2. OKC Thunder- young nucleus centered around K. Durant, Jeff Green and Russell Westbrook with solid veteran presence who can play and teach and are satisfied since their playing for a little more than veteran's minimum
3. Dallas Mavericks- Dirk Nowitzki is the main show of this rodeo, a solid 3-point shooting power forward who has great veteran presence including underrated Brendan Haywood, Caron Butler, Jason Kidd, Erick Dampier and Shawn Marion; veterans who have fun playing together and are all thirsty for a ring. Their time is running out though, unlike LA or Miami, it's now or never (or should we say rebuilding). Look out for a major trade to take place that could involve Chris Paul or disgruntled but solid players. They have a bench full of players that could be starters.
4. Atlanta Hawks- I LOVE ATLANTA!! Best city in the USA to live in (besides BMore OF COURSE!!), but I'm not being biased here at all. They brought back the leader of the pack (I was tempted to say leader of the gang since we're talking about ATL but.....JK!!) in Joe Johnson, but Johnson's biggest problem is that when he gets bored, he basically quits. But if the rumors are true and Shaq is comin' to town, expect this young team to go pretty far. Josh Smith is not a great shooter but picks up the boards when needed, has great passing instincts and is dependable when it comes to mid-range shooting. Mike Bibby is no longer a top 10 PG but still has some tricks left in the hat. If ATL can get someone like Shaq who doesn't necessarily need to score but provide a presence in the hole, create a threat for other teams' big men, and rebound and pass the ball to the outside wings where Johnson or Smith are at with an open or contested shot, expect great things for this team.
5. Orlando Magic- They have all the pieces they need, all they need to do is prevent injuries and play cohesively. The 2 biggest problems with the Magic are that they depend too much on DHoward at the paint and when he's not having a great night, they shoot from the 3, even if their being double teamed or if the shot is contested. If the Magic played SMART basketball, they would have had a title 2 years ago; but they can still win a title now if they improve on their offensive tactics. I have to admit, if the Magic play smart they are a solid defensive team with offensive weapons that can produce.
6. Phoenix Suns- Great shooters and passers, but they have no threat to replace Amare (who left for the Big Apple and MSG). I love the moves they made to acquire Turkgulo and Josh Childress but they need someone who can defend Pau Gasol and shoot from the outside, someone like Zach Randolph, to take them to the next level.
7. Boston Celtics- ONE SHOT AND ONE INJURY AWAY FROM A TITLE, thats all I have to say; while Perkins is out, Jermaine O'Neal has been brought in to help KG pick up boards.
8. Portland Trailblazers- see OKC Thunder, Brandon Roy is the only difference. They also have the weapons to make a trade for a solid veteran to take them to the next level. GREG ODON is BACK!
9. Denver Nuggets- 3rd year of the Melo-Billups combo could bring the prize to Denver. If Melo stops dreaming about NYC a little, and J.R. Smith stops showboating and Kenyon Martin ACTUALLY PLAYS ALL 82 GAMES!!; then expect big things to be poppin' in Denver
10. Chicago Bulls- It might have actually been a good thing LBJ/Wade/Bosh didn't go to Chi-town. Chicago has been able to pull off what Miami is lacking right now, A TEAM. They have players with all types of skillsets all mixed into one and they have their own version of LBJ in Derrick Rose. If Cleveland would have gave LeBron what Chicago has given Derrick Rose maybe Cleveland could have still been "witnesses".
BASICALLY MY POINT IS..............The road to the NBA Title Series this year barring injuries is not going to be as easy as everyone assumes for the two favorites Miami and LA.