#1 Cleveland Cavaliers: With the addition of numerous players, Cleveland is now the best team in the NBA. The Cleveland Cavaliers took advantage of opportunities in the off season, like any team should. The city of Cleveland was ready to turn things around and now the Cavaliers are one of the most popular topics of the NBA off season.
#2 Los Angeles: Swapping Trevor Ariza for Ron Artest just dropped LA to number 2. With the help of Ron Artest the Lakers will still be a good team, but it will be a matter of how he can contribute. Believe it or not Trevor Ariza was a key player overall in the run for the NBA title and Artest will not bring anything more than Ariza did.
#3 Orlando Magic: Why is Boston behind Orlando? Orlando has a harder core than Boston, and a deeper team. Adding Matt Barnes and Brandon Bass are the key differences, too. Orlando is better than last year, but the Eastern Conference just became more competitive. Look out for the Magic to put up a fight in the Eastern Conference this year.
#4 San Antonio: San Antonio just got a little younger. After looking at the #5 position, come back to #4. The San Antonio Spurs are looking a lot better in terms of age compared to the Celtics. If Tony Parker starts the season healthy and Tim Duncan can stay that way too, San Antonio is not a favorite but is still capable of winning it all.
#5 Boston Celtics: Any Celtics fan should be wondering, are we really #5? Yes. If you watch the NBA close enough, Kevin Garnett will be heading into retirement in a few years; he was unhealthy last year. The two biggest factors to keep Boston in the race for the Finals 1) Kevin Garnett’s health, and 2) Rajon Rondo’s consistency and leadership as a Point Guard.
#6 Dallas Mavericks: Putting Dallas in the #3 spot in the west is a big deal. Portland is a stronger, younger team, but the Mavericks do have new pieces that could fit into their lineup nicely.
#7 Washington Wizards: Agent O is back and with all the new talent, the Wizards shouldn’t be upset with being #7 overall in the NBA.
#8 Portland Trailblazers: It’s hard to tell where to place the Portland Trailblazers. Comparing the performances before last year to the 08-09 season is a big difference and should give the Blazers a fresh new start for 09-10. Portland could easily jump ahead of Dallas in the west, if they continue to build and improve.
#9 Denver Nuggets: The Nuggets have gone downhill this off season. Linas Kleiza and Dahntay Jones were big losses, and that makes Denver think more and more into the future.
#10 Atlanta Hawks: With the addition of Jamal Crawford and Joe Smith, the Hawks don’t look much better, especially because they are in need of a true leader. Last season was a great season for the Hawks, but I don’t think that will happen again this season.
#11 Utah Jazz: If Carlos Boozer is traded the Utah Jazz could be looking at a sticky situation. Boozer is really the only go-to guy on the Jazz and if he is traded the Jazz won’t be seeing the playoffs this season.
#12 Toronto Raptors: Although I do expect the Raptors to make the playoffs and be either the #6 or #7 seed, Toronto is right in the middle of the pack in the East. Hedo Turkoglu is a great addition for the Raptors, but they are still missing several key pieces.
#13 New Orleans Hornets: With Rasual Butler gone in a hurry, Emeka Okafor and Chris Paul need to get it together and stay on their A game or the Hornets will be in trouble.
#14 Chicago Bulls: Ben Gordon just made the Chicago Bulls a confused team. That wouldn’t be a problem if Derrick Rose did not have to be the leading scorer, but now it’s all up to him to help keep Chicago alive.
#15 Detroit Pistons: Loads of talent in Detroit, the question is how it will all fit together. Detroit must also get back to playing defense, or else it will get ugly.
#16 Phoenix Suns: Nothing really changed for the Phoenix Suns. Amare Stoudemire must stay healthy and Steve Nash has to score more or the Phoenix Suns will have an embarrassing season.