Key Additions: Nick Fazekas, Eddie Jones, Brandon Bass
Key Losses: Austin Croshere, Pops Mensah-Bonsu
Can Dallas recover mentally from that beating given to them by the Warriors? I think they will, but another question is to ask “Will other coaches emulate the Warriors and will the Mavericks adjust?” Dallas is the favorite to be the best team in the west again this year, and they’ll likely live up to that billing. They still have the MVP Dirk Nowitzki and they’ve added a veteran in Eddie Jones. The Mavericks also added youngster Brandon Bass who is potentially a big sleeper in the free agent market.
Projected Finish: 1st Southwest 64-18
Key Additions: Chucky Atkins, Steven Hunter, Bobby Jones
Key Losses: Steve Blake, Reggie Evans
Denver had a mild off-season but they did lose a key component in their offense in Steve Blake. Blake may not be a player many think of as important in an offense. But he was very good for the Nuggets last year and they will miss him. The addition of Chucky Atkins will help but he isn’t the facilitator that Blake is. The biggest key for the Nuggets of corse is Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony. The Nuggets will need both of their stars to play at their peaks if they want to become a threat in the western conference.
Projected Finish: 2nd Northwest 50-32
Golden State Warriors
Key Additions: Marco Bellinelli, Stephane Lesme, Austin Croshere, Brandan Wright
Key Losses: Jason Richardson, Adonal Foyle
The Warriors made a late season serge last year to make the post season for the first time in 14 years; Then they knocked off the heavily favorite Mavericks only to fall to the Jazz in the second round. The Warriors thought they had a solid core to build on so they didn’t make a lot of moves this off-season. The one major move they did they did on draft night; shipping J-Rich to Charlotte for the rights to Brandan Wright. The Warriors may have also struck pay dirt when they drafted Bellinelli from Italy. Who looked like a superstar in the making in the Las Vegas Summer league. If the Warriors can stay healthy and keep Stephen Jackson out of jail, they will be able to challenge for another playoff spot.
Projected Finish: 3rd Pacific 40-42
Key Additions: Steve Francis, Aaron Brooks, Mike Harris, Lois Scola, Mike James, Jackie Butler, Justin Reed
Key Losses: Juwan Howard, Vassilis Spanoulis
The Rockets have added more talent than just about anyone in the league except for the Boston Celtics. They added solid but egotistical Steve Francis, and Mike James. They also traded for Argentinian Lois Scola. The Rockets now have one of the most intriguing lineups in the NBA. Their goal is to get out of the first round of the playoffs. Something not many players on the roster have ever accomplished. Their added firepower is really going to help them this year and they will shock most of us when they finish with a better record than the Spurs.
Projected Finish: 55-27 2nd Southwest
Los Angeles Clippers
Key Additions: Al Thorton, Ruben Patterson, Brevin Knight
Key Losses: Jason Hart, Daniel Ewing. To injury: Elton Brand, Shawn Livingston
Losing Elton Brand will be devastating to the Clippers. The other injuries they have such as to Livingston will not make matters any better. The Clippers will likely have a long and very unproductive season this year. But fortunately for the Clippers fans they are use to this. Losing seems to be something the Clippers are ordained to do.
Projected Finish: 5th Pacific 25-57
Los Angeles Lakers
Key Additions: Derek Fisher, Colby Karl, Javaris Crittenton
Key Losses: Smush Parker
To the chagrin of Kobe Bryant the Lakers did very little this off-season. The Lakers are likely banking on their young talent maturing this season. Something which could backfire if the team starts out struggling and Kobe demands a trade. This may not happen however. The Lakers started out last seasons playing very well, but it was injuries at about the mid-point of the season which caused their downward spiral. If the Lakers stay healthy they could be a very solid team.
Projected Finish: 2nd Pacific 47-35
Key Additions: Mike Conley, Darko Milicic, Casey Jacobson, Juan Carlos Navarro
Key Losses: Alexander Johnson, Chucky Atkins
The Grizzlies have a lot of talent but their west has gotten so good that they will find it hard to make the playoffs. They need to stay healthy. They have added two very good point guards in Navarro and Conley both of whom will likely split time as the starter. This will most likely force Damon Stoudemare out.
Projected Finish: 5th Southwest 33-49
Key Additions: Corey Brewer, Al Jefferson, Gerald Green, Ryan Gomes, Theo Ratliff, Sebastian Telfair, Juwan Howard.
Key Losses: Kevin Garnett, Troy Hudson, Mike James, Justin Reed.
No team in the NBA will have the roster changes that the Minnesota Timberwolves will have had by the time the season starts. The Wolves have only two starters returning, Rickey Davis and Mark Blout. Of corse the biggest news this off-season for the Wolves was the trading of Kevin Garnett. While the trade originally looks to benefit the Boston Celtics, the Wolves actually do get a lot of benefit from this trade. The Wolves acquired three young players for the former MVP, a veteran shot-blocker and a problematic point guard. Minnesota is really a wildcard this year, as no one knows what to really expect from them. One of the biggest question marks for them will be as to weather Al Jefferson’s late season serge, was because he’s prone to becoming a superstar, or was it just a fluke?
Projected finish: 4th Northwest 29-53
New Orleans Hornets
Key Additions: Julian Wright, Melvin Ely, Morris Peterson
Key Losses: Brandon Bass, Desmond Mason
For the first time in two years the Hornets will have stability. All 41 of their home games will be played in New Orleans. The stability will not only be good for the Hornets but the city of New Orleans which was devastated by hurricane Katrina two years ago. The Hornets will need to stay healthy if they want to compete for a playoff spot. They were ravaged by injuries last year and will have some of those injuries carry over to this year. If Peja Stojakovic can recover from his injury, the Hornets stand a good chance of making the playoffs.
Projected Finish: 41-41 4th Southwest
Key Additions: Grant Hill, Alando Tucker, CJ Strawberry
Key Losses: Kurt Thomas, James Jones
The rich get richer right? Apparently that is true for the Suns who added three very good players to their roster this off-season. Hill gives them a solid veteran while they got solid rookies to build on. The loss of Kurt Thomas will hurt them down low. If they also lose Amare Stoudemire they could be in for a world of hurt. But the projection for the Suns is mostly a sunny one; pun not intended. The Suns still have Stoudemire and two-time MVP Steve Nash. So baring some catastrophic injury to both those guys, the Suns will be in very good shape. Their number of wins will drop off this season as they will go to a time-tested strategy of resting down the stretch to win in the playoffs.
Project finish: 1st pacific 60-22
Key Additions: Greg Oden, Josh McRoberts, Steve Blake, Channing Frye, James Jones
Key Losses: Jamaal MaGloire, Ime Udoka, Zach Randolph, Fred Jones.
Portland started the off-season with great news when they won the lottery and selected Greg Oden. Than came the shocking news in September that Oden would miss the entire season after having surgery. Losing Oden for the season is a setback, but not one so devastating that the Blazers will not recover from. It’s actually to the contrary. The Blazers have a young solid core which can only get better. They have Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge as well as Channing Frye. The Blazers will be quite a bit better than everyone expects this season even without Oden.
Key Additions: Spencer Hawes, Mikki Moore
Key Losses: Ronnie Price
The Kings have the pieces in place to be a good team. They just are not using them correctly. Mike Bibby, Ron Artest, Kevin Martin, Mikki Moore and Brad Miller give them one of the best starting five in the NBA. Their biggest problem is getting them to play together and to stay healthy. If the Kings are healthy do not be shocked to see them in the playoffs.
Projected Finish 4th Pacific 35-47
San Antonio Spurs
Key Additions: Ian Mahini, Marcus Williams, Ime Udoka
Key Losses: James White, Jackie Butler
It’s going to be the same old same old for the San Antonio Spurs. Defense defense defense with a little more defense. The Spurs made no major changes this year after winning their 4th title since 1999. And who is to blame them; why change when you’re the best? Contrary to popular belief the Spurs are not old. Well ok Robert Horry is. But their core is still very young and will be threatening to win more championships in the future. The Spurs realize that having the best record in the regular season means nothing. They will instead opt to rest rather than exhaust their energies trying to win a couple of games at the end of the season. As we all know the Spurs are much more dangerous in the post-season than they are in the regular season.
Projected Finish: 54-28
Key Additions: Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, Kurt Thomas, Delonte West, Wally Szczerbiak
Key Losses: Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis
Seattle is in full scale rebuild mode and that will reflect onto their season. They do have a nice young solid core with Durant and Green but they lack leadership. Seattle will be an easy win this year for most teams. But expect them to get tougher as the season nears an end because their two future stars will mature.
Projected Finish: 5th Northwest 20-62
Key Additions: Morris Almond, Kyrylo Fesenko, Jason Hart, Ronnie Price
Key Losses: Derek Fisher
Utah is going to be tough once again with their tandem of Carlos Boozer and Deron Williams. But Utah’s biggest key to the season is Andrei Kirilenko. If Kirilenko returns to his former self Utah will be much better than they were last year. If he does not, Utah will be about the same as last year. The good news for Utah is Kirilenko has been playing like his former self en route to claiming the European championship MVP.
Projected Finish: 1st Northwest 55-27