And now for something completely different; a preview without shtick!
After a disappointing year in which they finished with the 4th most expected wins in the NBA (55) and lost in the second round after their second best player broke his face, the Spurs added one of the best centers in the world. As the previous sentence intends to make clear, the bar for "success" in San Antonio is a wee bit high. Predicting that the Spurs will become old and ineffective overnight has practically become a cottage industry over the last few years, but if San Antonio can get good performances once again from Duncan, Ginobili, and Parker, the young guns, led by Splitter, Blair, and Hill, are good enough to bring another championship banner back to Texas.
Projected Record: 53-29, 3rd in West.
Even if Yao only plays 1,500 minutes this year, that's a huge improvement over David Andersen. Luis Scola has developed into a 20-10 guy, Kevin Martin continues to pair high usage with high efficiency, Shane Battier is still Shane Battier, and Chase Budinger, Patrick Patterson, Kyle Lowry, Aaron Brooks, Jordan Hill and Courtney Lee is a lot of young talent. I'll be surprised if the Rockets have the same roster at the end of the year, but as it is, this team should be very good.
Projected Record: 50-32, 4th in West.
Dirk's a great player, and Beaubois and Dominique Jones have a lot of potential, but I have no faith in the rest of this team. Kidd can't stay in front of any point guard in the NBA or NBDL, Marion can't create any offense, Butler will clang an extraordinary amount of 20 footers, Terry will continue to decline, and the centers will play decent defense and provide very little offense. Could this team get to the Finals? Sure, if Carlisle plays the youngsters, and they develop faster than expected, and Donnie Nelson parlays that Mavs' many expiring contracts into another star. It's just not very likely.
Projected Record: 47-35, T-6th in West.
Chris Paul is one of the five best players in the NBA. After that, the Hornets don't have a whole lot. Jerryd Bayless, David West, and Trevor Ariza are decent players, but New Orleans has almost no depth. Still, the addition of Bayless may be enough to push the Hornets into the bottom half of the Western Conference playoff bracket.
Projected Record: 44-38: T-8th in West.
Marc Gasol (who should be even better) and Zach Randolph should be a highly effective inside tandem. O.J. Mayo and Rudy Gay are also above average players who will miss a lot of shots, but also make a lot of shots. On the other hand, the point guards are dreadful, and the defense is questionable at best. Expect another ~.500 season for Memphis, which should be the peak of this team's run.
Projected Record: 42-40: 11th in West.
Finals: Heat over Lakers in 6.
MVP: Chris Paul
Rookie of the Year: Blake Griffin
Scoring Champion: Kevin Durant
Rebound Champion: Kevin Love
Assist Champion: Chris Paul