Most Valuable Player: Kobe Bryant, Lakers The rivalry between Bryant and LeBron James for the title of world's best player gets even hotter, but thanks to his team's superior record, Bryant retains the crown.Runner-up: James, Cavaliers
Rookie of the Year: Michael Beasley, Heat A matter of supply and demand: Beasley provides scoring to a team that desperately needs it. Runner-up:Greg Oden, Trail Blazers
Defensive Player of the Year: Kevin Garnett, Celtics At 32, KG continues to set the standard for the league's top defensive team. Runner-up:Ron Artest, Rockets
Sixth Man Award: Lamar Odom, Lakers Reluctant to accept this new role, the versatile Odom quickly finds that he thrives in it. Runner-up:Ben Gordon, Bulls
Most Improved Player: Andrew Bynum, LakersTo restore its defensive backbone, Los Angeles turns to a 21-year-old 7-footer -- and he delivers. Runner-up:Rodney Stuckey, Pistons
Coach of the Year: Nate McMillan, Trail BlazersPortland makes a big jump in the wins column, earns a playoff spot and develops a D that can key an eventual title run. Runner-up:Rick Adelman, Rockets
Executive of the Year: Kevin Pritchard, Trail BlazersThe 41-year-old GM has overhauled not only the roster but also the team's image -- with cap space left to sign a major free agent next summer. Runner-up:Daryl Morey, Rockets
The Artest ExperimentThe Rockets are asking Mr. Volatility, Ron Artest, to provide championship chemistry and be the reliable third star they need to match up with the Spurs' and the Celtics' Big Threes. But who on this roster will coax Artest back in line if he acts up?
Argentine Ankle WatchA healthy Manu Ginóbili is the key to the Spurs' extending their streak of winning every other championship, dating to 2003.
LeBron's CourtshipThe Cavaliers have to continue to build a roster compelling enough to entice their own star to stay past the summer of 2010.
Sad Days in the DesertWhile coach Mike D'Antoni takes his exciting Seven Seconds or Less attack East to the Knicks, Suns starters Steve Nash (35 in February), Grant Hill (36) and Shaquille O'Neal (37 in March) set in the West.
Referee TransparencyWith Tim Donaghy in prison, the NBA is finally promising fundamental reform in its oversight of officials, including posting assignments on the morning of games. But this has to be more than a p.r. initiative; fans have already grown too cynical about the refereeing to be satisfied with anything short of substantive change.
Financial WoesWill any owners be forced to sell their money-draining teams because of cash flow problems?
Mike D'Antoni, Knicks, and Lawrence Frank, NetsEach must improve his team while the front office reshuffles the roster, laying the groundwork for a run at LeBron in 2010.
George Karl, NuggetsHe has to convince his defense-challenged players that they can stop teams without longtime stopper Marcus Camby.
Marc Iavaroni, GrizzliesHe was rumored to be in trouble when he had Pau Gasol and Mike Miller. How can he survive with the West's least-talented roster?
Scott Skiles,BucksHe wants his shoot-first team to make D the priority. Unfortunately, he has no lockdown defenders.
Larry Brown, BobcatsHe seems curiously drawn to difficult situations. At least this job will go more smoothly than his last one, in New York.
Eddie Jordan, WizardsWhat could he do if his guys stayed healthy? We may never know, as Gilbert Arenas begins the year on the sideline.
Mike Woodson, HawksHe earned some goodwill during the playoffs, but with a poor start he'll be feeling heat again.
Greg Oden, Trail BlazersPortland's other young talent relieves pressure on him to be a savior. But imagine if he is.
Michael Beasley, HeatQuestions about his reliability and character take a backseat to his All-Star numbers.
Derrick Rose, BullsHis speed is stunning, but his decision-making must improve after just one year in college.
D.J. Augustin, BobcatsHe has the skills to be a steal at No. 9 -- provided he can survive Larry Brown's boot camp.
Donté Greene, KingsSize, a vintage shooting stroke and three-point range offset his inexperience.
Anthony Randolph, WarriorsHe's skinny and raw, but his length and open-floor ability could make him a star.
Kevin Love, TimberwolvesKevin McHale coveted his skills, but Love must prove he can complement Al Jefferson.
Jerryd Bayless, Trail Blazers He'll be the microwave for Portland's second unit.
Robin Lopez, SunsHis athleticism will enable him to make an impact more quickly than his twin, Brook.
Mario Chalmers, HeatJust how important is the NBA's rookie seminar anyway?
First TeamG Chris Paul, HornetsG Kobe Bryant, LakersF LeBron James, Cavaliers F Kevin Garnett, CelticsC Yao Ming, Rockets
Second TeamG Deron Williams, JazzG Tracy McGrady, RocketsF Carlos Boozer, JazzF Dirk Nowitzki, MavericksC Dwight Howard,Magic
Third TeamG Steve Nash, SunsG Dwyane Wade, HeatF Paul Pierce,CelticsF Tim Duncan, SpursC Andrew Bynum, Lakers
Cavaliers: Either of their big expiring contracts (Wally Szczerbiak, Eric Snow) is likely to be shopped for a costar to help LeBron reach the Finals.
Pistons: They could dangle Rasheed Wallace and his expiring $13.7 million deal -- and/or another of their starters -- to reenergize the franchise.
Celtics: The champs will seek at least one cost-efficient vet (à la P.J. Brown last year) to replenish their front line heading into the playoffs.
Lakers: They need experience and toughness off the bench, and a smart midseason move could make the difference between a title and coming up short.
Mavericks: Having gambled big on Jason Kidd last February, they will be aggressive if a player who could put Kidd and Dirk Nowitzki over the top is available.
Trail Blazers: Instead of waiting for next summer's free-agent crop, they could package Raef LaFrentz's expiring $12.7 million contract for help this season.
Allen Iverson, NuggetsOther expensive teammates could join Iverson and his expiring $20.8 million salary on the market if Denver goes south (as expected).
Shawn Marion, HeatMiami will not move Marion, who is owed $17.8 million in the final year of his deal, unless it receives a major star in return.
Michael Redd, BucksA rebuilding Milwaukee can be persuaded to trade Redd and the $51 million (over three years) remaining on his contract.
Vince Carter, NetsThe declining star is a bad fit on New Jersey's young roster, and a team could get him on the cheap since he's owed an onerous $67 million over the next four seasons.
Mike Bibby, HawksA good start by Bibby, who is making $15.2 million in the final year of his contract, could pique interest from a contender seeking short-term help in the backcourt.
The Entire Roster, KnicksTeam president Donnie Walsh will take calls from any team about any of his players. Make your best offer! Someone? Anyone?
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.