Reloading in L.A.
Can the geriatric Los Angeles Lakers make another run at an NBA title? The backcourt consists of 38-year-old Steve Nash and 34-year-old Kobe Bryant. Newly acquired all-star center Dwight Howard is an old 26, having played nine NBA seasons and coming off back surgery. If the Lakers can stay in one piece, they should contend.
Reloading in Boston
Like the Lakers, the Celtics are showing some serious age, but that doesn't mean they won't be highly competitive. This is a team that took Miami to the seventh game of the Eastern Conference finals. Boston is led by Kevin Garnett, 36, and Paul Pierce, 35, and the key offseason acquisition to give a spark off the bench is 35-year-old Jason Terry. If the Celtics are not limping by April, they should be a major postseason factor.
One of the under-the-radar free agent signings should be old friend Lou Williams, who left the 76ers and joined his hometown Atlanta Hawks. Williams gives the Hawks a true sniper off the bench, and as Sixers fans saw, he is a change-of-pace player, who may not provide much defense but can fill it up on the other end.
The next step?
In the NBA, it's often said a team has to lose in the postseason before it can win. In 2010, the Oklahoma City Thunder lost in the first round to the Lakers. The next year, Oklahoma City lost in the Western Conference finals to Dallas. Last season the Thunder fell to Miami in the NBA Finals. Is this the year that OKC takes another step and wins it all? With Kevin Durant (26.3 career scoring average) the Thunder remain a major title contender.
New venue, new team
From the Broken Nets to the Brooklyn Nets, the former New Jersey franchise has a new home and an even newer outlook. Deron Williams, Brook Lopez, Gerald Wallace, and Kris Humphries were re-signed. An expensive but still effective Joe Johnson was acquired from Atlanta. Here is a question that nobody in his right mind would have asked at the end of last season: Are they as good as the 76ers?
The following are players who could be in store for breakout seasons - Jrue Holiday, Sixers point guard; Paul George, Indiana swingman; Taj Gibson, Chicago forward; Derrick Favors, Utah forward-center; and Dallas guard O.J Mayo.
How good will the Chicago Bulls be? Nobody knows for sure when Derrick Rose will return after suffering a torn left ACL in last season's opening playoff win over the Sixers. The Bulls' defense should keep them competitive, but where will the points come from? Even with Rose, the Bulls were just 18th in scoring (96.3 ppg.).
Jeremy Lin is now in Houston, and the former New York Knicks point guard, who was the biggest NBA story for a while last season, may be quarterbacking a team that is the equivalent of football's Cleveland Browns.
Houston has a chance to be a high lottery team. Both Lin and former Bull Omer Asik signed three-year, $25 million deals, which some thought was a little too pricey, especially for a Rockets team expected to struggle mightily.
Challenging the Old Sixers?
In a 66-game NBA schedule, Charlotte won just seven games. The 1972-73 Sixers still own the 82-game record for fewest NBA wins when they went 9-73. Will Charlotte challenge that record this season? Newcomer Ben Gordon will inject some needed offense and Somerdale's Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, the No. 2 overall pick from Kentucky, should become a defensive presence. Episcopal Academy's Gerald Henderson might be the best player for Michael Jordan's team, which is light-years from contending for a playoff berth.
Minnesota, a woebegone franchise, is considered a potential playoff team, but the Timberwolves must withstand some difficult injuries. Point guard Ricky Rubio is still recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee and forward Kevin Love suffered a broken hand in the preseason.
My, how times change quickly in the NBA. Dallas was the 2011 NBA champion. Last season the Mavericks were swept in the first round of the playoffs by Oklahoma City. Now, with 11-time all-star Dirk Nowitzki having arthroscopic knee surgery on Oct. 19 and expected to miss at least the first month of the season, it's far from assured that the Mavs will make the playoffs.
MVP: Kevin Durant, Thunder
Larry O'Brien Trophy (for NBA champion), the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Kevin Durant, F, Thunder
LeBron James, F, Heat
Kobe Bryant, G, Lakers
Deron Williams, G, Nets
Dwight Howard, C, Lakers
Defensive player of the year: Serge Ibaka, Thunder
Preseason all-rookie team
Harrison Barnes, F, Warriors
Anthony Davis, F-C, Hornets
Austin Rivers, G, Hornets
Damian Lillard, G, Blazers
Bradley Beal, G, Wizards