For a team that underwent major renovations this offseason (Josh Smith out, Paul Millsap in), not much will change in the standings. Atlanta has lost in the first or second round of the playoffs in each of the past six seasons and we're betting that streak reaches seven. With a solid but unspectacular core built around big man Al Horford, the Hawks will be good -- just not great.
2 of 30Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images
Brad Stevens took Butler to back-to-back NCAA championship games and we have no doubt he could lead the Celtics there, too, but this team isn't built to contend in the NBA. Boston wouldn't stoop to tanking, but general manager Danny Ainge simply isn't giving Stevens the necessary tools to win (albeit by design). Rajon Rondo's return should help, but 2013-14 will prove to be a transition year for the Celtics.
3 of 30Al Tielemans/SI
Do 37-year-old Kevin Garnett and 36-year-old Paul Pierce have anything left? Can Brook Lopez and Deron Williams stay healthy? Will Joe Johnson live up to his contract? Can Jason Kidd lead this team? Why did Andrei Kirilenko turn down $10 million to sign for $3.2 million with the Nets? OK, that last one might have had something to do with owner Mikhail Prokhorov, but we don't know the answers to the rest. Neither do Nets fans.
4 of 30Jeff Siner/Charlotte Observer/MCT via Getty Images
Michael Jordan is the team's 50-year-old majority owner, not 30-year-old starting shooting guard, meaning the Bobcats won't be making the playoffs this season. To make matters worse, Jordan was a lot better at mid-range jumpers than he is at mid-lottery draft picks. The Bobcats have yet to select a player who has become an All-Star and only one has been named to the All-Rookie first team (Emeka Okafor in 2005).
5 of 30Paul Beaty/AP
The Bulls have the pieces to contend, but when your offensive success hinges on a journeyman shooting guard (Mike Dunleavy) off the bench and the surgically repaired knee of your best player (Derrick Rose), your title hopes are a little dicey. Chicago will need to improve its offense significantly from last season (23rd in efficiency) to go deeper in the playoffs.
6 of 30David Santiago/El Nuevo Herald/MCT via Getty Images
LeBron James might come back in 2014 and lead the Cavs to a title, but this year's version is missing its leading man. We must admit, LeBron would fit nicely alongside star guard Kyrie Irving, a healthy Andrew Bynum and No. 1 pick Anthony Bennett. We also must admit, it'll be tough to leave beautiful Miami, where he's won two straight titles and exorcised the demons that have haunted him his entire career.
7 of 30Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images
Mark Cuban doesn't appear completely sold on the process of aging, riding veterans Dirk Nowitzki (35), Vince Carter (36) and Shawn Marion (35) into the sunset. Dallas shored up its point guard problems by adding Jose Calderon, but the 32-year-old has seen better days himself. Dallas' deficiencies athletically and defensively will keep this veteran squad from going too deep in the playoffs.
8 of 30Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images
We have no experience running an NBA franchise, but at first glance, it doesn't seem like letting go of the NBA's reigning Coach of the Year (George Karl) and Executive of the Year (Masai Ujiri) and the team's best defensive player (Andre Iguodala) is a good idea.
9 of 30Carlos Osorio/AP
Landing Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings would definitely help your fantasy basketball team, but thrusting them into the middle of your real-life rebuilding project is a little tougher to project. With those two players joining veteran Chauncey Billups and youngsters Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe, the Pistons might have the most eclectic collection of talent in the league. But that's likely the only distinction they'll earn this season.
10 of 30Jed Jacobsohn/SI
Golden State Warriors
Losses and potential losses loom large for the Warriors. They know they will have to make do without last year's potent bench duo of Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry -- who signed with Cleveland and Sacramento, respectively -- but what about the rest of the team? With Stephen Curry and Andrew Bogut, injuries are always within the realm of possibility.
11 of 30Greg Nelson/SI
The Rockets began the season with Dwight Howard and Omer Asik in the starting lineup, a two-center approach that could hold back the offense. Asik is a strong rebounder and defender but has no shooting range, making him a less-than-ideal complement to Howard's low-post game. With both centers potentially clogging the lane, the Rockets -- who thrived last season behind an up-tempo attack -- could have spacing issues that keep James Harden and James Lin from flourishing.
12 of 30Michael Hickey/Getty Images
The Pacers have one of the best starting lineups in the league, but their bench proved fatal last season. Indiana did its best to address those needs, but all of its additions -- Danny Granger (injuries), Luis Scola (age), C.J. Watson (inconsistency) and Chris Copeland (unproven) -- have questions.
13 of 30Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images
Los Angeles Clippers
Free throws. The simplest shot in the game is a complex problem for the Clippers. Blake Griffin (61.6 career percent) and DeAndre Jordan (42.4 percent) might as well be shooting blindfolded at the charity stripe. They also have to improve defensively -- one of coach Doc Rivers' top priorities in his new job.
14 of 30Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images
Los Angeles Lakers
Father Time has caught up with the Lakers. Even if 35-year-old Kobe Bryant can return to form, 39-year-old Steve Nash and 33-year-old Pau Gasol won't provide much resistance when the Russell Westbrooks and Dwight Howards of the world attack. And for karma's sake, Nick Young already has way too much swag as it is -- imagine if he were a champion.
15 of 30Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images
The Grizzlies led the league in defensive efficiency last season, but they'll only go as far as their stuttering offense can carry them. The only thing Memphis did this offseason to address that need personnel-wise was to add backup guard Mike Miller. Without an influx of offense -- be it by player or design -- the Grizzlies are unlikely to best last season's valiant 56-win, conference-finalist campaign.
16 of 30Wilfredo Lee, J Pat Carter/AP
No team has reached four consecutive Finals since the Celtics from 1984-87. Are LeBron James and Co. up to the task? There's no reason to doubt LeBron, but he had to carry Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh down the stretch last season. If the other two players in the Big Three can't step up, Miami could falter this season. The Heat can't rely on newcomers Michael Beasley and Greg Oden to contribute regularly.
17 of 30Morry Gash/AP
The Bucks haven't won a title since 1971, and Milwaukee's current bunch -- which features some solid vets and promising youngsters but no stars -- won't be rewriting history this season. Which is too bad, because we'd love to see Giannis Antetokounmpo palm the Larry O'Brien Trophy.
18 of 30David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images
Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin, Nikola Pekovic, Chase Budinger ... that's a list of Minnesota's best players and its most injury-prone. The Wolves need a lot of things to go their way to make the playoffs for the first time since 2004. To win the title? Nothing short of a miracle.
19 of 30Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images
New Orleans Pelicans
When arguably three of your four top players -- Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon and Tyreke Evans -- are best suited as ball-dominant guards, you might have a little problem with redundancy. But give New Orleans credit for doing its best to surround Anthony Davis with talent. Now it just needs to keep working to find the right kind.
20 of 30Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images
New York Knicks
Let's put it this way: When you think about J.R. Smith and Metta World Peace, is "contenders" the first thing that comes to mind? Andrea Bargnani, who struggled in Toronto, now faces the task of resurrecting his career in the bright lights of New York. If the Knicks somehow do make the Finals, we predict that Carmelo Anthony will become the first Finals MVP to lose since Jerry West.
21 of 30Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images
Oklahoma City Thunder
Kevin Durant has a penchant for finishing second in things (NBA Finals, MVP voting, No. 2 pick) and 2013-14 could be more of the same. With Russell Westbrook on the mend and James Harden and Kevin Martin playing elsewhere, Durant will have to carry a heavier load than in years past.
22 of 30John Raoux/AP
General manager Rob Hennigan likely thinks about the Magic's title prospects in 2018 more than 2014. Four of Orlando's best players -- Maurice Harkless (20), Tobias Harris (21), Victor Oladipo (21) and Nikola Vucevic (23) -- are so young that they still have to pay rental-car surcharges.
23 of 30Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images
The 76ers' own coach, Brett Brown, admitted before the season that his team has only "six NBA players," which makes the opening win over the Heat that much more impressive. But unless Michael-Carter Williams can flirt with a quadruple-double every night, this rebuilding team is unlikely to knock off too many contenders. Philadelphia has already said it will likely sit No. 6 pick Nerlens Noel the entire year, too.
24 of 30Al Tielemans/SI
25 of 30Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images; Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Portland Trail Blazers
The Blazers' 2013-14 title hopes hinged on Greg Oden's becoming the next Shaquille O'Neal. Unfortunately for Portland, he played only 82 games over five years and now lives in South Beach. Damian Lillard is pretty good, though.
26 of 30Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images
Sacramento fans who celebrated the decision to keep the Kings in town now must hope that the development of DeMarcus Cousins, Ben McLemore and next year's likely lottery pick comes quickly for a franchise that hasn't made the playoffs or finished with a winning record since 2006.
27 of 30Greg Nelson/SI
San Antonio Spurs
After coming within seconds of winning the title last season, can the Spurs regroup and get back to the Finals behind Tim Duncan, 37; Manu Ginobili, 36; Tony Parker, 31; and emerging 22-year-old Kawhi Leonard? Duncan put together his best season in years in 2012-13. Can he summon the same type of performance in 2013-14?
28 of 30Ron Turenne/NBAE via Getty Images
Rudy Gay's contract is roughly the size of Quebec and Toronto hasn't had a .500 season since 2007-08. As talented as he is, Gay hasn't proved capable of being a No. 1 option on a contender. With DeMar DeRozan and Jonas Valanciunas waiting in the wings, the Raptors would be better off trading Gay and trying to win a title down the line with those two.
29 of 30Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images
The Jazz lost four of their top five scorers from last season and have little to show for it. Instead, Utah will tap into its treasure chest of lottery picks, led by Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter. But the average of the Jazz's projected starting lineup is 21.6 years old, meaning Utah is starting a college All-Star team, not an NBA one.
30 of 30Carolyn Kaster/AP
The future is bright with John Wall and Bradley Beal, but unfortunately for the Wizards, the future isn't now. The preseason trade of Marcin Gortat gives them a shot at the playoffs, but only because the East is susceptible to a losing team sneaking in.
You May Like
Sign Up for our Newsletter
Don't get stuck on the sidelines! Sign up to get exclusives, daily highlights, analysis and more—delivered right to your inbox!