By Jeff Garcia
1. Hornets. Taking the San Antonio Spurs to 7 games in the Western Conf. Semi-Finals last post season proved this team is on the verge of becoming a Western power entering this new season. Adding James Posey to the mix, with his shooting and defense is just what this team needed. Chris Paul will challenge if not take this years MVP trophy and only will continue to get better. Scary. Their core of Chris Paul, David West, Tyson Chandler, Peja Stojakovic, and Bonzi Wells could be the last team standing in the West heading into the NBA Finals.
2. Lakers. Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, and Derek Fisher will continue to build on last years run to the Finals. With Andrew Bynum back, the Lakers will have a huge front court to contend with the other teams in the West with prominent big men. Question is how much is their bench going to be there during the season? Can Sasha Vujacic continue to develop to be reliable off the bench? Jordan Farmar, Luke Walton, Trevor Ariza, Valdamir Radmanovic, and the rest of the bench will need to contribute more if the Lakers expect to reach the Finals again.
3. Rockets. Want to talk defense? Listen to this. . . Ron Artest, Yao Ming, Shane Battier, and Dikembe Mutombo. Wow! The addition of Ron Artest was an excellent move by the Rockets Front Office. The Rockets will challenge for the top spot in the division if not the Western Conference. Coming aboard the Rockets team is Brent Barry from the Spurs who will contribute despite his age. Expect Aaron Brooks and Luis Scola to get better.
4. Jazz. This team always is under the radar throughout the regular season but not anymore. The core of Carlos Boozer, Deron Williams, and Mehmet Okur are back but will this team finally have enough to return back to the Finals? Last years addition of Kyle Korver wil continue to pay off for the Jazz and the continued development of Ronnie Brewer, and Milsap will help. Like always, Andre Kirilenko is their X-factor and will need to show up with more consistency. Also let’s see what their last years draft, Morris Almond, brings to the team.
5. Mavericks. Yes Josh Howard was an idiot this off season but he still remains an All-Star caliber player. The Mavs did little to their roster, adding Gerald Green, and coming back for another run is their core of Dirk, J. Kidd, and Josh Howard. However the Mavs did see their coach, Avery Johnson, get fired and in come Rick Carlisle.
By Jeff Garcia