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Last season: 42-40, eliminated, 4-2, by Pacers in second round.

Coach: Stan Van Gundy, second season, 42-40.

Added: C Shaquille O'Neal (trade with Lakers), C Michael Doleac (free agent, Nuggets), G Damon Jones (free agent, Bucks), G Keyon Dooling (free agent, Clippers), F Christian Laettner (free agent, Warriors), G Wesley Person (free agent, Hawks), F Dorell Wright (draft, No. 19, South Kent (Conn.) Prep).

Lost: F Lamar Odom, F Caron Butler, F Brian Grant (traded to Lakers), G Rafer Alston (free agent, Raptors), F Samaki Walker (free agent, Wizards), C Loren Woods (expansion draft, Bobcats).

Better or worse?: It's impossible to acquire O'Neal and get worse. The Heat was able to pull off the rare feat of acquiring a dominating center before he's past his prime, and Van Gundy will unleash him on an array of Eastern Conference centers with no hope of stopping him. This could be the first time in O'Neal's college or pro career that he averages 30 points. On the downside, the trade severely depleted the Heat's depth. Dwyane Wade will be asked to play point guard rather than shooting guard, where he seems more comfortable.
Last season: 21-61, missed playoffs.

Coach: Johnny Davis, second season with Magic, 20-51; third season overall, 44-111.

Added: G Steve Francis, G Cuttino Mobley, F Kelvin Cato (trade with Rockets), F Dwight Howard (draft, No. 1, Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy), C Tony Battie (trade with Cavaliers), G Jameer Nelson (draft, No. 20, Saint Joseph's), F Hedo Turkoglu (free agent, Spurs), F Michael Bradley (free agent, Hawks), F Stacey Augmon (free agent, Hornets).

Lost: F Tracy McGrady, F Juwan Howard, G Tyronn Lue, G Reece Gaines (traded to Rockets), F Drew Gooden (traded to Cavaliers), C Steven Hunter (free agent, Suns), F Britton Johnsen (free agent, Hornets), F Zaza Pachulia (expansion draft, Bobcats).

Better or worse?: Undoubtedly better, and could be the sleeper team in the East. General Manager John Weisbrod was able to bring in plenty of talent in exchange for McGrady, who becomes the first player since Bob McAdoo in 1976 to be traded in the year after he won the scoring title. The playoffs are very possible if Grant Hill manages to keep playing on his repaired and re-repaired ankle, and if Howard can make a contribution while learning the pro game.

Last season: 25-57, missed playoffs.

Coach: Eddie Jordan, second season with Wizards, 25-57; fourth season overall, 58-121.

Added: F Antawn Jamison (trade with Mavericks), F Samaki Walker (free agent, Heat), F Michael Ruffin (free agent, Jazz), G Anthony Peeler (free agent, Kings), C Peter John Ramos (draft, No. 32, Puerto Rico).

Lost: G Jerry Stackhouse, F Christian Laettner (traded to Mavericks), F Lonny Baxter (expansion draft, Charlotte).

Better or worse?: The franchise felt it could not move forward with malcontents Stackhouse and Laettner in the locker room, but the Wizards may have given up too much when they packaged them with the No. 5 pick to acquire Jamison. Gilbert Arenas promises to be more mature, and everyone is still waiting for Kwame Brown to develop into a steady contributor.
Last season: 28-54, missed playoffs.

Coach: Mike Woodson, first season.

Added: F Antoine Walker, G Tony Delk (trade with Mavericks), F Al Harrington (trade with Pacers), G Kenny Anderson (free agent, Pacers), G Jon Barry (free agent, Nuggets), C Kevin Willis (free agent, Spurs), F Donnell Harvey (free agent, Suns), C Peja Drobnjak (trade with Bobcats), G Josh Childress (draft, No. 6, Stanford), F Josh Smith (draft, No. 17, Oak Hill Academy, Va.).

Lost: G Jason Terry, F Alan Henderson (traded to Mavericks), G Stephen Jackson (traded to Pacers), G Bob Sura (free agent, Rockets), F Wesley Person (free agent, Trail Blazers), C Joel Przybilla (free agent, Trail Blazers), G Jacque Vaughn (free agent, Nets), C Zeljko Rebraca (free agent, Clippers).

Better or worse?: It's time for another rebuilding, but don't count on Walker sticking around for the whole thing. Atlanta could try to move him to a contender at the trading deadline. Childress should be the starter at shooting guard, but the point guard job could fall to a player -- Anderson -- who was the third-stringer in Indiana last season.
Last season: Inaugural season for league's first expansion franchise since the Raptors and Grizzlies joined the NBA in 1995.

Coach: Bernie Bickerstaff, 11th season, 338-348.

Added: C Emeka Okafor (draft, No. 2, Connecticut), C Primoz Brezec (expansion draft, Pacers), C Jahidi White (Suns), F Theron Smith (Grizzlies), F Brandon Hunter (Celtics), F Jamal Sampson (Lakers), F Jason Kapono (Cavaliers), F Melvin Ely, G Eddie House (trade with Clippers), F Tamar Slay (free agent, Nets), G Jason Hart (free agent, Spurs), G Bernard Robinson (draft, No. 45, Michigan), G Brevin Knight (free agent, Bucks), G Steve Smith (free agent, Hornets).

Lost: C Peja Drobnjak (traded to Hawks), F Zaza Pachulia (traded to Bucks), F Sasha Pavlovic (traded to Cavaliers).

Better or worse?: In the case of an expansion team, it'd be hard to do worse than the 0-17 start by the Miami Heat in its inaugural season of 1988-89. As the season drags on, another fitting standard of comparison might be the worst record in NBA history, 9-73 by the Philadelphia 76ers in 1972-73.
Chris Sheridan, Associated Press

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