>EASTERN CONFERENCE (Predicted order of finish)
1. MIAMI HEAT
2010-11 finish: 58-24, No. 2 in East.
Coming: Shane Battier, Eddy Curry, Norris Cole.
Going: Mike Bibby, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Jamaal Magloire.
Outlook: Team chemistry shouldn't be the sore subject it was in year one of the Big Three. The feeling-out process is over for LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, meaning it's watch-out time for the rest of the Eastern Conference. Battier will provide defensive help and alleviate pressure on James to do it all on both ends of the court.
2. CHICAGO BULLS
2010-11 finish: 62-20, No. 1.
Coming: Richard Hamilton.
Going: Kurt Thomas, Rasual Butler.
Outlook: Fussy Bulls fans won't have much to gripe about now that Hamilton's arrival completes one of the top backcourts in the league. Plus, having a healthy Carlos Boozer is like adding another player after the forward was often sidelined by injuries last year. Topping a season in which they won 62 games and had the league MVP in Derrick Rose will be hard, but the Bulls may be able to do it.
3. NEW YORK KNICKS
2010-11 finish: 42-40, No. 6.
Coming: Tyson Chandler, Mike Bibby, Baron Davis, Iman Shumpert.
Going: Chauncey Billups, Derrick Brown, Anthony Carter, Roger Mason Jr.
Outlook: Not even sad sack owner James Dolan may be able to screw this up. Adding Chandler and Bibby to a core of Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire gives the Knicks a formidable nucleus that could be even deeper if Davis is able to return from an ailing back. Games at Madison Square Garden could be a tough ticket for the first time in years.
4. ORLANDO MAGIC
2010-11 finish: 52-30, No. 4.
Coming: Glen Davis.
Going: Gilbert Arenas, Brandon Bass.
Outlook: All the is-he-or-isn't-he-leaving talk surrounding Dwight Howard will continue to be a distraction until management picks a trade package for the All-Star center or signs him to an extension. Even if its roster remains intact, the Magic appears set to continue its slow fade since making the NBA Finals in 2009. Davis bolsters the frontcourt, but it will likely take more than that to make this team a title contender again.
5. BOSTON CELTICS
2010-11 finish: 56-26, No. 3.
Coming: Brandon Bass, Keyon Dooling, Marquis Daniels.
Going: Glen Davis, Shaquille O'Neal, Delonte West.
Outlook: "Old" doesn't even begin to describe the core of Paul Pierce, 34, Kevin Garnett, 35, and Ray Allen, 36. That's not exactly the kind of lineup you want to take into all the back-to-back situations necessitated by the lockout. Compounding matters, the Jeff Green-for-Kendrick Perkins trade is looking one-sided after the Celtics' Green was diagnosed this month with a heart condition that will sideline him for the season.
6. INDIANA PACERS
2010-11 finish: 37-45, No. 8.
Coming: David West, George Hill, Jeff Pendergraph.
Going: James Posey, Mike Dunleavy, T.J. Ford, Josh McRoberts, Brandon Rush.
Outlook: The vastly improved Pacers could be headed for warp speed. West, a former All-Star, gives them another proven scorer alongside mainstay Danny Granger. Hill could be an epic feel-good story if the Indianapolis native makes the expected impact at both guard spots. Being exceedingly young also won't hurt the Pacers during the compressed schedule.
7. ATLANTA HAWKS
2010-11 finish: 44-38, No. 5.
Coming: Tracy McGrady, Jerry Stackhouse, Vladimir Radmanovic.
Going: Jamal Crawford, Damien Wilkins.
Outlook: Good thing for the Hawks that the East remains largely mediocre. That means Atlanta is a playoff shoo-in despite replacing the capable Crawford with the past-their-prime McGrady and Stackhouse. Kirk Hinrich's being out until February while he recovers from shoulder surgery is another blow.
8. PHILADELPHIA 76ERS
2010-11 finish: 41-41, No. 7.
Coming: Nikola Vucevic.
Going: Jason Kapono.
Outlook: It's going to take more than reduced ticket prices and a new mascot to satisfy a fan base that could turn on the new ownership group if the team struggles. Former UCLA player Jrue Holiday must continue his ascent as one of the league's top young point guards while meshing with a former crosstown rival in Vucevic, the one-time USC star big man.
9. MILWAUKEE BUCKS
2010-11 finish: 35-47, No. 9.
Coming: Stephen Jackson, Beno Udrih, Mike Dunleavy Jr., Shaun Livingston.
Going: Corey Maggette, John Salmons, Keyon Dooling.
Outlook: The Bucks might not have as much trouble scoring with Jackson in the fold and with a healthier Andrew Bogut, who is coming off surgery to fix the arm problem that led to his shooting woes last season. Point guard Brandon Jennings needs to transcend making the flashy play, exhibiting more consistency to help his team step up in the standings.
10. DETROIT PISTONS
2010-11 finish: 30-52, No. 11.
Coming: Coach Lawrence Frank, Damien Wilkins, Brandon Knight.
Going: Coach John Kuester, Richard Hamilton, Tracy McGrady, Chris Wilcox.
Outlook: Another link to the Pistons' last NBA title was severed when the Pistons used the amnesty clause to waive Hamilton. Glory days, these are not, but at least the disastrous Kuester era is over. Guard Rodney Stuckey is a solid frontman for an otherwise uninspiring band of players who need a major boost from Knight.
11. NEW JERSEY NETS
2010-11 finish: 24-58, No. 12.
Coming: Shawne Williams, Shelden Williams, MarShon Brooks.
Going: Brandan Wright, Sasha Vujacic, Travis Outlaw.
Outlook: The Brooklyn-bound Nets can't leave New Jersey soon enough. Their final season in the Garden State figures to be as forgettable as most of the ones that preceded it unless they can somehow wrangle Dwight Howard away from Orlando. Center Brook Lopez is out with a broken foot, and All-Star point guard Deron Williams can't do it all alone.
12. WASHINGTON WIZARDS
2010-11 finish: 23-59, No. 13.
Coming: Ronny Turiaf, Roger Mason, Jan Vesely, Chris Singleton.
Going: Josh Howard, Yi Jianlian.
Outlook: John Wall, Nick Young, Rashard Lewis what's not to like? Oh, right -- the rest of the roster. There's a reason the Wizards finished near the bottom of the Eastern Conference, and it wasn't their dynamic point guard or his top two sidekicks. Their only hope for a move up in the standings is significant improvement from JaVale McGee and Andray Blatche.
13. CHARLOTTE BOBCATS
2010-11 finish: 34-48, No. 10.
Coming: Reggie Williams, Derrick Brown, Corey Maggette, Bismack Biyombo, Kemba Walker.
Going: Stephen Jackson, Shaun Livingston, Kwame Brown.
Outlook: The Bobcats got a pair of lottery picks in Biyombo and Walker and could be headed for more since they appear destined for another subpar season. Their core is young and largely unproven, though Maggette will add a veteran presence. By February, Bobcats owner Michael Jordan might be regretting the end of the lockout.
14. TORONTO RAPTORS
2010-11 finish: 22-60, No. 14.
Coming: Coach Dwane Casey, Gary Forbes, Rasual Butler, Anthony Carter, Aaron Gray.
Going: Coach Jay Triano, Sonny Weems, Reggie Evans.
Outlook: There's still an NBA team in Canada? The Raptors were forgettable even before Chris Bosh departed; now they're internationally irrelevant. DeMar DeRozan's dunks and Andrea Bargnani's scoring splurges won't be enough to carry this team to respectability.
15. CLEVELAND CAVALIERS
2010-11 finish: 19-63, No. 15.
Coming: Omri Casspi, Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson.
Going: J.J. Hickson, Baron Davis.
Outlook: Hello, Cleveland! Irving and Thompson, two of the top four picks in this year's lottery, are calling the city home after LeBron James' departure led to the first of what figures to be several abysmal seasons. Maybe the Cavaliers should take a page out of the old Clippers' marketing playbook and sell their fans on other teams coming into town.
>WESTERN CONFERENCE (predicted order of finish)
1. OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
2010-11 finish: 55-27, No. 4 in West.
Coming: Reggie Jackson.
Going: No one of note.
Outlook: The Thunder was spared from the mad free-agent scramble, returning every key player from last season. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook should help a young roster come of age, with a potential No. 1 seed in the West preceding a deep playoff run. James Harden is poised to continue his development into an upper-echelon guard, and a slimmed-down Kendrick Perkins no longer has to slog up the court.
2. DALLAS MAVERICKS
2010-11 finish: 57-25, No. 3.
Coming: Lamar Odom, Vince Carter, Delonte West, Brandan Wright.
Going: Tyson Chandler, Jose Barea, Caron Butler, Corey Brewer, Rudy Fernandez.
Outlook: Chandler and Barea each represent huge losses from the defending NBA champions, but Odom should be an inspired addition -- particularly in the four games against the Lakers -- and Carter clings to the vestiges of greatness. Oh yeah, and there's still that Nowitzki guy. The biggest question might be how long it takes owner Mark Cuban to zing Khloe Kardashian.
3. LOS ANGELES LAKERS
2010-11 finish: 57-25, No. 2.
Coming: Coach Mike Brown, Josh McRoberts, Troy Murphy, Jason Kapono.
Going: Coach Phil Jackson, Lamar Odom, Shannon Brown.
Outlook: If it seems the only direction the Lakers can go without their longtime coach and top reserves is down, the fall shouldn't be a long one. The Lakers still have a core that would make almost every other NBA team envious and a coach who has been to the Finals. The health of aging superstar Kobe Bryant and fragile big man Andrew Bynum will be assessed on a knee-to-know basis, with any significant setbacks curtailing title aspirations.
4. LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS
2010-11 finish: 32-50, No. 13.
Coming: Chris Paul, Caron Butler, Chauncey Billups.
Going: Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman, Al Farouq-Aminu, Craig Smith.
Outlook: Clipper Nation has expanded its borders with the big-ticket acquisition of Paul, the dynamic point guard who wants to lead the woebegone franchise on a deep playoff run alongside Griffin. If everything goes as planned, Los Angeles could go from Lakertown to Lob City. If everything falls apart, the Clippers Curse will remain intact. But for the first time in years, there is enough talent to make the playoffs -- and stick around for a while.
5. MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES
2010-11 finish: 46-36, No. 8.
Coming: Jeremy Pargo.
Going: Shane Battier.
Outlook: The good times are rolling in Memphis, where the Grizzlies continue to bask in the afterglow of their magical run to the Western Conference semifinals. The re-signing of center Marc Gasol means the Grizzlies have their core of Gasol, Rudy Gay and Mike Conley locked up in long-term deals. Even once-disgruntled O.J. Mayo appears to have embraced his role as a sixth man.
6. SAN ANTONIO SPURS
2010-11 finish: 61-21, No. 1.
Coming: T.J. Ford, Kawhi Leonard.
Going: George Hill.
Outlook: Those David Gilmour lyrics about thinking you're getting older and wiser when you're just getting old may apply to the Spurs, whose projected starting lineup has an average age of 31. How do you think the starters' legs will feel after one of the dreaded back-to-back-to-backs? It could be the perfect scenario for rookie Leonard to play heavy minutes.
7. DENVER NUGGETS
2010-11 finish: 50-32, No. 5.
Coming: Corey Brewer, Rudy Fernandez, Andre Miller, Kenneth Faried, Jordan Hamilton.
Going: Raymond Felton, J.R. Smith, Wilson Chandler, Kenyon Martin.
Outlook: The Nuggets face a serious trade deficit after losing Chandler, Martin and Smith to China until at least March. Nene and rising star Arron Afflalo are back, however, and Coach George Karl has a knack for pulling together teams with under-the-radar talent. A rejiggered roster could also present opportunities for Brewer and Fernandez, mere afterthoughts in Dallas.
8. PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS
2010-11 finish: 48-34, No. 6.
Coming: Jamal Crawford, Craig Smith, Kurt Thomas, Nolan Smith.
Going: Brandon Roy, Andre Miller, Rudy Fernandez.
Outlook: The Trailblazers suffered two big losses before their opener with the retirement of Roy and another setback to injury-prone center Greg Oden, whose career is also teetering on the edge. It's LaMarcus Aldridge's team now, and the emerging star has a new wingman in Crawford to add some scoring punch off the bench. Coach Nate McMillan is installing an up-tempo offense for a team likely bound for another quick playoff exit.
9. PHOENIX SUNS
2010-11 finish: 40-42, No. 10.
Coming: Shannon Brown, Sebastian Telfair, Ronnie Price, Markieff Morris.
Going: Vince Carter, Aaron Brooks.
Outlook: The Suns appear to be setting quickly, with mainstays Steve Nash, 37, and Grant Hill, 39, closing in on AARP status and a team that finished two games under .500 largely unchanged from last season. Brown will infuse energy and some flashy dunks but isn't a game-changer.
10. HOUSTON ROCKETS
2010-11 finish: 43-39, No. 9.
Coming: Coach Kevin McHale, Jonny Flynn, Marcus Morris, Samuel Dalembert.
Going: Coach Rick Adelman, Yao Ming, Chuck Hayes, Brad Miller.
Outlook: The Rockets nearly had Pau Gasol, whom they intended to use in an attempt to lure free agent Nene. Thanks to Commissioner Stern, they have neither. Now they'll go forward with the tandem of Kevin Martin and Luis Scola, whose egos could be bruised by nearly being cast off as part of the nixed Gasol trade. Not ideal.
11. GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
2010-11 finish: 36-46, No. 12.
Coming: Coach Mark Jackson, Kwame Brown, Brandon Rush, Klay Thompson.
Going: Coach Keith Smart, Charlie Bell, Vladimir Radmanovic.
Outlook: Jackson is preaching defense, but is anyone listening? The team known for scoring in triple digits -- and losing -- remains largely intact from a season ago, meaning the cavalry isn't coming to save Monta Ellis, Stephen Curry & Co. In a subplot, former Lakers center Brown gets yet another chance to prove he isn't one of the league's all-time flops.
12. NEW ORLEANS HORNETS
2010-11 finish: 46-36, No. 7.
Coming: Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman, Al-Farouq Aminu.
Going: Chris Paul, David West, Tony Allen.
Outlook: The Hornets hope to emerge as the eventual winners in their blockbuster trade with the Clippers. Unfortunately, even a best-case scenario involves sacrificing this season while waiting for the draft pick they acquired in the deal to turn into a franchise player. In the meantime, having Gordon, Kaman and Aminu makes them the Clippers Lite.
13. UTAH JAZZ
2010-11 finish: 39-43, No. 11.
Coming: Coach Tyrone Corbin, Josh Howard, Enes Kanter, Alec Burks.
Going: Coach Jerry Sloan, Andrei Kirilenko, Ronnie Price.
Outlook: The last time the Jazz went into a season without Sloan on the sideline, their roster included a young duo by the name of John Stockton and Karl Malone. The year was 1988. Longtime Utah fans must also adjust to life without former All-Star Kirilenko, the 10-year veteran who remains in Russia. Howard will be reunited with point guard Devin Harris in a retooled lineup that doesn't exactly exude excitement.
14. SACRAMENTO KINGS
2010-11 finish: 24-58, No. 14.
Coming: J.J. Hickson, John Salmons, Travis Outlaw, Jimmer Fredette, Tyler Honeycutt.
Going: Omri Casspi, Beno Udrih, Samuel Dalembert.
Outlook: The Kings have bigger issues than a shaky roster, such as where they will call home a year from now. Anaheim remains in play for a franchise that appears to have little direction on or off the court. Hickson and Salmons are nice additions but hardly constitute building blocks for a championship, or even a playoff push with this team. Free agent candidate Chuck Hayes being diagnosed with a heart ailment didn't help either.
15. MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES
2010-11 finish: 17-65, No. 15.
Coming: Coach Rick Adelman, Jose Barea, Brad Miller, Ricky Rubio, Derrick Williams, Malcolm Lee.
Going: Coach Kurt Rambis, Sebastian Telfair, Jonny Flynn.
Outlook: Kevin Love is still around, so there's that. The Timberwolves also could drive the Lakers bonkers with the presence of Barea alone. But come on. Anything more than 20 victories qualifies as an upset.