NBA 2010-11 preview

RYAN WOLSTAT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:08 PM ET

ATLANTIC DIVISION

1. Boston Celtics

Predicted finish: 3rd in East

Last year: 50-32

Key additions: Shaquille O’Neal, Jermaine O’Neal.

Skinny: With C Kendrick Perkins sidelined until the new year, they signed aging O’Neal who has little left in tank ... Rajon Rondo keeps improving but teammates going the other way.

Burning question: Will this old gang have anything left for the playoffs? Doc Rivers will have to give the aged Celtics plenty of minutes off in the regular season but it will prove costly if it lets Miami and Orlando get homecourt advantage.

2. New York Knicks

Predicted Finish: 7th in East

Last year: 29-53

Key additions: Amare Stoudemire, Ray Felton, Timofey Mozgov (R).

Skinny: Finally add a superstar in Stoudemire while Felton improves PG picture ... Will be able to score and added solid defensive role players.

Burning question: Danillo Gallinari, Anthony Randolph and the rest had better get used to the trade rumours. The Knicks want Carmelo Anthony and/or Chris Paul badly and will keep making offers for them.

3. Philadelphia 76ers

Predicted finish: 8th in East

Last year: 27-55

Key additions: Evan Turner (R), Andres Nocioni, Spencer Hawes, Craig Brackins.

Skinny: Stacked with quality young guards but leave a lot to be desired up front ... Better when they go small, but that will burn them at the defensive end.

Burning question: Does Iggy stay or go? Andre Iguodala is expendable with the similarly multi-skilled rookie Turner on board, but he is still Sixers’ best player. If they can acquire a good big man for him, look for the high flyer to be shipped out.

4. New Jersey Nets

Predicted finish: 11th in East

Last year: 12-70

Key additions: Troy Murphy, Derrick Favors (R), Anthony Morrow, Travis Outlaw, Jordan Farmar, Avery Johnson (coach).

Skinny: NBA’s worst a year ago has gotten bigger and will improve ... With healthy Devin Harris and young studs Brook Lopez and Derick Favors learning from Murphy, future looks bright.

Burning question: Will they make a big splash? The Nets have a billionaire Russian owner who desperately wants to make some noise to get out of the shadow of the Knicks.

5. Toronto Raptors

Predicted finish: 13th in East

Last year: 40-42

Key additions: Leandro Barbosa, Linas Kleiza, Ed Davis (R).

Skinny: Moving on, again, this time without Chris Bosh ... Lack star talent, a defensive stopper in the middle and consistent scoring depth to be passable.

Burning question: Act now or act later? Need to add top talent either via the draft or trade. Do they let the season play out and get a much-needed high pick, or set up years of mediocrity by using large trade exception from Bosh deal in order to get better quicker (the MLSEL way)?

CENTRAL DIVISION

1. Chicago Bulls

Predicted finish: 4th in East

Last year: 41-41

Key additions: Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer.

Skinny: Added cogs of successful teams in new head coach Tom Thibodeau, mastermind of Boston’s stifling defence, and three former Utah players ... Boozer the force down low they’ve lacked for years, Korver brings shooting and Derrick Rose ready to make leap to superstardom.

Burning question: Will Boozer play enough games to lift Bulls? He has been riddled with injuries throughout his career and is already hurt. Team wins a playoff round with him, squeaks in without him.

2. Milwaukee Bucks

Predicted finish: 5th in East

Last year: 46-36

Key additions: Corey Maggette, Drew Gooden, Larry Sanders (R).

Skinny: Surprise of NBA a year ago upgraded with Maggette ... Lost depth at PG with departure of Luke Ridnour. More pressure now on Brandon Jennings ... Andrew Bogut still not 100% after injury last season.

Burning question: What’s Michael Redd’s status? Former face of franchise still out for months. Would provide lethal scoring off bench but might be done.

3. Indiana Pacers

Predicted finish: 9th in East

Last year: 32-50

Key additions: Darren Collison, James Posey, Paul George (R).

Skinny: Stole standout PG Collison ... Can really score with Danny Granger, Mike Dunleavy and the rookie George.

Burning question? Are they the worst rebounding team in league? Minus the departed Troy Murphy, left with little on boards. Big Roy Hibbert underwhelms and Tyler Hansbrough is still hurting. Team launches a ton of threes and won’t be able to get putbacks.

4. Detroit Pistons

Predicted finish: 12th in East

Last year: 27-55

Key additions: Tracy McGrady, Greg Monroe (R).

Skinny: How the mighty have fallen! Former contenders now a squad of duplication and mismatched parts having never recovered from trading Chauncey Billups ... Monroe is a keeper, but defence stinks, and so will this team.

Burning question: How long until the fire sale? Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon are all overpaid, but readily available. GM Joe Dumars did little to improve one of league’s biggest disappointments.

5. Cleveland Cavaliers

Predicted finish: 15th in East

Last year: 61-21

Key additions: Ramon Sessions, Ryan Hollins, Byron Scott (coach), Chris Grant (Promoted to GM)

Skinny: Lost league MVP LeBron James and nobody recovers from that. Penthouse to outhouse for team which now is in big trouble ... Will have chip on shoulders but not enough talent.

Burning question: Who is going to score? Mo Williams and Antawn Jamison are fine secondary scorers but team didn’t put enough points on the board even with James. Cavs will be in position to draft James‚ replacement, North Carolina freshman Harrison Barnes.

SOUTHEAST DIVISION

1. Miami Heat

Predicted finish: 1st in East

Last year: 47-35

Key additions: LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Mike Miller.

Skinny: Pulled off biggest coup in years by forming Big 3 around incumbent superstar Dwyane Wade ... But three superstars means less depth than most and fourth-best player Miller already has gone down long-term with injury suffered trying to guard James in practice.

Burning question: Can they possibly meet expectations? The 2004 Lakers had four first-ballot Hall of Famers and failed. Pressure will be high and James and Bosh both have folded in past playoffs.

2. Orlando Magic

Predicted finish: 2nd in East

Last year: 59-23

Key additions: Quentin Richardson, Chris Duhon.

Skinny: May be 2nd best team in NBA but not best in division ... Did not upgrade already imposing roster to keep up with top contenders ... Can score, defend and are expertly coached ... Injuries in Miami would mean trip to the final.

Burning question: Are the vets done? Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis were poor a year ago, but rebounded with strong pre-seasons. If they are back in form, Dwight Howard’s Magic will be lethal.

3. Atlanta Hawks

Predicted finish: 6th in East

Last year: 53-29

Key additions: Jordan Crawford (R), Larry Drew (coach).

Skinny: Gave team MVP Joe Johnson a ridiculous extension which will cost them down line big time. Johnson was awful in second round of playoffs against Orlando ... Axed coach Mike Woodson despite getting better every year ... Have misfortune of playing in tough division.

Burning question: Have they peaked? Hawks have a balanced mix of talent but the bulk of it won’t get much better. That’s not good enough since three East teams are considerably better than them.

4. Charlotte Bobcats

Predicted finish: 10th in East

Last year: 44-38

Key additions: Shaun Livingston, Kwame Brown.

Skinny: Made playoffs for first time and will fight to do it again ... Have nice options at SG, SF and PF but weakest in league at key PG/C positions ... New owner Michael Jordan has cut payroll rather than add to talent base since taking over.

Burning question: Will they finally go through with Jose Calderon trade? He would obviously help and was almost sent to Charlotte this summer.

5. Washington Wizards

Predicted finish: 14th in East

Last year: 26-56

Key additions: John Wall (R), Kirk Hinrich, Yi Jianlian.

Skinny: Lucked out in adding eventual star Wall ... One of most athletic and explosive teams in loop but lacks basketball IQ ... Will be good with experience, but it won’t happen this year.

Burning question: What’s the deal with Gilbert Arenas? They didn’t want him back before finding out they got Wall. Still don’t and he keeps saying and doing stupid things. But contract is almost immovable so they are stuck with him.

NORTHWEST DIVISION

1. Oklahoma City Thunder

Predicted finish: 2nd in West

Last year: 50-32

Key additions: Daequan Cook, Cole Aldrich (R), Morris Peterson.

Skinny: Kevin Durant’s next step is MVP ... Russell Westbrook is brilliant, as well ... Team gave Lakers a tough time in playoffs ... Nice young combo in the middle with traditional big Aldrich and athletic sparkplug Serge Ibaka.

Burning question? How big a step are they ready to take? Super-talented but extremely young. Will be strong and will win division and 55+ games, but not yet ready to get by Lakers.

2. Portland Trail Blazers

Predicted finish: 4th in West

Last year: 50-32

Key additions: Wesley Matthews, Luke Babbitt (R), Rich Cho (GM).

Skinny: Surprisingly, axed GM Kevin Pritchard ... Strong combo of young star power (Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldrige, Nic Batum) and veteran savvy (Marcus Camby, Andrea Miller) ... Aldridge has talent but needs to play harder.

Burning question: As always, what’s the deal with Greg Oden? Needs to prove he can stay on court. If healthy, Blazers capable of winning division. If not, Blazers are thin with Camby and Joel Przybilla constant injury risks.

3. Utah Jazz

Predicted finish: 7th West

Last year: 57-25

Key additions: Al Jefferson, Raja Bell, Gordon Hayward (R).

Skinny: Revamped and reloaded, still brilliantly coached, deep and talented ... Adding Jefferson was a coup as he basically replaces the older, more brittle Carlos Boozer ... Will miss injured centre Memo Okur.

Burning question: Will they run in place for a year? Jazz will be better equipped a year from now when Andrei Kirilenko’s onerous $17-million US deal is off the books. They are a playoff team, but in deep West, aren’t good enough to beat the elite.

4. Denver Nuggets

Predicted finish: 11th in West

Last year: 53-29

Key additions: Al Harrington, Masai Ujiri (GM)

Skinny: Contenders turn pretenders as age, unhappiness catches up ... Carmelo Anthony wants out, others will surely follow ... Former Raptors assistant GM Ujiri likely to lose his superstar after seeing Chris Bosh walk out the door in Toronto.

Burning question: When’s the fire sale? Once Melo goes, Chauncey Billups and Nene won’t be long for Denver. Will be the latest team that cleaned up in ’03 draft to rebuild (Cavaliers, Raptors).

5. Minnesota Timberwolves

Predicted finish: 15th in West

Last year: 15-67

Key additions: Luke Ridnour, Wes Johnson (R), Nikola Pekovic (R), Michael Beasleyr.

Skinny: Turned over a terrible roster and added talent. Trouble is GM David Kahn is still assembling a flawed roster that is too heavy on point guards and swingmen.

Burning question: Will No. 2 overall picks Beasley or Darko Milicic get it? Milicic was solid in a half-season in Minny. Beasley may blossom now that he’s in Siberia instead of South Beach.

SOUTHWEST DIVISION

1. Oklahoma City Thunder

Predicted finish: 2nd in West

Last year: 50-32

Key additions: Daequan Cook, Cole Aldrich (R), Morris Peterson.

Skinny: Kevin Durant’s next step is MVP ... Russell Westbrook is brilliant, as well ... Team gave Lakers a tough time in playoffs ... Nice young combo in the middle with traditional big Aldrich and athletic sparkplug Serge Ibaka.

Burning question? How big a step are they ready to take? Super-talented but extremely young. Will be strong and will win division and 55+ games, but not yet ready to get by Lakers.

2. Portland Trail Blazers

Predicted finish: 4th in West

Last year: 50-32

Key additions: Wesley Matthews, Luke Babbitt (R), Rich Cho (GM).

Skinny: Surprisingly, axed GM Kevin Pritchard ... Strong combo of young star power (Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldrige, Nic Batum) and veteran savvy (Marcus Camby, Andrea Miller) ... Aldridge has talent but needs to play harder.

Burning question: As always, what’s the deal with Greg Oden? Needs to prove he can stay on court. If healthy, Blazers capable of winning division. If not, Blazers are thin with Camby and Joel Przybilla constant injury risks.

3. Utah Jazz

Predicted finish: 7th West

Last year: 57-25

Key additions: Al Jefferson, Raja Bell, Gordon Hayward (R).

Skinny: Revamped and reloaded, still brilliantly coached, deep and talented ... Adding Jefferson was a coup as he basically replaces the older, more brittle Carlos Boozer ... Will miss injured centre Memo Okur.

Burning question: Will they run in place for a year? Jazz will be better equipped a year from now when Andrei Kirilenko’s onerous $17-million US deal is off the books. They are a playoff team, but in deep West, aren’t good enough to beat the elite.

4. Denver Nuggets

Predicted finish: 11th in West

Last year: 53-29

Key additions: Al Harrington, Masai Ujiri (GM)

Skinny: Contenders turn pretenders as age, unhappiness catches up ... Carmelo Anthony wants out, others will surely follow ... Former Raptors assistant GM Ujiri likely to lose his superstar after seeing Chris Bosh walk out the door in Toronto.

Burning question: When’s the fire sale? Once Melo goes, Chauncey Billups and Nene won’t be long for Denver. Will be the latest team that cleaned up in ’03 draft to rebuild (Cavaliers, Raptors).

5. Minnesota Timberwolves

Predicted finish: 15th in West

Last year: 15-67

Key additions: Luke Ridnour, Wes Johnson (R), Nikola Pekovic (R), Michael Beasleyr.

Skinny: Turned over a terrible roster and added talent. Trouble is GM David Kahn is still assembling a flawed roster that is too heavy on point guards and swingmen.

Burning question: Will No. 2 overall picks Beasley or Darko Milicic get it? Milicic was solid in a half-season in Minny. Beasley may blossom now that he’s in Siberia instead of South Beach.

PACIFIC DIVISION

1. Los Angeles Lakers

Predicted finish: 1st in West

Last year: 57-25

Key additions: Matt Barnes, Steve Blake.

Skinny: Champs got better, upgrading bench with steady veterans Barnes and Blake ... Andrew Bynum continues to be held back by injuries but is progressing faster than expected ... With the Heat needing time to gel, Lakers still the team to beat.

Burning question: Are they better than the Heat? They are bigger, savvier and grittier. But only stopping James, Wade and Bosh will cement Kobe Bryant, Phil Jackson and the gang as another Lakers dynasty.

2. Phoenix Suns

Predicted finish: 8th in West

Last year: 54-28

Key additions: Hedo Turkoglu, Josh Childress, Hakim Warrick, Lon Babby (GM).

SKINNY: Championship window has closed ... Lost Amare Stoudemire and added Turkoglu for Leandro Barbosa, won’t recover from those missteps ... Not enough inside scoring.

Burning question: Is this Steve Nash’s final year in Phoenix? Jettisoned various Nash buddies over the years and he might want to leave in search of the ring that has eluded him. He has already said making the playoffs will be a stretch for this group.

3. Los Angeles Clippers

Predicted finish: 9th in West

Last year: 29-53

Key additions: Randy Foye, Ryan Gomes, Al-Farouq Aminu (R), Vinnie Del Negro (head coach).

Skinny: Getting closer to contention. Blake Griffin could average 18 and 10 as a rookie and supporting cast is there to challenge for the playoffs ... Young G Eric Gordon impressed in pre-season and should be nice complement for Griffin. Aminu also showed flashes but will need time to adjust to the NBA.

Burning question: Which Baron Davis shows up? In shape, Davis is an all-star, unmotivated, he is a costly disaster.

4. Golden State Warriors

Predicted finish: 13th in West

Last year: 26-56

Key additions: David Lee, Ekpe Udoh (R), Charlie Bell.

Skinny: Don Nelson out as coach, Keith Smart in ... Team will slow it down and at least make an attempt to play defence ... Scoring won’t be a problem, Lee should be a perfect fit and will pair with Andris Biedrins to form one of best rebounding frontcourts in NBA.

Burning question: Can Monta Ellis/Steph Curry backcourt work? Both are big-time scorers who aren’t true points. Neither plays much D, but Curry is the future while another team will pay up for the explosive Ellis.

5. Sacramento Kings

Predicted finish: 14th in West

Last year: 25-57

Key additions: DeMarcus Cousins (R), Samuel Dalembert, Antoine Wright.

Skinny: Have a couple of blue chip building blocks in rookie of the year Tyreke Evans and big freshman Cousins, but youth will hold them back for now ... Scoring depth is a weakness as is inexperience.

Burning question: What will chemistry be like? Cousins/Evans have wild-card personalities. Front-court depth with Dalembert, Carl Landry, Cousins and Jason Thompson all capable performers, could lead to squabbling over minutes.


Videos

Photos