MOST SURPRISING NEWCOMER The offensive creativity of North Carolina guard Rashad McCants will help him finish second to Andrew Bogut in the Rookie of the Year voting.
LEAST-PRODUCTIVE LOTTERY PICK High school swingman Gerald Green will barely contribute, though a patient approach should eventually bring out the Vince Carter in him.
WORST MANAGEMENT Having lost two months searching for front-office leadership (Danny Ferry was finally hired on Monday) instead of developing a plan for the draft and free agency, the Cavaliers will alienate LeBron James, who can leave as an unrestricted free agent in 2008.
MOST IMPORTANT FREE-AGENT SIGNING If Ray Allen re-signs with the Sonics they'll remain a title contender; if he doesn't, the 30-year-old shooting star could well make his new team into one.
July 3, 2005
BIGGEST TRADE The Celtics will exchange swingman Paul Pierce for a similarly potent scorer by the midseason deadline.
MOST SURPRISING CHANGE Heat president Pat Riley returns to coaching--though not in Miami.
BREAKOUT TEAM The Warriors won't have as dramatic a turnaround as Phoenix did this season, but after an 11-year drought they'll return to the postseason.
BREAKING-DOWN TEAM Unless Jerry West can magically overhaul his roster this summer, the once up-and-coming Grizzlies will slide out of the playoff picture.
MVP Under Phil Jackson, Kobe Bryant will lead the Lakers to a surprising 50 wins and again be recognized as the game's best all-around player.
NBA FINALS MATCHUP San Antonio and Miami will square off, and with Dwyane Wade leading the charge, the Heat prevails.