Who else would lead this list but the three-time (and soon-to-be four-time) MVP and reigning NBA Finals MVP? James should be primed for another title run after getting plenty of rest down the stretch once the Heat's 27-game winning streak ended in late March.
2 of 16John W. McDonough/SI
Lost amid LeBron James' excellence is the fact that Wade put together an outstanding season that included a career-best 52 percent shooting from the field. Obviously, one big key for the Heat in the postseason is Wade's health. He missed six late-season games because of knee and ankle injuries.
3 of 16Greg Nelson/SI
Anthony overtook Kevin Durant for the scoring title with a red-hot finish that included a 50-point performance and six consecutive games with at least 36 points. The bigger prize for Anthony, however, is leading the Knicks to their first playoff-series victory since 2000 -- and perhaps more. A late-season surge lifted New York to the No. 2 seed, and its competitiveness against Miami during the regular season should give the Knicks confidence in a potential conference finals with the defending champs.
4 of 16Greg Nelson/SI
Will the reigning Defensive Player of the Year be healthy for the playoffs after missing several late-season games with a neck injury?
5 of 16Porter Binks/SI
Last year, George averaged only 9.7 points on 38.9 percent shooting in the playoffs. The third-year small forward be counted on for much more this year now that he's blossomed into a first-time All-Star in the absence of the Pacers' longtime leading scorer, Danny Granger.
6 of 16Porter Binks/SI
The 7-2 center struggled early in the season after signing a maximum four-year, $58.4 million contract last summer. But Hibbert came on after the All-Star break to provide the kind of production that Indiana's mediocre offense needs to complement the team's top-ranked defense. Hibbert, the Pacers' defensive anchor, has to be solid on both ends for Indiana to make a run in the East.
7 of 16Erick W. Rasco/SI
Williams overcame a poor start to the season by flashing his old All-Star form in the second half. Williams will need to continue that top-notch play if the Nets are to deliver the postseason success that the organization envisioned after aggressively putting together an $80 million team in the offseason.
8 of 16Erick W. Rasco/SI
There are no secrets about Evans' game: He'll clean the glass (he averaged nearly 15 rebounds a game after the All-Star break), give hard fouls, push the limits of fair play (he was voted the NBA's dirtiest player in a player poll last year) and score infrequently. His style could lead to chippy play and heated exchanges with opponents over the course of a seven-game series.
9 of 16Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images
Like the Knicks with Tyson Chandler, the Bulls face uncertainty with their defensive anchor. Noah barely played since mid-March because of plantar fasciitis in his right foot. Noah is not only a relentless presence on defense and the glass but he's also a nifty passer who averages more than four assists per game from the center position.
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Defense is seldom a problem for Chicago, but offense certainly is. That's why Robinson, one of the team's few creators, is so critical to the Bulls' chances of advancing without Derrick Rose. Consistency has never been a Robinson hallmark, but he's capable of carrying the Bulls from the time to time, like he did in scoring 35 points to snap the Knicks' 13-game winning streak in April or exploding for 34 points in an overtime loss to Denver in March.
11 of 16Erick W. Rasco/SI
Is Smith in his final days as a Hawk? The soon-to-be free-agent forward has helped Atlanta make the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season, but the Hawks have yet to reach the conference finals in that stretch.
12 of 16Erick W. Rasco/SI
Teague has quietly developed into a solid starting point guard, and he's enjoyed playoff success before. Another good postseason run will strengthen Teague's value as a restricted free agent this summer.
13 of 16Damian Strohmeyer/SI
The Celtics have won at least one round in the playoffs every year of the Garnett era. Can Garnett help extend that streak to six despite a late-season ankle injury and a supporting cast weakened by injury?
14 of 16Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images
After missing last season following heart surgery and starting slowly this season, Green came on in a big way. He averaged close to 18 points after the All-Star break, including a stunning 43-point performance in a near-upset of the Heat. Green will play a key role in the first round as both a defender against the Knicks' Carmelo Anthony and a scoring threat for a Celtics team that struggled on offense this season again.
15 of 16Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images
The Bucks may not last long in the playoffs -- thanks to a first-round date with Miami -- so enjoy getting a look at this shot-blocking ace while you can. Sanders is one of the league's most improved players, having cut down on his fouls to emerge as an integral part of Milwaukee's rotation in his third season. He's also prone to outbursts that led to an NBA-high five ejections during the regular season, bringing an element of volatility to the postseason.
16 of 16Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images
Jennings said in March that he would prefer to play the Heat rather than the Knicks in the first round. Well, here you go, Brandon. Good luck.
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