of Jefferson and Love. 

    The Wolves also loaded up at point guard as usual, adding Luke Rindour and Sebastian Telfair to already go along with Jonny Flynn and Ricky Rubio if he were to ever play. 

    Another move David Kahn made was bringing in Michael Beasley, who has vowed that he has changed and that all he needed was a fresh start. This is a perfect opportunity for him going to a team that doesn't have a true number one option. Can he be that guy? 

    One thing I do like is the pick of Wesley Johnson. 

    Prediction: 19-63

No. 28: Sacramento Kings

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    DALLAS - FEBRUARY 12:  Tyreke Evans #13 of the Rookie team holds MVP trophy after defeating the Sophomore team during the T-Mobile Rookie Challenge & Youth Jam part of 2010 NBA All-Star Weekend at American Airlines Center on February 12, 2010 in Dallas, T
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    2009-2010 record: 25-57

    There's hope in Sacramento, and they are a team on the rise. The playoffs will be on their radar, just not this year. 

    With a young nucleus of Tyreke Evans, Omri Casspi, Carl Landry, and DeMarcus Cousins, the Kings have the makings of a good team.

    The Kings had a decent offseason, drafting Cousins, and trading for the lengthy Samuel Dalembert. They are deep at big man, also drafting seven-footer Hassan Whiteside in the second round. 

    This team just isn't consistent enough yet to make a run at the post season. Give them a few more years.

    Prediction: 27-55

No. 27: Golden State Warriors

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    OAKLAND, CA - FEBRUARY 21:  Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors celebrates against the Atlanta Hawks during an NBA game at Oracle Arena on February 21, 2010 in Oakland, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    2009-2010 record: 26-56

    This past offseason the Warriors traded Corey Maggette in exchange for Charlie Bell and Dan Gadzuric. Clearly, Maggette was not in the Golden State's plans, and there was really no reason he should be. 

    The Warriors are a team who need to build around Stephen Curry. They started to this offseason bringing in David Lee, who will thrive in Don Nelson's system. If Andres Biedrins can stay healthy, the Warriors have a potentially scary front court of Lee, lottery pick Epke Udoh, and Biedrins. 

    With Curry and Monta Ellis in the backcourt, the Warriors can sure score a lot. What they need though is some depth, and to try and get rid of the giant contract of Ellis. Don't get me wrong, Monta is a great player, but with Curry I just don't think they need Ellis also. 

    The Warriors won't be returning to the playoffs anytime soon, and I really don't know why Don Nelson is still coaching this team. 

    Prediction: 28-54

No. 26: Detroit Pistons

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    CHICAGO - DECEMBER 02: Rodney Stucky #3 of the Detroit Pistonsbrings the ball upcourt against the Chicago Bulls at the United Center on December 2, 2009 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls defeated the Pistons 92-85. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    2009-2010 record: 27-55

    Remember when the Pistons were contenders in the East every year? It seems so long ago, and now they are a team headed in the wrong direction.

    Their decline started when Joe Dumars stupidly traded Chauncey Billups for Allen Iverson. Following that trade, the Pistons have not been the same. Richard Hamilton is no longer the player he once was, and because the Pistons are rebuilding, Rip might not be in Dumars’ plans. The same goes for Tayshaun Prince, who has struggled to stay healthy the past few seasons. 

    Drafting Greg Monroe, and signing Tracy McGrady headlined the Pistons summer moves. Signing T-Mac will either be hit or miss, because you just don’t know what he has left in the tank and if he will take a secondary role. With Rodney Stuckey, Hamilton, Ben Gordon, and McGrady, the Pistons are guard heavy, and there aren’t enough minutes to go around.

    I can’t see the Pistons returning to the playoffs this season. With so few roster changes, it’s hard to believe they’ve gotten much better. 

    Prediction: 29-53

No. 25: New Jersey Nets

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    NEW YORK - MAY 19:  New Jersey Nets Owner Mikhail Prokhorov addresses the media during a press conference at the Four Seasons Hotel on May 19, 2010 in New York City.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
    Mike Stobe/Getty Images

    2009-2010 record: 12-70

    The good thing about the Nets is that they can only go up from last season. They won’t have a similar nightmare season that they had a season ago.  They’re a team headed in the right direction.

    The main goal of the Nets offseason was the same as everyone else’s with money: To woo LeBron James.  Mikhail Prokhorov and Jay-Z did all they could do, but it was not enough. Aside from James, the Nets had their sights set on Carlos Boozer, who chose Chicago over New Jersey. So, you might be asking yourself, who did the Nets even get this offseason?

    While the odds were in their favor to win the lottery, the luck didn’t go the Nets way, and they got the third pick and selected Derrick Favors. While John Wall is the better player, a point guard is not what the Nets needed. A potential frontcourt of Favors and Brook Lopez could be scary.

    Along with Favors, the Nets got Troy Murphy, a serviceable big man who can spread the floor with his three point shooting. Feeling they needed more shooters, the Nets brought in sharpshooter Anthony Morrow, and swingman Travis Outlaw.

    On paper, the Nets look like they shouldn’t be that bad, and with Avery Johnson aboard as head coach, I can assure you they won’t have 12 again this season.

    Prediction: 30-52

No. 24: Indiana Pacers

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    OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 30:  Danny Granger #33 of the Indiana Pacers in action during their game against the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena on November 30, 2009 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by do
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    2009-2010 record: 32-50

    The Pacers filled their void at point guard this offseason by trading for Darren Collison. A good point guard makes a big difference, but it won’t be enough for a playoff berth.

    For the Pacers to be successful, they need Danny Granger to stay healthy and carry this team.  Roy Hibbert showed improvement a season ago, and I expect him to get even better this year. A question mark for Indiana is at shooting guard, where they don’t know what to expect. With Brandon Rush not being what the Pacers hoped, they drafted Paul George, who can spread the floor for this team.

    Don’t expect anything special out of the Pacers this season. It should be another quiet year.

    Prediction: 31-51

No. 23: Cleveland Cavaliers

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    BOSTON - MAY 13:  Mo Williams #2 of the Cleveland Cavaliers reacts after he is called for a foul in the fourth quarter against the Boston Celtics during Game Six of the Eastern Conference Semifinals of the 2010 NBA playoffs at TD Garden on May 13, 2010 in
    Elsa/Getty Images

    2009-2010 record: 61-21

    What do Cavs fans have to look forward to this season? The only thing I can think of is December 2, when LeBron returns to Cleveland in an ovation of boos.

    After yet another disappointing playoffs last season, the Cavaliers not only lost, but also lost their franchise player, leaving them in big trouble. Which player on the Cavs is primed to take over as the first option? We all “witnessed” Mo Williams and Antawn Jamison’s disappearing act last year against the Celtics, and now they both have to carry the burden.

    General manager Chris Grant says the Cavaliers will get a big name before the trade deadline with the trade exception they got in the LeBron sign and trade. What big name would want to go to Cleveland though? It will be a struggle for the Cavs this year.

    Prediction: 33-49

No. 22: Washington Wizards

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    NEW YORK - JUNE 24:  John Wall of Kentucky stands with NBA Commisioner David Stern after being drafted with the first pick by The Washington Wizards at Madison Square Garden on June 24, 2010 in New York, New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowl
    Al Bello/Getty Images

    2009-2010 record: 26-56

    After a disastrous season last year, the Wizards got a blessing when they won the lottery. With that pick they selected John Wall. Needing a new face for their franchise after Gilbert Arenas' troubles, Wall was the right pick for them.

    However, the problem is that the Wizards still have Gilbert Arenas. The question now that lies ahead is if he and Wall can co-exist. 

    In addition to Arenas and Wall at guard, the Wizards traded for Kirk Hinrich from the Bulls. Hinrich, a defensive specialist and veteran leader, will be a good role model for John Wall. He sure did a good job with Derrick Rose. 

    I don't think the Wizards will return to the playoffs this year, but I've been wrong before. With those guards, and not to mention Josh Howard and Al Thornton, the Wizards have the talent to return to the post season.

    Prediction: 35-47

No. 21: Philadelphia 76ers

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    NEW YORK - JUNE 24:  Evan Turner of Ohio State stands with NBA Commisioner David Stern after being drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers second overall at Madison Square Garden on June 24, 2010 in New York City.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and
    Al Bello/Getty Images

    2009-2010 record: 27-55

    Following a nightmare season a year ago, the Sixers fired Eddie Jordan and hired Doug Collins. Hiring Collins was a tremendous move for the Sixers and definitely leads them in the right direction.  In addition to Collins, the Sixers lucked out by landing Evan Turner with the second pick of the draft.  Turner, the reigning Naismith Player of the Year, seems extremely pro ready, and has comparisons to Brandon Roy. The Sixers would not mind that.

    In addition to Turner, the Sixers unloaded the contract of Samuel Dalembert to the Kings in exchange for Andres Nocioni and Spencer Hawes. The Sixers got the best value they could out of Dalembert, and Nocioni brings a toughness to this team. He’s a guy who is not afraid to take a hard foul, or throw an elbow. I think that’s something the Sixers were lacking.

    If Evan Turner is impressive in his rookie season, the Sixers could very well find their way back into the playoffs. A potential duo of Turner and Andre Iguodala could be dangerous. This is also a big year for Jrue Holiday, a good defender, who showed promise in his rookie season. Now he’s the starter, and the Sixers are expecting big things out of him.

    Prediction: 36-46

No. 20: New Orleans Hornets

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    NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 02:  Chris Paul #3 of the New Orleans Hornets celebrates after defeating  the Houston Rockets 95-99 at the New Orleans Arena on January 2, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    2009-2010 record: 37-45

    It was an interesting summer for the Hornets, with Chris Paul on the verge of being traded. Instead, the Hornets acquired Trevor Ariza, giving Paul some more help. Unfortunately for the Hornets though, Ariza does not solve their problems.

    Chris Paul wants to win, and wants to win now. The Hornets will not win with this team. A big part of their success has to do with Emeka Okafor, who did not fit in with the Hornets in his first year. He and David West would be a nice tandem down low.

    Perhaps the biggest problem with the Hornets is their lack of depth. Who is going to give this team a spark off the bench? Peja Stojakovic is not what he once was, and they have unproven players like Marco Bellineli just to name one.

    Prediction: 35-47

No. 19: Los Angeles Clippers

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 15:  Eric Gordon #10 of the Los Angeles Clippers drives against Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers in the third quarter during the game on January 15, 2010 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User e
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    2009-2010 record: 29-53

    I want to believe in the Clippers, I really do. This team is too talented to be as disappointing as they have been the past few seasons. Seriously, just look at their starting lineup:

    Baron Davis

    Eric Gordon

    Al-Farouq Aminu / Rasual Butler

    Blake Griffin

    Chris Kaman

    Look at the starting lineup, and try to tell me it's not scary. That's the problem. On paper they are a dangerous team, but once they step on the court, it doesn't matter who is on the floor. 

    I can assure you one thing: the Clippers won't have 50 losses again this year. Blake Griffin will be playing with a purpose and the Clippers will compete for a playoff berth. There, I said it. 

    Prediction: 38-44

No. 18: Memphis Grizzlies

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    NEW YORK - AUGUST 15:  Rudy Gay #8 of the United States goes up for the dunk against France during their exhibition game as part of the World Basketball Festival at Madison Square Garden on August 15, 2010 in New York City.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Ima
    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    2009-2010 record: 40-42

    Well, the Grizzlies showed they were not going to lose Rudy Gay when they signed him to a max contract of five years and over $80 million. While Gay may be overpaid, the Grizzlies like the current team they have and believe Gay can be their number one option. 

    Aside from Gay, the Grizzlies have a nice young nucleus of O.J Mayo and Marc Gasol. Not to mention Zach Randolph, who made his first all star game last season. 

    This team did not lose anybody during the offseason, only signing Tony Allen and Acie Law. I like what the Grizzlies are doing,but I just think that in the competitive western conference, the Grizzlies will miss out on the post season again.

    Prediction: 39-43

No. 17: Charlotte Bobcats

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    CHARLOTTE, NC - APRIL 26: Charlotte Bobcats principal owner Michael Jordan watches in disappointment as time runs down against the Orlando Magic at Time Warner Cable Arena on April 26, 2010 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  The Magic defeated the Bobcats 99-
    Brian A. Westerholt/Getty Images

    2009-2010 record: 44-38

    Last season the Bobcats made the playoffs for the first time in franchise history before being swept by the Magic. During the offseason, the Bobcats did not do anything to build on that playoff appearance. 

    The Bobcats lost Raymond Felton to the Knicks, leaving the point guard duties to Shaun Livingston and D.J. Augustin. I do not get how that is better than Felton. 

    After trading for Stephen Jackson last year, he gave them a huge spark and was a leader in the locker room. He and underrated forward Gerald Wallace need to carry this team.

    I think the Bobcats can return to the playoffs, but that is as far as they can go. With so few changes in the roster, it is hard to believe they will do anything more than what they did last season.

    Prediction: 40-42 (Eighth seed in East)

No. 16: New York Knicks

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    PHOENIX - JUNE 22:  Amar'e Stoudemire of the Phoenix Suns attends the Major League Baseball game between the New York Yankees and the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on June 22, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    2009-2010 record: 29-53

    Although the Knicks' summer did not turn out as they hoped it would, they still improved greatly, and will compete for a playoff berth this season. Not wanting to risk missing out on a big name, the Knicks locked up Amar'e Stoudemire to a five-year,  $100 million deal. 

    While that’s a step in the right direction, Donnie Walsh realized he would need to make more changes if he wanted to compete. After signing Amar'e, the Knicks acquired Anthony Randolph and Kelena Azubuike from the Warriors in a sign-and-trade where the Knicks said goodbye to David Lee.

    Walsh was not finished either. Sensing he could not go into the season with Toney Douglas as his starting point guard, the Knicks next turned their attention to Raymond Felton.

    The Knicks will be competitive this season, and should not be satisfied with missing out on the playoffs again. In the weak Eastern conference, this team is good enough to sneak in.

    Prediction: 41-41 (Seventh seed in East)

No. 15: Houston Rockets

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    PHOENIX - JANUARY 06:  Aaron Brooks #0 of the Houston Rockets handles the ball during the NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center on January 6, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Suns defeated the Rockets 118-110.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly a
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    2009-2010 record: 42-40

    With a healthy Yao Ming, an underrated point guard in Aaron Brooks, and knock down shooter with Kevin Martin, the Rockets will be no pushover this season. 

    During the offseason the Rockets traded Trevor Ariza after just one year, acquiring Courtney Lee in the process. In addition, they drafted Patrick Patterson and signed serviceable big man Brad Miller. The Rockets are looking to return to the playoffs this upcoming season, but a lot of that rides on the health of Yao Ming. Yao hasn't played in over a year, and he is finally healthy, which as you know is huge for this team. 

    Prediction: 48-34

No. 14: Denver Nuggets

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    NEW YORK CITY, NY - AUGUST 13:  Carmelo Anthony of USAB during the World Basketball Festival at Rucker Park on August 13, 2010 in New York City.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images for Nike)
    Chris Trotman/Getty Images

    2009-2010 record: 53-29

    The question on every Nuggets fans mind right now is when Carmelo will get traded. After contract negotiations failed with the Nuggets, it appears imminent that 'Melo will be traded. Anthony will be a free agent next summer, and Denver is determined to trade him so they don't just let him walk and get nothing in return. 

    Disregarding all the Anthony talk, the Nuggets still have a pretty good roster that got better with the addition of Al Harrington, a scoring threat. As long as they have Chauncey Billups, I would not count them out. If Anthony miraculously does stay, the Nuggets will be right in the mix in the loaded Western Conference. 

    This season is really an enigma for the Nuggets.

    Prediction: 49-33 (Eighth seed in West)

No. 13: San Antonio Spurs

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    SAN ANTONIO - MAY 09:  Forward Tim Duncan #21 of the San Antonio Spurs in Game Four of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2010 NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center on May 9, 2010 in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    2009-2010 record: 50-32

    After taking down the Mavericks in the first round of the playoffs last season, the Spurs got swept by the Suns. 

    Would you doubt this team though? I wouldn't. Tim Duncan was terrific in the playoffs, powering the Spurs past the Mavericks. The story of the first round wasn't Duncan though, it was George Hill. It's always nice to have another point guard run the offense successfully, and that is exactly what Hill did. When Tony Parker struggled, Hill came in and gave them a huge spark. 

    This past offseason the Spurs kept Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker while drafting James Anderson in the first round. Anderson, like Dajuan Blair was, is a steal for the Spurs and he will succeed with Greg Popovich. 

    The reign of the Spurs' championships are most likely done, but would you want to face them in the playoffs? Ask Mark Cuban if he enjoyed it.

    Prediction: 49-33 (Seventh seed in West)

No. 12: Phoenix Suns

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    PHOENIX - MAY 23:  Steve Nash #13 of the Phoenix Suns stands on the court against the Los Angeles Lakers in the third quarter of Game Three of the Western Conference Finals during the 2010 NBA Playoffs at US Airways Center on May 23, 2010 in Phoenix, Ariz
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    2009-2010 record: 54-28

    As to no surprise, after years of trade rumors, Amar'e Stoudemire finally left Phoenix, signing a five-year, $100 million deal with the Knicks. Where does that leave the Suns? Don't count them out. 

    Even with losing Stoudemire, Phoenix had a positive offseason, getting players such as Hedo Turkoglu, Josh Childress, and Hakim Warrick. After a forgettable season in Toronto, Turkoglu was desperate for a change of scenery and got his wish. 

    Filling the void of Amar'e won't be easy, but the signing of Hakim Warrick will help that. Warrick, an athletic big man will thrive in the Suns fast paced system. Alvin Gentry loves to run, and I think Warrick won't mind playing with Steve Nash. 

    As long as they have Nash, don't count them out. 

    Prediction: 50-32 (Sixth seed in West)

No. 11: Milwaukee Bucks

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    ATLANTA - MAY 2:  A fan holds up a 'Fear the Deer' sign during Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Atlanta Hawks during the 2010 NBA Playoffs at Philips Arena on May 2, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia. NOTE TO U
    Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images

    2009-2010 record: 46-36

    The Bucks made their presence felt last season, and let everyone in the NBA know that they should “Fear the Deer.” After acquiring John Salmons midway through the season, the Bucks got a spark and pushed the Hawks to seven games without Andrew Bogut.

    This team did not slow down during the offseason either. They added depth to their roster, signing Corey Maggette, Drew Gooden, Chris Douglas Roberts, and Keyon Dooling. Not to mention the Bucks resigned John Salmons as well.

    With Brandon Jennings continuing to get better, and Andrew Bogut returning from injury, the Bucks will be a problem for teams this year.

    Prediction: 48-34 (Sixth seed in East)

No. 10: Utah Jazz

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 02:  Deron Williams #8 of the Utah Jazz stands on the court against the Los Angeles Lakers during Game One of the Western Conference Semifinals of the 2010 NBA Playoffs on May 2, 2010 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.  Th
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    2009-2010 record: 53-29

    The Jazz lost Carlos Boozer this offseason, but replaced him with Al Jefferson, who is four years younger and now two years removed from a torn ACL. He will love playing for Deron Williams.

    In addition to Jefferson, the Jazz brought back Raja Bell, and drafted Gordon Hayward out of Butler.

    One thing is for sure about the Jazz: As long as Jerry Sloan is their head coach, they will always compete. Don't expect a down year for Utah, they will be tough to beat as usual.

    Prediction: 51-31 (Fifth seed in West)

No. 9: Atlanta Hawks

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    ATLANTA - MAY 10:  Joe Johnson #2 of the Atlanta Hawks against the Orlando Magic during Game Four of the Eastern Conference Semifinals of the 2010 NBA Playoffs at Philips Arena on May 10, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledge
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    2009-2010 record: 53-29

    After sneaking by the Bucks in seven games in the first round of the playoffs, the Hawks got embarrassed by the Magic, losing 4-0. Thus, the question started to arise, is Joe Johnson a max contract guy?

    The Hawks sure thought so when they rewarded him with a six-year, $119 million deal. That is absurd for a player is already 29, and proved he cannot be a number one option on a contender.

    The problem with the Hawks is that they are stuck in this cycle of being good, but not good enough to win in the playoffs. They can't contend with the top tier of the east as they proved last season. 

    They have a lot of good players on their roster such as Josh Smith, Mike Bibby, Jamal Crawford, Al Horford, and Marvin Williams. But, as I said, this team will never get any better than what they are now.

    Prediction: 50-32 (5th seed in East)

No. 8: Oklahoma City Thunder

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    OKLAHOMA CITY - APRIL 22: Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder smiles after hitting a three-point shot against the Los Angeles Lakers during Game Three of the Western Conference Quarterfinals of the 2010 NBA Playoffs on April 22, 2010 at the Ford
    Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    2009-2010 record: 50-32

    The Thunder were the surprise team of the NBA last season, pushing the Lakers to the brink in the first round of the playoffs. The young Thunder are a team on the rise, and a force to be reckoned with.

    The Thunder are led by Kevin Durant, who is nearly impossible to guard, leading the league in scoring last year with an average of 30.1 points per game. Joining Durant on the young nucleus of the Thunder are Russell Westbrook, Jeff Green, James Harden, and Eric Maynor. Westbrook is a nightmare to guard; just ask Derek Fisher how relieved he was to get past the Thunder.

    This offseason, the Thunder added two shooters: Veteran Morris Peterson and former three-point champion, Daquan Cook. Not to mention they added depth at center by getting Cole Aldrich in the draft.

    This Thunder team is a sleeper to represent the Western conference in the FInals. While I do not think it will happen this year, do not quote me on that. This is a team on the rise.

    Prediction: 53-29 (Fourth seed in West)

No. 7: Portland Trail Blazers

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    PHOENIX - APRIL 26:  Brandon Roy #7 of the Portland Trail Blazers handles the ball during Game Five of the Western Conference Quarterfinals of the 2010 NBA Playoffs against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center on April 26, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona. NOTE
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    2009-2010 record: 50-32

    Every year for the past few seasons the Blazers have been a trendy pick to contend for the Western Conference crown, but they have failed to live up to the hype. 

    The Blazers have one of the most talented rosters in the league, and seem to be set at every position. So why do they struggle in the playoffs? Injuries have plagued Portland, as Greg Oden has struggled through injuries two out of his three years in the NBA. Blazers fans are having visions of Sam Bowie, but instead of passing on Michael Jordan, they passed on Kevin Durant. 

    Oden was on pace for a big season before he got hurt last year, with averages of 11 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 blocks.

    Luckily for the Blazers, they are one of the deepest teams in the NBA, with Oden, Lamarcus Aldridge, Marcus Camby, and Joel Pryzbilla in their frontcourt. 

    One thing you have to take account as to why the Blazers lost to the Suns in the playoffs last year is the health of Brandon Roy. He courageously played through a knee injury, but was not effective enough to help them get past the Suns.

    Prediction: 54-28 (Third seed in West)

No. 6: Dallas Mavericks

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    DALLAS - APRIL 18:  Forward Dirk Nowitzki #41 of the Dallas Mavericks reacts during play against the San Antonio Spurs in Game One of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2010 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Center on April 18, 2010 in Dallas
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    2009-2010 record: 55-27

    It was yet another disappointing playoff exit for the Dallas Mavericks last season. The Mavs had title hopes heading into the playoffs a season ago, but could not get past the Spurs in round one. 

    The top priority for the Mavs was to resign Dirk Nowitzki in which they succeeded. Do you think Mark Cuban would ever let Dirk leave? 

    The Mavs added to their depth at center as well, adding Tyson Chandler to go along with Brendan Haywood. I still don't understand why they signed Haywood to such a big contract, but then again, this was the summer of big contracts.

    When will the Mavericks finally piece it together and not choke in the playoffs? Just like the Cowboys, the Mavericks are the trendy pick each year, and they always disappoint.

    Prediction: 54-28 (Second seed in West)

No. 5: Chicago Bulls

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    2009-2010 record: 41-41

    The Bulls managed to become contenders in the East this past offseason without landing LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, or Chris Bosh. You can’t forget the talent this team already had. With already a nucleus of Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, Taj Gibson, and Joakim Noah, the Bulls are a playoff team, and are just getting better.

    While they were hoping for one of the “Big Three” free agents to come to Chicago, they will be satisfied with the off-season they had. Jerry Reinsdorf, John Paxson, and Gar Forman did a tremendous job.

    The first thing the Bulls did was name Tom Thibodeau their head coach. Next, the Bulls signed Carlos Boozer, and he was joined by Utah Jazz teammates in defensive specialist Ronnie Brewer and three-point shooter Kyle Korver joined him. Already, the Bulls had improved greatly, and they weren’t done. Needing to fill out the roster, the Bulls signed another three-point shooter in Keith Bogans, and C.J. Watson to back up Derrick Rose.

    The Bulls had an advantage if they missed out on James, Wade, or Bosh, and the advantage is they already have a budding superstar with Derrick Rose. This upcoming season, the Bulls have high hopes, and with a frontcourt of Boozer and Noah, will be among the best frontcourts in the NBA.

    Prediction: 55-27 (Third seed in East)

No. 4: Orlando Magic

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    BOSTON - MAY 28:  Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic looks on against the Boston Celtics in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2010 NBA Playoffs at TD Garden on May 28, 2010 in Boston, Massachusetts.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowl
    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    2009-2010 record: 59-23

    After looking invincible through the first two rounds of the playoffs last season, the Magic's dream for an NBA title ended when they lost to the Celtics 4-2.

    The biggest problem for the Magic was the poor play out of both Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis. As I said when the Magic picked Carter over Turkoglu, they will miss Hedo. He was a better fit for this team. As for Rashard Lewis, he appears to be grossly overpaid, and did not show up at all for their series against the Celtics.

    Dont count out the Magic for the Eastern Conference crown though. They have a great team and kept all their core players while adding Quentin Richardson, Chris Duhon, and Malik Allen. They now have a lot of point guard depth with Jameer Nelson, Jason Williams, and Duhon, which is something the Heat lack. 

    If Vince Carter can get it together, the Magic will be right in the mix for a berth in the championship. If not it could be another great regular season, leading to a tough playoff loss.

    Prediction: 56-26 (Second seed in East)

No. 3: Boston Celtics

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 15:  Rajon Rondo #9 of the Boston Celtics moves the ball while taking on the Los Angeles Lakers in Game Six of the 2010 NBA Finals at Staples Center on June 15, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowle
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    2009-2010 record: 52-30

    After coming so close to their second championship in three years, the Celtics got even better this off-season. With Rasheed Wallace retiring, and Kendrick Perkins lost to injury for half the season, the Celtics loaded up their frontcourt, signing Jermaine O’Neal and Shaquille O’Neal.

    Not only that, but the Celtics had one of the best drafts of any team in the NBA, picking Avery Bradley and then a steal with Luke Harangody in the second round. Adding to their guard depth, Boston also picked up high-flyer Von Wafer, who is making his return to the NBA after a year overseas. The

    Celtics are getting up there in age, but remember when we said that last year? Don’t doubt this team.

    Prediction: 53-29 (Fourth seed in East)

No. 2: Miami Heat

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    MIAMI - JULY 09:  LeBron James #6, Dwyane Wade #3 and Chris Bosh #1 of the Miami Heat show off their new game jerseys before a press conference after a welcome party at American Airlines Arena on July 9, 2010 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty
    Doug Benc/Getty Images

    2009-2010 record: 47-35

    Out of every team in the NBA this season, the Heat will have the biggest targets on their back? Why, you might ask? I think it's pretty obvious. 

    After the most historic offseason in NBA history, the Heat struck gold, landing Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, and Chris Bosh. They built a fantasy roster with those three players. In addition to signing "The Big Three," the Heat landed veteran sharpshooters Mike Miller and Eddie House, and veteran big men Zydrunas IIgauskas and Juwan Howard. The Heat filled their roster out the best they could, but is it enough to win a title?

    The Heat's two biggest question marks are at the two most important positions: Point guard and center. At point guard, the Heat have Carlos Arroyo and Mario Chalmers, and at center have Joel Anthony, IIgauskas, and Jamaal Magloire. Chalmers and Arroyo just need to limit their mistakes because LeBron, Wade, and Bosh will do the rest. 

    However, when it comes down to competing against teams with big front courts, such as the Lakers, the Heat may struggle.

    It's going to be a crazy year in South Beach.

    Prediction: 64-18 (First seed in East)

No. 1: Los Angeles Lakers

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 21:  Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant laughs with the championship trophy while riding in the victory parade for the the NBA basketball champion team on June 21, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. The Lakers beat the Boston Celtic
    Noel Vasquez/Getty Images

    2009-2010 record: 57-25

    After back to back NBA titles, the Lakers did not slow up in the offseason, signing Steve Blake, Matt Barnes, and Theo Ratliff. Most importantly though, Phil Jackson is back for one more shot at a three peat. 

    As much as the Heat have improved, you still cannot put them ahead of the Lakers. With the depth the Lakers already had, Blake and Barnes make them even deeper. Barnes, like Artest, is a defensive stopper who gets in the face of his opponent. Steve Blake took a pay cut with the Lakers, knowing he could be part of something special. 

    Prediction: 60-22 (First seed in West)