1. Miami Heat, 64 wins
Yes, they will be hurt by big men, but how many teams actually have the talent to exploit that? Maybe a couple. They'll run around everyone during the regular season. Nobody will be able to come close to matching their wings. LeBron will be supremely motivated after an offseason in which everyone suddenly decided he was no longer the best player in the NBA. He might still have something to say about that.
2. Orlando Magic, 57 wins
The best chance that the East has to knock off Miami. If Dwight Howard asserts himself and takes his offensive game to the next level, nobody has the talent to stop him.
3. Chicago Bulls, 52 wins
Rose and Boozer seems like a perfect fit together, and Noah does all of the little things very well. I think Rose takes a leap to be one of the top 10 players in the NBA and the Bulls move up to a 3 seed.
4. Boston Celtics, 51 wins
Basically, we know what we have with them. They're a solid team that will be a tough out in the postseason. However, a year older for all of the big 3 players means 4th place.
5. Atlanta Hawks, 48 wins
They won 53 games when most things went right for them... hard to see them going anywhere except a little bit backwards after the only real change was to the head coach.
6. Milwaukee Bucks, 46 wins
I thought they played a little above their heads last year at times, but they are a very solid team that could have won a playoff series if Andrew Bogut had been healthy. Things depend on if Brandon Jennings is ready to take another step.
7. New York Knicks, 40 wins
Finally, some excitement in MSG! Amare has plenty of limitations, but he should put up big number under the bright lights and under Mike D'Antoni. Raymond Felton was a nice pickup.
8. Philadelphia 76ers, 38 wins
They do have a bunch of young talent (Young, Speights, Iguodala, Williams, Turner, Holiday), it's just completely mismatched and there is no logic to the roster assembly. Still, Doug Collins can mold an 8 seed out of this group.
9. Indiana Pacers, 37 wins
The pickup of Darren Collison solved some PG woes (he was very good in relief last season), but opened up a hole down low. Granger is a stud but there is still not enough help to make the postseason.
10. Charlotte Bobcats, 35 wins
I think last season was the peak for this group.
11. Detroit Pistons, 35 wins
Another team that has talented players but no logic to the roster assembly. They will be able to put points on the board, but I'm not sure if they can stop anyone.
12. Cleveland Cavaliers, 31 wins
Not a lot positive to say, the Cavs will stink and it will obviously be a terrible season without LeBron. They have the talent to avoid last place in the conference, and they should be highly motivated to prove they aren't a bunch of nobodies, but they don't have too much of a chance here.
13. Washington Wizards, 30 wins
John Wall is here, and that means there is hope for the future of the franchise. However, the present still doesn't look that promising.
14. New Jersey Nets, 27 wins
The good news is that not many teams will be able to double their win total. The bad news is that they are still a big-name aquisition away from being a threat to make the playoffs. Still, a core with Brook Lopez, Derrick Favors, and Devin Harris is exciting.
15. Toronto Raptors, 24 wins
1. Los Angeles Lakers, 57 wins
Still easily the best in the West, as long as Kobe is healthy. I believe they are the only team that has the horses to challenge the Heat in the postseason.
2. San Antonio Spurs, 53 wins
Parker should be healthier, Ginobili should be healthy (stop me if you have heard that before), and Duncan is still there. The addition of Tiago Splitter should help in the wide open race for the 2 seed.
3. Portland Trailblazers, 52 wins
Greg Oden being healthy would be a big boost, as he is sneakily one of the best rebounders in the NBA. However, that doesn't seem likely to happen for a full season.
4. Oklahoma City Thunder, 51 wins
Everything went right health wise for the Thunder last season. I predict things won't go quite as well this year. However, their core should keep improving as Kevin Durant wins the MVP award.
5. Dallas Mavericks, 51 wins
It seems like they never go away... another 50 win season awaits.
6. Houston Rockets, 49 wins
One of my favorite teams. Will everyone be happy with their minutes? They have a lot of good players, and it will be tough to keep to a rotation. Having Yao back will be a big boost.
7. Utah Jazz, 49 wins
If Al Jefferson is healthy, the Jazz shouldn't miss a beat. However, I'm assuming there will be a little transition.
8. Phoenix Suns, 46 wins
The feel good story of last season, they won't be quite as good, but Nash can still navigate them to the playoffs, maybe for the last time.
9. Denver Nuggets, 44 wins
No depth up front, drama around Carmelo, not a lot of defense... smells like just missing the postseason for the Nugs.
10. New Orleans Hornets, 41 wins
If Chris Paul is healthy, he could easily lead them to the postseason even with a mediocre roster. Remember, the guy had one of the best seasons we have ever seen from a PG... New Orleans will be doing everything possible to convince Paul to want to stay in the Big Easy.
11. Los Angeles Clippers, 38 wins
On paper, they should challenge for a playoff spot, especially with Blake Griffin. However, we know that these games aren't played on paper, but by the little men in our TV sets, which usually means things don't go well for the Clips.
12. Memphis Grizzlies, 36 wins
They have a solid pieces, but no depth. Still, they should be able to semi-maintain the feel good play of last season. Still not enough to get back to the postseason, but it will be fun to watch Grizz games.
13. Sacramento Kings, 31 wins
Tyreke Evans was very good as a rookie last season, and he will have DeMarcus Cousins down low with him. They are starting to build some young talent, but they are still a year at least away from competing.
14. Golden State Warriors, 31 wins
They will at least be fun to watch with Stephen Curry, Monta Ellis, and David Lee. Unfortunately, with their defense, they will also be fun to play against.
15. Minnesota Timberwolves, 20 wins
They have some nice young pieces (Kevin Love could win a rebounding title sooner rather than later), but there is not enough to avoid the cellar.
Heat over 76ers in 4
Magic over Knicks in 6
Bucks over Bulls in 7
Celtics over Hawks in 6
Heat over Celtics in 6
Magic over Bucks in 5
Heat over Magic in 6
Lakers over Suns in 5
Spurs over Jazz in 7
Rockets over Blazers in 7
Thunder over Mavs in 5
Lakers over Thunder in 7
Spurs over Rockets in 6
Lakers over Spurs in 5
Heat over Lakers in 7