2007-08 NBA Previews

RYAN WOLSTAT and DAN BILICKI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 1:24 PM ET

ATLANTIC DIVISION

BOSTON CELTICS

Starting five: PG Rajon Rondo, SG Ray Allen, SF Paul Pierce, PF Kevin Garnett, C Kendrick Perkins. Sixth man: James Posey

Burning question: Can "the new Big Three" stay healthy? Allen and Pierce, combined, missed 62 games last season.

Insiders say: The additions of Garnett and Allen have made the Celtics the choice of many to pace the Atlantic and possibly get to the final. But they will need someone to pick up some of the slack from their overworked stars.

Last season: 24-58, missed playoffs

TORONTO RAPTORS

Starting five: PG T.J. Ford, SG Anthony Parker,

SF Jason Kapono, PF Chris Bosh, C Andrea Bargnani. Sixth man: Jose Calderon

Burning question: After rapid ascent, have they learned enough from playoff loss to the Nets to retain crown in a tougher division? Should be cohesive from the start but need continued growth of Bosh, Bargnani and Ford.

Insiders say: Many are looking past the Raptors, who will live and die by the three and must make up for the toughness and smarts lost without Jorge Garbajosa and Rasho Nesterovic in the starting lineup.

Last season: 47-35, lost to New Jersey in first round.

NEW JERSEY NETS

Starting five: PG Jason Kidd, SG Vince Carter,

SF Richard Jefferson, PF Jason Collins, C Nenad Krstic. Sixth man: Boki Nachbar

Burning question: Now that he has signed a lucrative extension, will Vince Carter's play and knees deteriorate as they did shortly after he inked his big Raptors deal in 2001?

Insiders say: If Nets' own Big Three stays healthy, they could move up. But Carter and Jefferson have long injury histories and Kidd's knees are only getting worse.

Last season: 41-41, lost to Cleveland in second round.

NEW YORK KNICKS

Starting five: PG Stephon Marbury, SG Jamal

Crawford, SF Quentin Richardson, PF Zach Randolph, C Eddy Curry. Sixth man: David Lee

Burning question: Can the Curry/Randolph experiment possibly work? Isiah Thomas has acquired the NBA's heftiest and slowest frontcourt. Both are lethal down low, but can't pass out of double-teams or play defence particularly well.

Insiders say: Knicks need Marbury to buy into his new role of facilitator if they have any hope of making a playoff run.

Last season: 33-49, missed playoffs.

PHILADELPHIA 76ERS

Starting five: PG Andre Miller, SG Andre Iguodala,

SF Kyle Korver, PF Reggie Evans, C Samuel Dalembert. Sixth man: Willie Green

Burning question: What is this team's plan? They have enough solid veterans to at least challenge for eighth, but that won't help them as much as getting a top-five pick would.

Insiders say: Good enough to be only competitive. Still need a stud to complement Iguodala.

Last season: 35-47, missed playoffs.

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CENTRAL DIVISION

CHICAGO BULLS

Starting five: PG Kirk Hinrich, SG Ben Gordon, SF Luol Deng, PF Tyrus Thomas, C Ben Wallace. Sixth man: Andres Nocioni

Burning question: Will they stand pat or grant Kobe Bryant his wish? Bulls are good enough to win the East now and get better later.

Insiders say: The Bulls are the deepest team in the league and though they lack a top-10 talent, Deng is getting close and Gordon hits clutch shots at an elite level.

Last season: 49-33, lost to Detroit in second round.

DETROIT PISTONS

Starting five: PG Chauncey, SG Richard, SF Tayshaun Prince, PF Rasheed Wallace, C Antonio McDyess. Sixth man: Jason Maxiell.

Burning question: Is there enough young talent here to effectively spell an aging starting five? Maxiell and Amir Johnson are energetic, undersized bigs ready to emerge.

Insiders say: Have made conference final five consecutive times. Still good enough to easily reach the playoffs, but championship window appears to be closed.

Last season: 53-29, lost to Cleveland in Eastern final.

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS

Starting five: PG Daniel Gibson, SG Larry Hughes, SF LeBron James, PF Drew Gooden, C Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Sixth man: Sasha Pavlovic.

Burning question: Why are they playing hardball with unsigned restricted free agents Pavlovic and Anderson Varejao, their two best bench players? Need to get them signed and fast, since surprise NBA finalist did nothing to get better.

Insiders say: James may get his first MVP award, but rest of the team is underwhelming -- especially if Pavlovic and Varejao aren't playing -- and Cavs could take a step back.

Last season: 50-32, swept by San Antonio in NBA final.

MILWAUKEE BUCKS

Starting five: PG Mo Williams, SG Michael Redd, SF Bobby Simmons, PF Yi Jianlian, C Andrew Bogut. Sixth man: Desmond Mason.

Burning question: Can they stay healthy? With the exception of the rookie Yi, entire starting lineup has had past injury issues, as have key subs Mason and Charlie Villanueva.

Insiders say: Larry Krystkowiak gets a full season to work with one of NBA's most talented offensively, suspect defensively squads Soft bigs can't stop anyone.

Last season: 28-54, missed playoffs

INDIANA PACERS

Starting five: PG Jamaal Tinsley, SG Mike Dunleavy, SF Danny Granger, PF Jermaine O'Neal, C Troy Murphy. Sixth man: Jeff Foster

Burning question: Are they done dealing? Star forward O'Neal has been on the block for ages and with the playoffs likely out of reach, the Pacers may look to deal him for picks and prospects.

Insiders say: Jim O'Brien's first season in charge could be a long one. With the East the best it's been in years, the Pacers look like a lottery team.

Last season: 35-47, missed playoffs

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SOUTHEAST DIVISION

WASHINGTON WIZARDS

Starting five: PG Gilbert Arenas, SG DeShawn Stevenson, SF Caron Butler, PF Antawn Jamison, C Brendan Haywood. Sixth man: Andray Blatche.

Burning question: Do you really need defence if your offence is this good? Wizards have explosive scorers Arenas and Jamison, who have the added incentive of playing for new contracts.

Insiders say: Were perched near the top of the East last season until MVP candidate Arenas and steady Butler went down, so there is no reason to doubt them with both healthy.

Last season: 41-41, lost to Cleveland in first round

MIAMI HEAT

Starting five: PG Jason Williams, SG Dwyane Wade, SF Ricky Davis, PF Udonis Haslem, C Shaquille O'Neal. Sixth man: Smush Parker

Burning question: Can they keep Shaq and Wade on the court for most of the year? Both missed considerable time last year as the defending champs barely squeezed into the playoffs. Neither is 100% to start the season.

Insiders say: Additions of Davis and Mark Blount for the declining Antoine Walker beefs up what remains a thin club.

Last season: 44-38, lost to Chicago in first round.

ORLANDO MAGIC

Starting five: PG Jameer Nelson, SG Keith Bogans, SF Rashard Lewis, PF Hedo Turkoglu, C Dwight Howard. Sixth man: J.J. Redick

Burning question: Is Dwight Howard going to develop a mid-range game? He dominates defensively -- relying purely on power -- but must develop a more fluid offensive game.

Insiders say: Massively overpaid for Lewis, who always seems to be injured, and had to lose Grant Hill and Darko Milicic to clear enough cap space for him. Not deep, but good enough to fight for a final playoff spot.

Last season: 40-42, lost to Detroit in first round.

ATLANTA HAWKS

Starting five: PG Acie Law IV, SG Joe Johnson, SF Josh Smith, PF Al Horford, C Zaza Pachulia. Sixth man: Marvin Williams

Burning question: Is Acie Law the answer at point guard? Team has been rudderless all decade and needs someone to bring out the best in this squad of thoroughbreds.

Insiders say: The most athletic team in the league is ready to take a small step forward, but is not quite a playoff team yet. Law and Horford should both end up on all-rookie squad.

Last season: 30-52, missed playoffs

CHARLOTTE BOBCATS

Starting five: PG Raymond Felton, SG Jason Richardson SF Gerald Wallace, PF Emeka Okafor, C Primoz Brezec. Sixth man: Walter Herrmann

Burning question: Will anybody show up to watch these guys play? Burned by the loss of the Hornets, hoops-crazed fans in Charlotte have been slow to warm to the Bobcats -- despite a roster stocked with former UNC standouts.

Insiders say: Looked to be playoff contenders with the addition of the explosive Richardson, but season-ending injuries to Adam Morrison and Sean May weaken bench.

Last season: 33-49, missed playoffs

CHARLOTTE BOBCATS

Starting five: PG Raymond Felton, SG Jason Richardson SF Gerald Wallace, PF Emeka Okafor, C Primoz Brezec. Sixth man: Walter Herrmann

Burning question: Will anybody show up to watch these guys play? Burned by the loss of the Hornets, hoops-crazed fans in Charlotte have been slow to warm to the Bobcats -- despite a roster stocked with former UNC standouts.

Insiders say: Looked to be playoff contenders with the addition of the explosive Richardson, but season-ending injuries to Adam Morrison and Sean May weaken bench.

Last season: 33-49, missed playoffs

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PACIFIC DIVISION

PHOENIX SUNS

Starting five: PG Steve Nash, SG Raja Bell, SF Grant Hill, PF Shawn Marion, C Amare Stoudemire. Sixth man: Leandro Barbosa.

Burning question: Is this finally the Suns year? The window for an NBA championship is closing. Factoring in Nash's age, Marion's trade demands and the salary cutbacks, this could be their last shot at winning it all.

Insiders say: With the lack of competition in the Pacific Division, Phoenix should easily land a top-four spot in the West.

Last year's record: 61-21, lost to San Antonio in 2nd round.

Golden State

GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS

Starting five: PG Baron Davis, SG Monta Ellis,

SF Stephen Jackson, PF Al Harrington, C Andris Biedrins. Sixth man: Mickael Pietrus.

Burning question: Can the Warriors repeat their surprise success of last yeat? Coach Don Nelson will have to work up some new schemes to keep Golden State fresh and repeat their run from last season, which included a first-round upset of the Dallas Mavericks.

Insiders say: The Warriors are looking to play small this season, rotating Harrington, Pietrus and Matt Barnes at power forward. A lot of rebounding responsibility will fall on Biedrins.

Last year's record: 42-40, lost to Utah in 2nd round.

LOS ANGELES LAKERS

Starting five: PG Derek Fisher, SG Kobe Bryant, SF Luke Walton, PF Lamar Odom, C Kwame Brown. Sixth man: Andrew Bynum

Burning question: How much longer will Kobe Bryant be wearing a Lakers jersey? The way rumours are flying, he may soon be following Shaq out of town.

Insiders say: With Kobe on the verge of leaving town, too much cannot be expected of this Lakers team.

Last year's record: 42-40, lost to Phoenix in 1st round.

LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS

Starting five: PG Sam Cassell, SG Cuttino Mobley, SF Ruben Patterson, PF Tim Thomas, C Chris Kaman. Sixth man: Corey Maggette.

Burning question: What can be expected from rookie Al Thornton? He looked great in the pre-season and could figure into rookie-of-the-year running with enough playing time.

Insider says: Injuries will keep Shaun Livingston and Elton Brand on the shelf until at least next spring. The Clippers ship most likely will have sank by then.

Last year's record: 40-42, missed playoffs.

SACRAMENTO KINGS

Starting five: PG Orien Greene, SG Kevin Martin, SF Ron Artest, PF Kenny Thomas, C Brad Miller. Sixth man: Shareef Abdur-Rahim.

Burning question: What was wrong with Brad Miller? The Kings centre battled foot problems last season but is now healthy. He will have a large workload with first-round pick Starting PG Mike Bibby (thumb) out six to 10 weeks.

Insiders say: New coach Reggie Theus should mean a few more wins. The players quit on Eric Musselman last season.

Last year's record: 33-49, missed playoffs.

SOUTHWEST DIVISION

DALLAS MAVERICKS

Starting five: PG Devin Harris, SG Jason Terry, SF Josh Howard, PF Dirk Nowitzki, C Erick Dampier. Sixth man: Jerry Stackhouse.

Burning question: Can the Mavericks rebound from that playoff loss to Golden State? They will have to learn from that or a lot of changes will need to be made.

Insiders say: While the Mavs are working on bringing in Kobe, they absolutely refuse to part with defending MVP Nowitzki. Howard and Harris would most likely be involved in any deal.

Last year's record: 67-15, lost to Golden State in 1st round.

SAN ANTONIO SPURS

Starting five: PG Tony Parker, SG Michael Finley, SF Bruce Bowen, PF Tim Duncan, C Francisco Elson. Sixth man: Manu Ginobili.

Burning question: Can the Spurs do it again? San Antonio has never repeated after winning the title and as always, face tough competition in the West.

Insiders say: With their players getting older, the Spurs need a lot out of Parker, who had a busier summer than San Antonio brass would have liked.

Last year's record: 58-24, won NBA championship.

HOUSTON ROCKETS

Starting five: PG Rafer Alston, SG Tracy McGrady, SF Shane Battier, PF Luis Scola, C Yao Ming. Sixth man: Steve Francis.

Burning question: How long while this team last before a back-court blowup? With six point guards on the roster, some being very expressive, it might not be long before the complaint box fills up.

Insiders say: New coach Rick Adelman's offence-first style could lead to big seasons for McGrady and Yao.

Last year's record: 52-30, lost to Utah in 1st round.

NEW ORLEANS HORNETS

Starting five: PG Chris Paul, SG Morris Peterson, SF Peja Stojakovic, PF David West, C Tyson Chandler. Sixth man: Bobby Jackson.

Burning question: Will a full-time return to New Orleans help the Hornets? Though the team was well-received in Oklahoma City, a return to the still-recovering Big Easy should give them an emotional boost.

Insiders say: If the Hornets can stay healthy, there is no reason why they shouldn't make the playoffs, even in their tough division.

Last year's record: 39-43, missed playoffs.

MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES

Starting five: PG Kyle Lowry, SG Mike Miller, SF Rudy Gay, PF Pau Gasol, C Darko Milicic. Sixth man: Mike Conley Jr.

Burning question: Is there any light at the end of the tunnel? Even with No. 3 overall pick Conley, the Grizzlies will be hard-pressed to not repeat as a lottery team.

Insiders say: The versatile and explosive Gay could make the leap to stardom in this his second year.

Last year's record: 22-60, missed playoffs.

NORTHWEST DIVISION

UTAH JAZZ

Starting five: PG Deron Williams, SG Ronnie Brewer,

SF Andrei Kirilenko, PF Carlos Boozer, C Mehmet Okur. Sixth man: Matt Harpring.

Burning question: Will Kirilenko bounce back? After seeing his points-per-game average drop by 8.3 last season, the big Russian led his country at Eurobasket. With his trade demand fiasco behind him, a return to his average isn't out of question.

Insiders say: Utah is in position to win the Northwest again, especially after watching young point guard Williams show his talent with Team USA this past summer.

Last year's record: 51-31, lost to San Antonio in West finals.

DENVER NUGGETS

Starting five: PG Allen Iverson, SG Yakhouba Diawara, SF Carmelo Anthony, PF Nene Hilario, C Marcus Camby. Sixth man: Kenyon Martin.

Burning question: How far can the Nuggets go with A.I. and Melo playing an entire season together? The two will light it up, though Denver has front-court injury concerns. Starting PG Chucky Atkins (groin) out two months.

Insiders say: Got hot late last year in spite of injuries. Proved that the talent is definitely there for a good playoff run.

Last year's record: 45-37, lost to San Antonio in 1st round.

SEATTLE SUPERSONICS

Starting five: PG Luke Ridnour, SG Kevin Durant, SF Wally Szczerbiak, PF Chris Wilcox, C Nick Collison. Sixth man: Delonte West.

Burning question: How much will the franchise's possible move disrupt the team? There will be plenty of chatter about a shift to Oklahoma.

Insiders say: Seattle will be better than last year but isn't ready yet. The potential is there, but needs time to develop.

Last year's record: 31-51, missed playoffs.

PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS

Starting five: PG Jarrett Jack, SG Brandon Roy, SF Travis Outlaw, PF LaMarcus Aldridge, C Joel Przybilla. Sixth man: Martell Webster.

Burning question: Would the Blazers still have taken Oden if they knew he would require micro-fracture surgery? Indications are that Portland had an idea about his health concerns and still went with Oden over Kevin Durant, feeling the Ohio State centre was a better long-term prospect.

Insiders say: Before Oden went down, their playoff hopes weren't bright. Without him, they are slim to none.

Last year's record: 32-50, missed playoffs.

MINNESOTA T'WOLVES

Starting five: PG Randy Foye, SG Rashad McCants, SF Antoine Walker, PF Al Jefferson, C Theo Ratliff. Sixth man: Ryan Gomes.

Burning question: How long before the potential here turns to talent? There's a lot of potential here, but that's all it is right now, just potential.

Insiders say: The Timberwolves weren't a playoff team with Kevin Garnett and they won't be one without him. Minnesota fans should be looking down the road.

Last year's record: 32-50, missed playoffs.


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