2007/08 NBA Team Previews

2007/08 NBA Team Previews

Atlanta Hawks 2007-08 Season Preview

2006-07 FINISH: 30-52

ADDITIONS: NONE

SUBTRACTIONS: Royal Ivey (G) - Signed with Milwaukee.

RE-SIGNINGS: NONE

2007 DRAFT PICKS: 1. (3) Al Horford (F, Florida); 1. (11) Acie Law (G, Texas A&M).

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP: PG Acie Law, SG Joe Johnson, SF Josh Smith, PF Marvin Williams, C Al Horford

COACH: Mike Woodson

(Sports Network) - The last time the Atlanta Hawks qualified for the postseason was in 1998, when they fell in four games, 3-1, in the first round to the then-Charlotte Hornets. The fans in Atlanta have to be getting restless, and the time has arrived for the young Hawks to put it all together and once again contend for a playoff berth.

Besides the draft, the offseason was very quiet for Atlanta. The Hawks added two hot prospects on draft night. Florida's Al Horford and Acie Law of Texas A&M are expected to step in right away and help the Hawks get back into playoff contention.

Atlanta had a pair of first-round picks in this year's draft, and put them to good use. Horford was selected with the third overall pick, while Law was taken at No. 11. Horford, who joins young forwards Josh Smith and Marvin and Shelden Williams in the Atlanta frontcourt, is a power forward. He can score in the low post, plays physical defense and is a monster on the boards. The Florida product can knock down a mid-range jumper should be able to put up big numbers right away for his new team.

Law was the second point guard selected in the draft, as Memphis took Ohio State's Mike Conley Jr. with the fourth overall pick. Law fills a void for the Hawks, and will team with All-Star Joe Johnson to give the Hawks an athletic and talented backcourt.

Last season, Johnson led the Hawks in scoring (25.0 ppg), while Smith grabbed a team-high 8.6 rebounds and Johnson and Speedy Claxton both handed out a club-best 4.4 assists per game.

The 6-7 Johnson, who missed 25 games because of injuries, is the key for Atlanta. The offense runs through him and he is the Hawks' go-to player. Atlanta does have some talented players who need to develop a little quicker. Forward Marvin Williams averaged 13.1 points and 5.3 boards in his second season in the league, while rookie Shelden Williams continued to improve as the season progressed. Swingman Josh Childress posted 13.0 points per contest and shot 50.4 percent from the field, including 33.8 percent from beyond the arc.

Head coach Mike Woodson is on the hot seat. He is entering his fourth season with the club, and has compiled a dismal 69-177 record as Atlanta's general. The team has improved its win total every season, but this may be the year general manager Billy Knight expects the team to be a serious playoff contender.

BACKCOURT

Knight hopes he has put together the Hawks' backcourt of the future in Johnson and Law. There is no questioning Johnson's ability, as the All-Star guard can do it all on both ends of the court. However, Law will have to step in prove that he can earn big minutes.

The 6-3 Law is a versatile guard and plays both ends of the court. He is effective driving to the hoop and creating for his teammates. The Texas A&M product still needs to work on his outside jumper.

Childress, who will also get minutes at small forward, will backup Johnson and gives Woodson some offense off the bench, while veterans Claxton and Tyronn Lue are going to compete with Law for minutes at the point. Woodson has some depth to work with.

FRONTCOURT

Young, athletic and full of potential is a great way to describe Atlanta's frontcourt. Marvin and Shelden Williams, who averaged 5.5 points and 5.4 boards in 81 games during his rookie campaign, have to increase their production in both the scoring and rebounding columns if the Hawks hope to make a big move in the standings. Shelden will log minutes at center and power forward, while Marvin will spend time at both forward spots.

It doesn't matter that Horford is a rookie. Woodson knows he needs to start to win and his rookie big man has to contribute immediately. The 6-10 Horford will play in the middle and at the big forward spot. Atlanta is hoping for double-digits in scoring and rebounding from the former Gator.

Smith, who was second on the club in scoring (16.4 ppg) last season, is athletic, plays great defense and could be primed for a breakout season. If the 21-year-old Smith makes his leap in 2007-08, the Hawks could be on their way to being a real playoff contender.

Horford, Smith and the Williams duo give the Hawks a lot to look forward to up front. Zaza Pachulia, who is just 23, collected 12.2 points and 6.9 boards in 2006-07. The 6-11 Pachulia plays the same positions as Horford and Shelden Williams, which could make him expendable. Veteran Lorenzen Wright gives Woodson another big body off the bench.

OUTLOOK

The Hawks win total will go up once again. However, this is not a playoff team. Expect 35 wins and another early vacation. There is plenty of potential, but that is all it is for now. Woodson probably won't be around when the Hawks make it back to the postseason.

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Boston Celtics 2007-08 Season Preview

2006-07 FINISH: 24-58

ADDITIONS: Ray Allen (G) - Trade with Seattle; Glen Davis (F) - Trade with Seattle; Kevin Garnett (F) - Trade with Minnesota; Eddie House (G) - Free Agent; Scot Pollard (C) - Free Agent; James Posey (F) - Free Agent.

SUBTRACTIONS: Ryan Gomes (F) - Traded to Minnesota; Gerald Green (F) - Traded to Minnesota; Al Jefferson (F) - Traded to Minnesota; Theo Ratliff (C) - Traded to Minnesota; Allan Ray (G) - Waived; Wally Szczerbiak (F) - Traded to Seattle; Sebastian Telfair (G) - Traded to Minnesota; Delonte West (G) - Traded to Seattle.

RE-SIGNINGS: NONE.

2007 DRAFT PICKS: 1. (5) Jeff Green (F, Georgetown) - Traded to Seattle; 2. (32) Gabe Pruitt (G, USC).

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP: PG Rajon Rondo, SG Ray Allen, SF Paul Pierce PF Kevin Garnett, C Kendrick Perkins

COACH: Doc Rivers

(Sports Network) - Boston's executive director of basketball operations Danny Ainge was very busy during the offseason, as he rebuilt the Celtics into the favorite in the Eastern Conference.

Two blockbuster moves have elevated Boston to the top of the conference and maybe even the league. On draft night, the Celtics acquired 32-year-old shooting guard Ray Allen from the Seattle SuperSonics for guard Delonte West, forwards Wally Szczerbiak and Georgetown's Jeff Green, who was chosen with the No. 5 overall pick. A seven-time All-Star, Allen, who averaged a team-best 26.4 points in 55 games for Seattle this past season, is still one of the best outside shooters in the NBA and has a few good years left in him.

However, it's the Kevin Garnett deal that has pushed Boston, which finished an Eastern Conference worst 24-58 during the 2006-07 campaign and did not qualify for the playoffs for a second straight year, back to the top of the conference.

Boston dealt Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, Gerald Green, Sebastian Telfair, Theo Ratliff, cash considerations and two first-round draft picks to Minnesota for Garnett. The Timberwolves receive Boston's 2009 first-round selection and will also get back the first-round draft pick the team dealt to the Celtics in a 2006 trade.

The 31-year-old Garnett, who will be entering his 13th season in the league and received a contract extension from the Celtics, was the NBA MVP in the 2003-04 campaign. Garnett played in 76 games in 2006-07 and led Minnesota in scoring (22.4 ppg) and rebounding (12.8 rpg), but the Timberwolves missed the postseason for the third straight year. A 10-time All-Star, Garnett has averaged over 20 points and more than 10 boards per game in nine straight seasons.

The Celtics now have arguably the most potent trio in the NBA. Allen and Garnett join five-time All-Star Paul Pierce, who averaged 25.0 points, 5.9 rebounds and 4.1 assists in 47 games for Boston last season. The 30-year-old Pierce now has the help and quality teammates he has been looking for. The Kansas product has been a one-man show the last several years for the Celtics. He wanted to play with better players, and Ainge has made that a reality.

Ainge needed to fill out the roster after giving up a lot for Allen and Garnett. Veterans Eddie House, Scot Pollard and James Posey all inked deals with Boston, and give head coach Doc Rivers a serviceable bench.

The last time Boston, which has not won a championship since beating the Houston Rockets in six games in 1986, advanced to the Eastern Conference finals was in 2002, when it was knocked out in six by the New Jersey Nets. It has been over 20 years since the Celtics played in the NBA Finals. They fell in six contests to the Lakers during the 1987 championship round.

BACKCOURT

Ainge and Rivers are counting on 21-year-old Rajon Rondo to take the starting point guard spot and never look back. Rondo, who will be entering his second season in the NBA, will get the opportunity to play big minutes. Boston is very high on Rondo's potential and his athleticism. The Kentucky product registered 6.4 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.8 assists in 78 games during his rookie campaign.

The Celtics know what they are going to get out of Allen, who is also capable of running the point if needed. The key with Allen is that he stay healthy. House, 29, is being tabbed to provide an offensive spark off the bench for Rivers. The 6-1 House can play both guard spots, and will give Rivers some flexibility with his lineup. House, who averaged 8.4 points in 56 games last season for New Jersey, will be playing for his eighth different club during what will be his eighth season in the NBA.

Tony Allen is another decent option off the bench for Rivers. He averaged 11.5 points in just 33 games last season. The Oklahoma State product is a scorer, and could make an impact if he is healthy.

FRONTCOURT

Garnett and Pierce will provide the scoring in the frontcourt, while 23-year- old center Kendrick Perkins, who collected 4.5 points and 5.2 boards in 72 contests in 2006-07, will need to provide a physical presence down low.

Perkins and Pollard will be expected to do the dirty work down low. The 32- year-old Pollard will be entering his 11th season in the league. Boston is his fifth different team, as Pollard has also played for Detroit, Sacramento, Indiana and Cleveland. The 6-11 Pollard is not expected to make an impact on the offensive end of the court, as his forte is rebounding and tough, physical defense.

Posey, who signed a two-year deal with Boston on August 27th, will most likely be the designated sixth man. The 6-8 Posey, who spent the previous two seasons with the Miami Heat and averaged 7.7 points and 5.0 rebounds in 71 games last season, was a key member of the 2006 NBA Champion Heat. He is a solid defender and can contribute on the offensive end as well.

Garnett, Pierce and Perkins form a solid starting frontcourt, while Pollard, Posey and Brian Scalabrine give Rivers decent reserves to choose from. Ainge did the right thing here, surrounded Garnett and Pierce with veterans who will understand their roles.

OUTLOOK

The glory days have returned for one of the most storied franchises in professional sports. Ainge saved his job with the incredible work he did during the offseason. Allen, Garnett and Pierce will be on a mission, as none of them have ever appeared in the NBA Finals.

The Celtics are ready to return to the NBA Finals for the first time since 1987. From 24 victories to 52-55 is the jump Boston will make this season. Expect a magical and entertaining NBA campaign in Beantown.

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Chicago Bulls 2007-08 Season Preview

2006-07 FINISH: 49-33

ADDITIONS: Joe Smith (F) - Free Agent.

SUBTRACTIONS: Malik Allen (F) - Signed with New Jersey.

RE-SIGNINGS: Andres Nocioni (F).

2007 DRAFT PICKS: 1. (9) Joakim Noah (F, Florida); 2. (49) Aaron Gray (C, Pittsburgh); 2. (51) JamesOn Curry (F/G, Oklahoma State).

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP: PG Kirk Hinrich, SG Ben Gordon, SF Luol Deng PF Tyrus Thomas, C Ben Wallace

COACH: Scott Skiles

(Sports Network) - The Chicago Bulls are a team on the rise. They finished 49-33 during the 2006-07 campaign and advanced to the East semis for the first time since 1998.

The Detroit Pistons eliminated the Bulls, who had been knocked out in the first round the previous two playoffs, in six games in the postseason. However, it was a big step for the young and talented Bulls.

Ben Gordon and Luol Deng are rising stars, while Ben Wallace, who completed his first season with Chicago after six seasons in Detroit, is the intimidating inside presence down low and Kirk Hinrich provides steady play at the point. Gordon led the Bulls in scoring (21.4 ppg) during the regular season, Wallace grabbed a team-best 10.7 boards and Hinrich handed out a club- high 6.3 assists per game.

Deng, who averaged 18.8 points and 7.1 rebounds, and Gordon were the only Bulls to play in all 82 regular-season games. Forwards Tyrus Thomas, Andres Nocioni, and guards Thabo Sefolosha and Chris Duhon give the Bulls depth and athleticism.

The offseason was quiet for Chicago. The Bulls did add some size through the draft, as they grabbed forward Joakim Noah of Florida with the ninth overall pick and center Aaron Gray in round two. Veteran forward Joe Smith signed with the club, while Malik Allen decided to leave and ink a deal with the New Jersey Nets.

Nocioni, who averaged a career-high 14.1 points and 5.7 rebounds last season, decided to stay with team and signed a multi-year deal with the club during the summer. The 6-7 Nocioni is a hard-nosed player who plays physical defense and can drain the outside jumper.

Noah should add enthusiasm, help in transition and the low post, while Gray is a project and will hopefully develop into a productive player in the near future. Smith can play center and power forward in the East and will help the Bulls on the boards. The 32-year-old Smith averaged 8.5 points and 6.2 rebounds per game in 2006-07, splitting time between the Denver Nuggets and Philadelphia 76ers.

This is a very deep club with a nice mix of veterans and younger players. Head coach Scott Skiles knows what he is going to get out of Deng, Gordon, Hinrich, Nocioni and Wallace. If the younger players continue to develop and produce, Chicago could surprise and get back to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time in 10 years.

BACKCOURT

The starting backcourt of Gordon and Hinrich compliment each other very well. Both players handle the ball very well, are dangerous outside shooters and play defense. Their overall games allow Skiles to shuffle his rotation and try create matchup problems for the opposition.

Duhon, whose name has been mentioned in trade rumors, is a solid backup at the point. The Duke product is a decent defender and does a good job running the offense. The 6-7 Sefolosha has good size and also gives Skiles some freedom with his rotation, because of his ability to defend, play multiple positions and run the floor.

Rookie JamesOn Curry, who was selected out of Oklahoma State with the 51st overall pick in the draft, will get the opportunity to earn a spot on the club along with some playing time. Curry gives the Bulls another versatile guard who can play both positions in the backcourt.

FRONTCOURT

Athletic, physical, tenacious and tough is a good way to describe the Chicago frontcourt. Like the guards, there is a lot of versatility up front for Skiles to work with. Noah, Wallace and Smith all can play center or power forward, while Deng, Nocioni and Thomas are able to log minutes at power and small forward.

Deng, Thomas and Wallace could form one of the best starting frontcourts in the league. Deng and Thomas can both score, excel in transition and are not afraid to play tough off the boards. The 6-10 Wallace does his best work on the boards and the defensive end of the court. Wallace is the defensive catalyst and has become the emotional leader of the Bulls.

Nocioni, Smith and Noah provide the depth. The Bulls won't miss a beat when Skiles is changing his lineup and trying to create matchup problems. The all- around talent of the frontcourt is excellent and will help Chicago take the next step in the 2007-08 campaign.

OUTLOOK

The Bulls roster is full of talented players. Deng and Gordon are on the cusp of becoming All-Stars, Hinrich and Wallace are consistent with their games, and Thomas could be ready to breakout in the new season. Noah will fit right in with this squad, while executive president of basketball operations did the right thing in re-signing Nocioni.

This is the season that Chicago passes Detroit and Cleveland. A Central Division crown and berth in the Eastern Conference finals are realistic goals. The Boston Celtics will be the only thing standing between the Bulls and a spot in the NBA Finals.

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Cleveland Cavaliers 2007-08 Season Preview 

2006-07 FINISH: 50-32

ADDITIONS: Cedric Simmons (F) - Trade with New Orleans.

SUBTRACTIONS: Scot Pollard (C) - Signed with Boston; David Wesley (G) - Traded to New Orleans.

RE-SIGNINGS: NONE

2007 DRAFT PICKS: NONE.

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP: PG Larry Hughes, SG Daniel Gibson, SF LeBron James PF Drew Gooden, C Zydrunas Ilgauskas

COACH: Mike Brown

(Sports Network) - For the first time in NBA history, the Cleveland Cavaliers enter a season as the defending Eastern Conference champions. Superstar LeBron James and company enter the new campaign as the hunted for the first time ever.

The Cavaliers are coming off their most successful campaign in franchise history. They won 50 games during the 2006-07 regular season, defeated Washington, New Jersey and Detroit in the playoffs to capture the Eastern Conference crown and advanced to their first-ever NBA Finals.

Cleveland was swept in four games by the San Antonio Spurs in the finals, but the experience will only benefit the Cavaliers in the future. It took James four years to get the Cavaliers over the hump and into the championship round.

James, who appeared in the postseason for the second time in his career last year, played in 78 games during the regular season. A three-time All-Star, James led the club in scoring (27.3 ppg), assists (6.0 apg) and also pulled down 6.7 rebounds per game. The 6-8 James is arguably the top player in the league and is the cornerstone of the franchise.

Larry Hughes, who battled a heel injury during the finals, averaged 14.9 points, 3.8 boards and 3.7 assists in 70 contests for the Cavaliers. Center Zydrunas Ilgauskas posted 11.9 points and 7.7 rebounds, while forward Drew Gooden, who was the subject of trade rumors during the summer, netted 11.1 and grabbed a team-best 8.5 boards.

Gooden, Hughes and Ilgauskas are James' main supporting cast, while Sasha Pavlovic, Donyell Marshall, Anderson Varejao and rookie Daniel Gibson, who shined in the East finals, are decent role players. However, Gibson hit some big shots during the postseason, and will get a chance to play a bigger role this season.

One problem for the Cavaliers. Pavlovic and Varejao are restricted free agents and have not signed with the team. They are important players and Cleveland needs them in the lineup.

The offseason was extremely quiet for the Eastern Conference champs. The Cavaliers lost veteran big man Scot Pollard, who was an unrestricted free agent and signed with the Boston Celtics. They did not have any draft picks and were inactive on draft night.

Head coach Mike Brown returns for his third season on the bench. Brown has led the Cavaliers to back-to-back 50 wins seasons and is 100-64 in regular-season contests. The 37-year-old Brown, who earned a championship ring as an assistant with San Antonio in 2003, has compiled a 19-14 record in the postseason. He is a players coach and is the right leader for James and the Cavaliers.

BACKCOURT

Hughes, who finished his second season with the Cavaliers, has not fit in the way Cleveland had hoped when they signed him during the summer of 2005. The 28-year-old Hughes averaged 22.0 points in 2004-05 as a member of the Washington Wizards, but has not been able to find the scoring touch with Cleveland.

The Cavaliers hope Gibson can continue his hot shooting from the playoffs when their season begins on October 31st at home against the Dallas Mavericks. The 6-7 Pavlovic adds size in the backcourt, while Eric Snow is a competent, veteran point guard and is one of the team leaders.

Shannon Brown played just 23 games during his rookie season and showed that he is a work in progress, while sharp-shooting Damon Jones has become a reserve who gets minutes if the team needs some threes or if there is an injury. General manager Danny Ferry would gladly move Jones if he can find an interested team.

Ferry did sign free agent Devin Brown. Brown played in 58 games for the Hornets last year and averaged career-highs with 11.6 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.6 assists. The 6-5 Brown will try to earn his minutes at shooting guard.

Cleveland needs Hughes to raise his overall game, which will make the team much more dangerous and take some pressure off of James' shoulders. Hughes, who averaged 15.5 points in just 36 games during his first season with the Cavaliers in the 2005-06 campaign, is a very good defender and can play both spots in the backcourt, but its his scoring that needs to improve. If Hughes can pickup his production, it would most likely create a domino effect for the entire squad.

FRONTCOURT

James, Gooden and Ilgauskas give the Cavaliers a solid starting frontcourt. James can do it all and is dangerous from anywhere on the court, while Gooden and Ilgauskas do their best work around the basket.

The 32-year Ilgauskas has been slipping a bit the last two seasons. He played just over 27 minutes per contest in 2006-07, down for the second straight season, and saw his points per game decrease for the second year in a row. The 7-3 Lithuanian center may be on the down side, and that means Gooden will have to pick up some of the slack on the boards and on the scoreboard.

Marshall and Varejao, who registered 6.8 points and 6.7 boards in 81 games during the 2006-07 regular season, are Brown's best options off the bench. Marshall is a streaky shooter who can stretch a defense with his range, while Varejao is a banger who plays very physical in the low post.

The 6-8 James is the catalyst for everything the Cavaliers do. If Gooden and Ilgauskas are having productive seasons, it will make life on the court a lot easier for James. Brown knows what James is going to give him, the others need to step up their game and go to the next level for Cleveland to have a chance to return to the NBA Finals.

OUTLOOK

LeBron makes the Cavaliers one of the top teams in East. They did get past the Pistons in the 2007 playoffs and showed they have what it takes to win the conference. However, the Boston Celtics have re-joined the elite teams with their great offseason acquisitions, while the youthful Bulls are ready to make a big jump this season.

The Cavaliers should reach the 50-win plateau for a third straight season and will battle with Chicago and the Pistons for the Central Division crown. It will be very difficult for them to get back to the Eastern Conference finals. A trip to the semis is in the cards, but this is the year the Bulls move past the Cavaliers and Detroit.

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Dallas Mavericks 2007-08 Season Preview

2006-07 FINISH: 67-15

ADDITIONS: Brandon Bass (F) - Free Agent; Trenton Hassell (F/G) - Trade with Minnesota; Eddie Jones (G) - Free Agent; Reyshawn Terry (F) - Trade with Orlando.

SUBTRACTIONS: Greg Buckner (G) - Traded to Minnesota; Austin Croshere (F) - Signed with Golden State; Pops Mensah- Bonsu (F) - Waived.

RE-SIGNINGS: Devean George (F); Jerry Stackhouse (G).

2007 DRAFT PICKS: 2. (34) Nick Fazekas (F, Nevada); 2. (50) Renaldas Seibutis (G, Lithuania); 2. (60). Milovan Rakovic (F, Serbia) - Traded to Orlando.

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP: PG Devin Harris, SG Jason Terry, SF Josh Howard PF Dirk Nowitzki, C Erick Dampier

COACH: Avery Johnson

(Sports Network) - Dallas enters the 2007-08 campaign with high expectations. The Mavericks finished an NBA-best 67-15 last season, but were stunned in the first round of the playoffs by Don Nelson and the Golden State Warriors in six games, 4-2.

Golden State became just the third eighth-seeded team to defeat a one seed in the first round of the playoffs. Denver eliminated the Seattle SuperSonics, 3-2, in the first round of the 1994 playoffs, while the Knicks knocked out the Miami Heat in five, 3-2, during the opening round of the 1999 postseason. The Warriors were the first eight seed to knock out a one seed in a best-of-seven series.

The Mavericks, who lost in six games to the Miami Heat in the 2006 NBA Finals, reached the 60-win mark for the third time in franchise history. Head coach Avery Johnson continued to get the most out of his squad, but it wasn't good enough in the postseason against the Warriors. After starting the season with four straight losses, the Mavericks won 12 straight and 27 of their next 30 games to take control of the Southwest Division and finish with best overall record in the league.

League MVP Dirk Nowitzki, who struggled against Golden State in the postseason, led the Mavericks in scoring (24.6 ppg) and rebounding (8.9 rpg) during the regular season, while Jason Terry, who posted 16.7 points per game, dished out a team-best 5.2 assists per game.

Forward Josh Howard continued to improve his all-around game, and became a first-time All-Star. The 6-7 Howard averaged 18.9 points and 6.8 rebounds in 70 contests. Howard, Nowitzki and Terry make up a potent threesome. The main supporting cast is solid, as it consists of veteran Jerry Stackhouse, point guard Devin Harris, Devean George and Eddie Jones and centers Erick Dampier and DeSagana Diop.

George and Stackhouse both re-signed with the team during the offseason, while free agent forward Austin Croshere inked a deal with Golden State and the team waived Pops Mensah-Bonsu. Forward Brandon Bass and Jones were free agent acquisitions, and North Carolina product Reyshawn Terry, who was selected by Orlando in the second-round of the 2007 draft, was obtained via trade with the Magic.

Nevada forward Nick Fazekas was added through the draft, as the Mavericks selected him with the 34th overall pick. The 6-11 Fazekas will be given the opportunity to earn immediate playing time.

BACKCOURT

Harris and Terry give Dallas a starting backcourt with decent size, which has helped the Mavericks defensively. The 6-3 Harris is a pure point guard and excels in transition, while Jason Terry provides the offense from the duo. Harris and Terry fit perfectly into Johnson's schemes and work well together.

Stackhouse averaged 12.0 points, 2.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists in 67 games in 2006-07. The 6-6 Stackhouse, who turns 33 on November 5th, provides the scoring off the bench. He can play shooting guard and small forward and is a big part of Dallas' success.

Maurice Ager, Jose Barea, Greg Buckner, Devean George and Jones will also try and earn time in the backcourt. Buckner, George and Jones are the likely candidates to get the available minutes.

FRONTCOURT

All-Stars Howard and Nowitzki and Dampier give the Mavericks an excellent frontcourt. The 27-year-old Howard is a slasher and should continue to get better, while the seven-foot Nowitzki can drain the outside jumper from anywhere, and can also burn his opponent by putting the ball on the floor and driving to the hoop. Dampier, who spent the seven years with Golden State before being traded to Dallas on August 24, 2004, is not an offensive force, but is a solid rebounder and can hold his own defensively. The veteran center knows his role and fits in with his frontcourt teammates.

The 22-year-old Bass, who averaged 2.0 points and 2.0 boards for the Hornets last season, and Fazekas will battle for minutes behind Nowitzki, while George Stackhouse and Reyshawn Terry are expected to replace Howard when he needs a rest.

Howard and Nowitzki are two of the best forwards in the league. The 29-year- old Nowitzki will probably see more time at center, which will allow Johnson to use Howard and either Jones, George or Stackhouse with the reigning NBA MVP.

The Mavericks were burned by Golden State's small lineup in the playoffs. The flexibility Johnson has with Jones, George and Stackhouse will help counter teams like the Warriors.

OUTLOOK

Even though they were ousted in round one of the 2007 playoffs, the Mavericks are still a dangerous team and are a serious title contender. Along with Phoenix and San Antonio, Dallas is one of the elite squads in the West.

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Denver Nuggets 2007-08 Season Preview 

2006-07 FINISH: 45-37

ADDITIONS: Stacey Augmon (F) - Free Agent; Chucky Atkins (G) - Free Agent; Steven Hunter (C) - Trade with Philadelphia; Bobby Jones (F) - Trade with Philadelphia.

SUBTRACTIONS: Steve Blake (G) - Signed with Portland; Reggie Evans (F) - Traded to Philadelphia.

RE-SIGNINGS: Anthony Carter (G).

2007 DRAFT PICKS: NONE.

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP: PG Allen Iverson, SG J.R. Smith, SF Carmelo Anthony PF Nene, C Marcus Camby

COACH: George Karl

(Sports Network) - Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson will start a season together for the first time. Denver earned its fourth straight playoff berth last season, but it was eliminated in the opening round of the playoffs for the fourth straight year.

The Nuggets are 4-16 during their streak of postseason appearances. They fell in five games in the opening round to Minnesota in 2004, the Clippers in 2006 and the San Antonio Spurs in 2005 and 2007. The last time the Nuggets advanced to the second round of the playoffs was during the 1994 postseason. Denver upset the SuperSonics in five games, 3-2, in the opening round that season, but was ousted in seven games by Utah in the Western semifinals.

To say Denver's 2006-07 campaign was boring would a be an understatement. On December 16th, another embarrassing moment for the NBA occurred during the Nuggets' 123-100 victory over the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.

Denver had the game in hand and were headed towards victory late in the fourth quarter. However, Nuggets head coach George Karl still had some of his starters on the court, including Anthony, while New York had its reserves on the court to finish out the contest.

With Denver leading 119-100, New York rookie Mardy Collins committed a hard flagrant foul against J.R. Smith on a breakaway layup with about 1:15 left in the contest. Chaos then broke out, as Smith and Knicks guard Nate Robinson started to wrestle and both went onto the ground. Anthony lost his cool and blindsided Collins with a punch that seemed to knock the rookie to the ground. Knicks forward Jared Jeffries went after Anthony, who backpedaled towards his bench and away from Jeffries.

NBA Commissioner David Stern handed down significant suspensions. Anthony received a 15-game suspension, Robinson and Smith were both suspended for 10 games, Collins got six, Jeffries received four and Nene and Jerome James both were suspended for one game. The Knicks and Nuggets were both fined $500,000 for the incident.

Just days after the infamous brawl, the Nuggets made a blockbuster trade when they acquired Iverson on December 19th from the Philadelphia 76ers for a pair of 2007 first-round draft picks, point guard Andre Miller and forward Joe Smith.

The Nuggets struggled, but the team eventually jelled and they put together a season-best eight-game winning streak from April 1-13, which helped them move securely into a playoff spot in the West.

Anthony, who averaged a team-best 28.9 points per game last season, and Iverson are still learning to play together, while center Marcus Camby, Nene and Smith, who was suspended by the the Nuggets for the first three games of the regular season for conduct detrimental to the team, are a solid supporting cast. Anthony and Iverson provide the scoring, and Camby is the athletic center who can block shots, rebound and run the floor.

Denver acquired big man Steven Hunter in a trade with Philadelphia during the offseason, and also inked free agent point guard Chucky Atkins to a deal. The Nuggets lost Steve Blake, who signed with Portland, in free agency, and Reggie Evans, who was sent to the Sixers in the Hunter deal. Guard Anthony Carter was re-signed by the team.

The Nuggets may also get forward Kenyon Martin back. Martin played just two games last season because of an injury to his right knee. If Martin can come back healthy, it would give Karl another rebounder and sound defensive player to add to his rotation.

Karl is a veteran general and knows what it takes to win in the NBA. He will lean heavily on Anthony and Iverson to lead the Nuggets against the top teams in the league. Karl will try and get the rest of his roster to mesh with the talents of his two superstars.

BACKCOURT

Iverson will play both spots in the backcourt. When he plays shooting guard matchup problems arise, as the Georgetown product cannot defend the bigger guards in the league. Playing alongside Smith, who averaged 13.0 points in 63 games last season, will help, but the fact remains that Iverson's size does hurt on the defensive end of the court. The six-foot Iverson approaches the game with a shoot first and pass second attitude, and that is not a good thing for a point guard.

Smith's athleticism works well with Iverson. The 5-11 Atkins will also handle point guard duties, but his size is also a concern. The 6-2 Carter will compete with Atkins for minutes at the point.

The Nuggets did not acquire Iverson for his defensive. Iverson is a scorer and that's what has made him one of the greatest to ever play in the NBA. Karl wants Iverson to continue what he does best, but at the same time to involve his teammates and make them better.

FRONTCOURT

Anthony, Camby, Nene and a healthy Martin would give Karl four productive forwards. Anthony is the scorer, Camby is the presence in the middle, and Nene and Martin are the rebounders who do the dirty work around the basket.

Linas Kleiza and Eduardo Najera can also add something to the frontcourt. Kleiza has shown the ability to add some scoring off the bench, while Najera is a hustler who is not afraid to get his hands dirty.

The 23-year-old Anthony is the cornerstone of the franchise. The 6-10 Syracuse product, who played in his first All-Star Game last season, is a rising star who can do it all. He still hasn't won a playoff series and needs to show that he can carry a team on his back in the postseason.

OUTLOOK

It will be interesting to see how Anthony and Iverson do together over an 82- game schedule. Both players love to score, which should work in Denver's up- tempo style of play. Karl's patience will be tested more than once during the campaign, but the positives should be greater than the negatives.

The Nuggets are a 45-48 win team. They should be in the same spot as last season, fifth or sixth seed in the playoffs and a tough matchup in round one. Even Anthony and Iverson don't put the Nuggets in the same class as Dallas, San Antonio and Phoenix in the Western Conference.

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Detroit Pistons 2007-08 Season Preview

2006-07 FINISH: 53-29

ADDITIONS: Jarvis Hayes (F) - Free Agent; Cheick Samb (C).

SUBTRACTIONS: Carlos Delfino (G) - Traded to Toronto.

RE-SIGNINGS: Chauncey Billups (G); Amir Johnson (F).

2007 DRAFT PICKS: 1. (15) Rodney Stuckey (F, Eastern Washington); 1. (27) Arron Afflalo (G, UCLA); 2.(57) Sammy Mejia (G, DePaul).

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP: PG Chauncey Billups, SG Richard Hamilton, SF Tayshaun Prince, PF Jason Maxiell, C Rasheed Wallace

COACH: Flip Saunders

(Sports Network) - The Detroit Pistons have lost two straight years in the Eastern Conference finals, but still are one of the favorites in the Eastern Conference.

In 2006-07, the Pistons won their third straight Central Division were the top seed in the East playoffs. They swept the Orlando Magic in round one and eliminated the Chicago Bulls in six in the semis. However, Detroit was eliminated by LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, 4-2, in the conference finals.

Richard Hamilton led the Pistons in scoring (19.8 ppg) during the regular season, while Rasheed Wallace grabbed a team-best 7.2 rebounds and point guard Chauncey Billups dished out a club-best 7.2 assists.

Wallace averaged 12.3 points in 75 games, while unsung hero Tayshaun Prince had another excellent season. Prince played in all 82 games during the campaign, and posted 14.3 points, 5.2 boards and 2.8 assists Prince played his usual stellar defense and did all the little things that make the Pistons successful. Forward Jason Maxiell showed a lot of potential during the regular season and in spurts during the playoffs.

Head coach Flip Saunders, who became the general of the Pistons on July 21, 2005, returns for this third season on Detroit's bench. Before he was hired by Detroit, Saunders spent nine-plus years with the Minnesota Timberwolves and helped the squad to eight straight playoff appearances. He also coached the Timberwolves to a franchise-best 58-24 mark in the 2003-04 campaign and guided the club to the Western Conference finals against the Lakers, who defeated Minnesota in six games.

Detroit had a solid draft, as it selected multi-talented guard Rodney Stuckey with the 15th overall pick and UCLA's Arron Afflalo with the 27 pick of round one. Stuckey had great workouts and saw his stock rise big time prior to the draft. The Pistons also picked Sammy Mejia of DePaul late in the second round.

President of basketball operations Joe Dumars accomplished his main goal during the offseason, as he kept Billups, who was an unrestricted free agent, in Detroit by inking the All-Star guard to a lucrative, multi-year contract. Dumars also signed free agent forward Jarvis Hayes, and dealt guard Carlos Delfino to the Toronto Raptors.

Billups, who was the MVP of the 2004 NBA Finals, also collected 17.0 points and 3.4 rebounds in 70 games during the 2006-07 regular season. The 6-3 Billups, who has also spent time with Boston, Toronto, Denver and Minnesota during his 10-year career, has found a home in Detroit.

A two-time All-Star, Billups teams with Hamilton to make up arguably the best backcourt in the NBA. By keeping Billups in the fold, Dumars has made sure that his squad will once again be one of the top teams in the East. The nucleus of Billups, Hamilton, Prince and Wallace will try to get the Pistons back into the championship round for the first time since 2005, when San Antonio defeated Detroit in seven games to win the title.

BACKCOURT

It doesn't get any better then All-Stars Billups and Hamilton. Both players can do it all and live for the pressure of the big game. They are solid defenders, control the offensive flow and tempo for the Pistons. Billups and Hamilton are as good as it gets.

Afflalo and Stuckey have a good chance to earn playing time right from the start. They will be competing with Lindsey Hunter and Ronald Murray. All four guards are versatile, which will give Saunders some flexibility with his lineup.

Stuckey is the x-factor. He can play both positions in the backcourt and could be the surprise rookie in the NBA this season. The Eastern Washington product plays a lot like Billups, and may end up being the third guard in the rotation.

FRONTCOURT

Prince, Wallace, Hayes, Antonio McDyess, Amir Johnson, Jason Maxiell and Nazr Mohammed make up the Pistons frontcourt. Prince and Wallace will play big minutes and are the leaders up front. This is the season that Dumars is hoping for Maxiell and Johnson to breakout and make significant contributions.

Saunders knows what he is going to get from Prince and Wallace. The 33-year- old McDyess, who appeared in 82 games last season and averaged 8.1 points and six rebounds per game, signed a contract extension during the offseason. McDyess can score from the low post, and plays both center and power forward for the Pistons.

The 6-8 Hayes, who spent the first four years of his career with Washington, averaged 7.2 points and 2.6 boards in 81 contests for the Wizards during the 2006-07 campaign. Hayes will help the Pistons, as he works hard on both ends of the court and is another player who can play multiple positions.

OUTLOOK

With the emergence of the Boston Celtics, Chicago and Cleveland, the Pistons need to prepare themselves for some tougher competition in the East. Getting back to the conference finals is definitely not a given anymore. James and the Cavaliers will be ready to defend their Eastern Conference title, while Ben Gordon, Luol Deng and the Bulls keep improving and may be ready to make a jump to the next level.

The Pistons, who have appeared in the East finals five straight years, will be put to the test in 2007-08. Billups, Hamilton, Prince and Wallace may be on their last ride together, while Saunders is definitely on the hot seat. Detroit's nucleus needs to prove that they are still a force in the East.

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Golden State Warriors 2007-08 Season Preview

2006-07 FINISH: 42-40

ADDITIONS: Austin Croshere (F) - Free Agent; Brandan Wright (F) - Trade with Charlotte.

SUBTRACTIONS: Adonal Foyle (C) - Waived; Josh Powell (F) - Signed with LA Clippers; Jason Richardson (G/F) - Traded to Charlotte.

RE-SIGNINGS: Matt Barnes (F).

2007 DRAFT PICKS: 1. (18) Marco Belinelli (G, Italy); 2. (38) Jermareo Davidson (F, Alabama) - Traded to Charlotte; 2. (46) - Stephane Lasme (G, Massachusetts).

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP: PG Baron Davis, SG Monta Ellis, SF Stephen Jackson PF Al Harrington, C Andris Biedrins

COACH: Don Nelson

(Sports Network) - Executive vice president of basketball operations Chris Mullin figured out how to get Golden State back into the postseason. Can he keep them at that level?

Golden State, which had the longest playoff drought in the NBA, returned to the playoffs for the first time since 1994, when it was led by Mullin, Latrell Sprewell and Chris Webber. The Warriors, who finished 42-40 in 2006-07 and were the eighth seed in the playoffs, stunned the top-seeded Dallas Mavericks in six games, 4-2, in the opening round of the postseason, but fell in five, 4-1, to the Utah Jazz in the Western Conference semifinals.

Veteran head coach Don Nelson returned to the bench for Golden State last season. Nelson, who was general of the Warriors for six-plus seasons beginning in 1988, compiled a 277-260 record with the squad before resigning halfway through the 1994-95 season. The 67-year-old Nelson agreed to a new contract with the club on September 17, 2007.

Nelson's unorthodox system started to work when the franchise pulled off a blockbuster trade. On January 17th, Golden State acquired swingman Stephen Jackson, forwards Al Harrington and Josh Powell and guard Sarunas Jasikevicius from the Indiana Pacers for Troy Murphy, Mike Dunleavy Jr., Ike Diogu and Keith McLeod.

The athletic Harrington, who played center and power forward for the Warriors, and Jackson gave Nelson the flexibility with his rotation that he lacked. Two-time All-Star guard Baron Davis led the team in scoring (20.1 ppg) and assists (8.1 apg) during the regular season, while the NBA's Most Improved Player Monta Ellis averaged 16.5 points, 3.2 boards and 4.1 assists per game in just his second season in the league.

Jackson was suspended for the first seven games of the season by the league for pleading guilty to criminal recklessness stemming from a gun-firing incident last fall when he was with the Pacers. He had to pay a $5,000 fine and was ordered to perform 100 hours of community service.

Mullin made a major move on draft night, as the Warriors sent high-flying Jason Richardson to the Charlotte Bobcats for forward Brandan Wright, who was selected out of North Carolina by the Bobcats with the eighth overall pick in the draft. Richardson's production was down last season for Golden State. He averaged 16.0 points, down from his 23.2 points per game in 2005-06. Richardson was hampered by a knee injury and missed 31 contests.

The Warriors also waived veteran center Adonal Foyle, signed free agent forward Austin Croshere and re-signed forward Matt Barnes.

BACKCOURT

Davis and Ellis give the Warriors a dangerous starting backcourt. The one concern is Davis' health, as the UCLA product has had trouble with his knees in the past. Ellis has showed that he is the real deal by his excellent all- around play last season.

The surprise could be Marco Belinelli, who was selected with the 18th overall pick in the draft. Belinelli is another scorer who can knock down a jumper from anywhere on the court. The 6-5 Belinelli fits perfectly into Nelson's system and will make the Warriors even tougher to defend if he can drain his shots consistently during the season.

Kelenna Azubuike is another option of the bench for Nelson, while the sharp- shooting Jackson will see time in the backcourt.

FRONTCOURT

Biedrins played in all 82 regular-season contests last season and averaged 9.5 points and 9.3 rebounds. He has proved that he can play against the giants of the NBA, and should continue to improve his game. Biedrins is athletic, runs the floor and is effective on both ends of the court. He gives the Warriors a legitimate center.

Harrington and Jackson were positive additions on the court for Golden State, while Barnes, Croshere and Wright are nice options to have off the bench. Biedrins, Harrington and Jackson are the likely candidates for the starting lineup on day one of the 2007-08 campaign.

Nelson will go with whatever is working. Players that fit his up-tempo style of play are what he wants on the roster. If Wright can develop into an NBA player quickly, the Warriors will have a potent frontcourt that will cause matchup problems for the opposition.

OUTLOOK

This is a tough one to call. The Warriors are a fun team to watch, as they move the ball quickly and play an entertaining style. The players have accepted Nelson's system and succeeded with it. Golden State's upset over Dallas was one for the ages.

Golden State won't shock anyone with its play this season. Teams will be ready. If the Warriors want to improve on last year's success, Davis is going to have to lead the way and most importantly stay healthy. The Warriors need everything to fall into place for them to get back to the postseason. A .500 squad with a chance to make the playoffs is the perfect way to describe these Warriors.

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Houston Rockets 2007-08 Season Preview

2006-07 FINISH: 52-30

ADDITIONS: Jackie Butler (C) - Trade with San Antonio; Steve Francis (G) - Free Agent; Mike James (G) - Trade with Minnesota.

SUBTRACTIONS: Juwan Howard (F) - Traded to Minnesota; Vassilis Spanoulis (G) - Traded to San Antonio.

RE-SIGNINGS: Chuck Hayes (F); Dikembe Mutombo (C).

2006 DRAFT PICKS: 1. (26) Aaron Brooks (G, Oregon) - Traded to Memphis; 2. (54) Brad Newley (G, Australia).

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP: PG Mike James, SG Tracy McGrady, SF Shane Battier PF Chuck Hayes, C Yao Ming

COACH: Rick Adelman

(Sports Network) - A new era is going to start for the Houston Rockets when they tip off the 2007-08 campaign on October 30th against Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers at the Staples Center.

Rick Adelman, who guided the Kings to three Pacific Division titles in eight seasons with Sacramento, will be calling the shots from the Houston bench during the 2007-08 campaign. Adelman, who did not coach last season, replaced former head coach Jeff Van Gundy, whose four-year tenure came to an end after the Rockets were eliminated by the Utah Jazz in seven games in the first round of the playoffs.

Adelman takes over a team with two perennial All-Stars in Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming. The Rockets, who were 52-30 during the 2006-07 regular season, have talent but have not been able to put it all together. They have not won a playoff series since 1997. Houston's last postseason series victory was when it defeated Seattle, 4-3, in the 1997 West semis.

Yao missed 32 games this past season with a non-displaced fracture in a bone under his right knee. Without Yao, who led the team in scoring (25.0 ppg) and rebounding (9.4 rpg), the Rockets were a surprising 20-12.

McGrady finished his third and arguably his finest season with the Rockets. The All-Star guard, who averaged 24.6 points, 5.3 boards and a team-best 6.4 assists per game, put the team on his back when Yao was out. He made his teammates better and hit clutch shots to help his squad stay in the thick of the playoff race in the West.

Guards Rafer Alston, who has had some issues off the court during the offseason, and Luther Head gave Houston solid shooting from the perimeter, while forward Shane Battier, who finished his first season with the Rockets, provided excellent defense and also contributed on the offensive end.

Houston did acquire guard Mike James, who played 27 games for the Rockets during the 2004-05 campaign, from Minnesota for veteran forward Juwan Howard. James averaged 10.1 points and 3.6 assists in 81 games for the Timberwolves during the 2006-06 campaign. The Rockets also re-signed power forward Chuck Hayes.

Back in the mix is Steve Francis, who played his first five NBA seasons in Houston. Francis was traded to Portland by the New York Knicks along with Channing Frye in exchange for Zach Randolph, Dan Dickau and Fred Jones in a draft night trade on June 28th. The Trail Blazers then bought out the remaining two years of Francis' contract. The former All-Star became a free agent after he cleared waivers.

The 30-year-old Francis averaged a career-low 11.3 points per game in 44 contests for the Knicks last season. The Maryland product played for Houston from 1999-2004.

BACKCOURT

The additions of James and Francis will definitely help the Rockets backcourt, and give Adelman more flexibility with the lineup. Both guards are capable of running the point or playing shooting guard. Adelman will be able to utilize the 6-8 McGrady at small forward and push Battier to power forward if he wants to go small in certain situations.

As long as McGrady, who has been hampered with back problems throughout his career, is healthy, the Rockets will have an excellent backcourt. James and Francis are scorers, but can go into deep slumps which make them very ineffective at times. It is fair to say, they are streaky players.

Bonzi Wells gets a fresh start under Adelman and could be primed for a good season. The 6-5 Wells averaged just 7.8 points in just 28 games for the Rockets last season. He played for Adelman in Sacramento in 2005-06, and registered 13.6 points and 7.7 rebounds in 52 contests that season.

Add Head and rookie Aaron Brooks, who was selected out of Oregon with the 26th overall pick in this year's draft, to a backcourt that consists of Alston, Francis, James, McGrady and Wells and the Rockets have some depth and plenty of ability at guard. Brooks is a speedy guard who will be give a chance to develop slowly into an NBA point guard, while Alston's future in Houston could be up in the air because of his problems off the court.

Houston's backcourt is in good shape for the 2007-08 campaign.

FRONTCOURT

Yao is arguably the top center in the game. He has become a force on the offensive end of the court. The 27-year-old Yao teams with Battier and Hayes to form Houston's starting frontcourt. Yao provides the scoring, while Battier and Hayes are known more for their defensive work.

Adelman will use McGrady and Wells at small forward when he decides to go with a smaller lineup. Battier, who played all 82 regular-season contests and averaged 10.1 points and 4.1 boards last season, works hard on both ends of the court. The 6-8 Battier is a valuable asset for the Rockets, as he can play both forward spots because of his ability to defend.

The Rockets need Yao, who will be backed up by veteran Dikembe Mutombo to stay healthy. As long as he and McGrady are in the lineup, Houston is a dangerous team that can compete with any team in the league.

OUTLOOK

Houston has improved. The Rockets hope Adelman can guide them out of the first round of the postseason for the first time in over 10 years. Yao and McGrady have an improved supporting cast to play with this season.

Francis' career may be rejuvenated with his return to Houston, while Wells' play should pickup with Adelman leading the way. The Rockets are a playoff team, but can they win in the postseason against the tough Western Conference squads?

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Indiana Pacers 2007-08 Season Preview

2006-07 FINISH: 35-47

ADDITIONS: Stanko Barac (C) - Trade with Miami; Travis Diener (G) - Free Agent; Stephen Graham (G) - Free Agent; Kareem Rush (G) - Free Agent.

SUBTRACTIONS: Darrell Armstrong (G) - Signed with New Jersey; Maceo Baston (F) - Signed with Toronto.

RE-SIGNINGS: NONE

2007 DRAFT PICKS: NONE

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP: PG Jamaal Tinsley, SG Mike Dunleavy, SF Danny Granger PF Troy Murphy, C Jermaine O'Neal

COACH: Jim O'Brien

(Sports Network) - Jermaine O'Neal is still the cornerstone of the Indiana Pacers. Rumors were flying all summer of a possible trade with the Los Angeles Lakers involving the All-Star forward.

Re-building could be in the very near future. New head coach Jim O'Brien, who replaced Rick Carlisle, takes over a club that finished 35-47 and did not qualify for the playoffs last year for the first time since 1997.

O'Neal led the Pacers in scoring (19.4 ppg) and rebounding (9.6 rpg) last season, while point guard Jamaal Tinsley handed out a team-best 6.9 assists in 72 contests.

The Pacers made a big move during the 2006-07 season. On January 17th, they dealt swingman Stephen Jackson, forwards Al Harrington and Josh Powell and guard Sarunas Jasikevicius to the Golden State Warriors for Troy Murphy, Mike Dunleavy Jr., Ike Diogu and Keith McLeod. The deal worked out for Golden State, which qualified for the postseason for the first time since 1994. Dunleavy and Murphy, who were the keys to the deal for Indiana, did not seem to get comfortable in their new surroundings.

Danny Granger had a productive sophomore season. The New Mexico product played in all 82 regular-season games, and averaged 13.9 points and 4.6 boards. The 6-9 Granger shot 45.9 percent from the floor and will be a big part of the Pacers' plans moving forward.

President of basketball operations Larry Bird was not able to make any significant moves during the offseason. The Pacers also did not have any picks in the draft and were spectators throughout draft night.

O'Brien is a veteran general who was brought in to try and keep the Pacers in the playoff hunt. O'Brien is not known for his work with younger players. He is a fit for a veteran club that has a shot at advancing to the postseason.

The 30-year-old O'Neal is a five-time All-Star and has had seven productive years with the Pacers. He is still the most valuable asset of this franchise. However, the time for change has arrived, and Bird may have a big mess to fix if the Pacers start slow and are not a legitimate playoff contender when the All-Star break rolls around.

BACKCOURT

Tinsley had a solid season in 2006-07. He is a good lead guard who can start in the league. Like O'Neal, his days in Indiana could be numbered. If Bird starts to rebuild the Pacers, Tinsley will most certainly be one of the names brought up in trade talk. For now, Tinsley will direct coach O'Brien's offense.

The Pacers are thin in the backcourt, which will force O'Brien to use Dunleavy, who is more fitted to play small forward, at shooting guard. Because of his size, the 6-9 Dunleavy, who averaged 14.0 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.6 assists in 43 games with the Pacers, will be tough for other guards to defend.

Marquis Daniels and free agent pickups Travis Diener, Stephen Graham and Kareem Rush will compete for available minutes in the backcourt. The 6-6 Daniels will be the third guard in the rotation and is valuable because of his defensive play.

FRONTCOURT

Bird will give O'Brien a chance to win with the current roster. O'Neal's strength is his ability to score in the low post. Dunleavy is an outside threat at small forward when he is in a rhythm, while Granger is more of a slasher who earns his points by driving the lane.

Granger looks like he is going to be a solid player for many years to come. The New Mexico product is athletic, plays hard on both ends of the court and is a tough rebounder.

The 6-11 Murphy, who averaged 11.1 points and 6.1 rebounds in 42 games with Indiana, does his best work 12-15 feet away from the basket. Murphy likes to shoot from the outside, which could help open the low post for O'Neal if he is knocking down his shots. Diogu, who registered 5.8 points and 3.3 boards in 42 contests for the Pacers, is young and will get a chance to prove himself this season.

As long as O'Neal is still on the roster, Indiana has an inside threat and its frontcourt is at the very least decent. If things go wrong early, Bird may pull the trigger on a big trade involving O'Neal which could include the hefty contracts of Dunleavy and/or Murphy.

OUTLOOK

Change is needed in Indiana. Bird is going to give his current roster one last chance to win. Granger is most likely the one player who won't be involved in trade talks.

A long season awaits the Pacers in 2007-08. Indiana is a team headed for 50- plus losses. O'Neal will be gone by the trade deadline, and Bird will start steering the franchise in a new direction.

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Los Angeles Clippers 2007-08 Season Preview

2006-07 FINISH: 40-42

ADDITIONS: Dan Dickau (G) - Free Agent; Brevin Knight (G) - Free Agent; Ruben Patterson (F) - Free Agent; Josh Powell (F) - Free Agent.

SUBTRACTIONS: Daniel Ewing (G) - Waived; Jason Hart (G) - Signed with Utah.

RE-SIGNINGS: NONE

2007 DRAFT PICKS: 1. (14) Al Thornton (F, Florida State); 2. (45) Jared Jordan (G, Marist).

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP: PG Brevin Knight, SG Cuttino Mobley, SF Corey Maggette, PF Tim Thomas, C Chris Kaman

COACH: Mike Dunleavy

(Sports Network) - It could be a long season for the Los Angeles Clippers. The Clippers have already suffered a devastating injury to their most productive player.

Forward Elton Brand underwent surgery during the summer to repair a rupture to his left Achilles tendon. The 6-8 Brand, who is expected to miss at least the first several months of the season, was injured during the offseason while doing his regular daily workout.

A two-time All-Star, Brand averaged team-highs in points (20.5 ppg), rebounds (9.3 rpg) and blocks (2.2 bpg) in 80 games last season. The Duke product is the cornerstone of the franchise and is one of the top power forwards in the league.

Los Angeles had a disappointing 2006-07 campaign. The Clippers finished 40-42 and failed to qualify for the playoffs for a second straight year. In 2005-06, they won 47 games and made to the West semis where they fell in seven games to the Phoenix Suns.

The Clippers have young talent in center Chris Kaman, point guard Shaun Livingston, who suffered a serious knee injury and missed 28 games in 2006-07, and swingman Corey Maggette. Veterans Sam Cassell, Cuttino Mobley and Tim Thomas are all solid contributors.

On draft night, the Clippers selected forward Al Thornton out of Florida State with the 14th overall pick. With the injury to Brand, the athletic Thornton will get a chance to play big minutes during his rookie campaign.

Veteran free agents Brevin Knight and Ruben Patterson signed with the Clippers during the summer. Knight is a solid point guard and will be a big help if Livingston does not come back 100 percent healthy, while Patterson is a versatile forward and will be a positive addition on both ends of the court. The 6-5 Patterson registered 14.7 points and 5.4 rebounds in 81 games for Milwaukee in 2006-07.

Head coach Mike Dunleavy returns to the Clippers' bench for his fifth year. Dunleavy has guided the Clippers to the postseason just once during his tenure with the club. With Brand out indefinitely, Dunleavy has to be given some slack for the upcoming season.

BACKCOURT

The Clippers have a veteran group of guards. Cassell, Mobley and Knight will get some help from Maggette, who will split time between small forward and shooting guard.

Cassell, who turns 38 on November 18th, averaged 12.3 points and 4.7 assists in 58 games last season for the Clippers. The veteran guard still has game left in him, but is definitely not the offensive threat that he once was. Cassell and Knight will hold down the fort at the point until Livingston is ready to try and come back.

Mobley is a scorer and can also run the point if he has to. The 32-year-old shooting guard posted 13.8 points per game in 78 contest last season. He shot over 40 percent from beyond the arc. Dunleavy will need Mobley to pick up some of the scoring that will be missing with Brando out of the lineup.

FRONTCOURT

The injury to Brand is a killer. Without Brand, Kaman and Thomas, who averaged 11.0 points and 5.0 boards in 76 games for the Clippers last season. are going to have to step up and become more productive in the scoring and rebounding columns of the stat sheet.

The 25-year-old Kaman collected 10.1 points and 7.8 boards per game for the Clippers last season, while Maggette, who has been the subject of trade rumors, averaged 16.9 points, 5.9 rebounds and 2.8 assists in 75 games. The seven-foot Kaman needs to be more consistent and will have to be the Clippers go-to play in the low post. Maggette could be the player who shines with Brand on the sidelines, as he does have the ability to put up big numbers offensively when give the chance.

Patterson will get plenty of minutes behind Maggette and Thomas. In fact, it would not be a shock if the 32-year-old Patterson is one of Dunleavy's starting forwards at some point of the campaign.

Thornton will get an opportunity to show his stuff right away. The Florida State product will get time at both forward spots, while Paul Davis and Aaron Williams will backup Kaman.

OUTLOOK


Without Brand, the Clippers are a team headed for the lottery. There is talent on the roster, but not enough to overcome a devastating injury like this one. Dunleavy will get to see first hand what kind of character his team has, as Kaman, Maggette and Thomas will have to raise their games to the next level if the Clippers hope to enjoy any kind of success in the upcoming season.

Thirty wins is the best that can be expected of the Clippers without their best player. It's going to be a long season for Clippers' fans.

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Los Angeles Lakers 2007-08 Season Preview

2006-07 FINISH: 42-40

ADDITIONS: Derek Fisher (G) - Free Agent; Coby Karl (G) - Free Agent.

SUBTRACTIONS: Smush Parker (G) - Signed with Miami.

RE-SIGNINGS: Chris Mihm (C); Luke Walton (F).

2007 DRAFT PICKS: 1. (19) Javaris Crittenton (G, Georgia Tech); 2. (40) Sun Yue (G, China) - Traded to Detroit; 2. (48) Marc Gasol (F, Spain).

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP: PG Derek Fisher, SG Kobe Bryant, SF Luke Walton PF Lamar Odom, C Kwame Brown

COACH: Phil Jackson

(Sports Network) - An offseason without a major addition to their roster was not what the Los Angeles Lakers needed. Superstar Kobe Bryant is unhappy, and this is a franchise that needs to start winning now.

A new supporting cast for Bryant, who has expressed his concern and displeasure with the current status of the team, is what the Lakers need. They finished 42-40 in the 2006-07 regular season, and were eliminated in five games, 4-1, by the Phoenix Suns in the opening round of the playoffs.

Since sending Shaquille O'Neal packing on July 14, 2004, the Lakers are below .500 (121-125) in three seasons without the All-Star center. Los Angeles has qualified for the playoffs in two of the three seasons, but has been eliminated twice in the first round.

Bryant, who led the NBA in scoring (31.6 ppg) and dished out a team-best 5.4 assists in 2006-07, wants to win now, and he knows his current supporting cast is not good enough to compete with Dallas, San Antonio and Phoenix. The Lakers aren't even in the same class as Denver, Houston or Utah.

Forward Lamar Odom, who was acquired from the Miami Heat in the Shaq deal, Kwame Brown, Luke Walton and Andrew Bynum are all decent players with value. But the fact remains, none of them seem to have what it takes to help Kobe lead the Lakers to the promised land.

The seven-foot Bynum, who turns 20 on October 27th, has shown that he should eventually develop into a productive NBA center. He played all 82 regular- season games in 2006-07, and averaged 7.8 points and 5.9 rebounds. Odom registered 15.9 points, a team-high 9.8 boards and 4.8 assists, while Walton, who re-signed with the club in the offseason, had a solid campaign.

Head coach Phil Jackson returns to the bench for what could be his final ride with the Lakers. Jackson has won nine championship rings as a coach. He led the Lakers to three titles in his first four years in LA, and guided the Chicago Bulls to six championships.

Veteran guard Derek Fisher returned to the Lakers. The 6-1 guard, who won three championships with the club, signed with the team as a free agent. Fisher spent two seasons with Golden State and last season as a member of the Utah Jazz. He averaged 10.1 points and 3.3 assists for Utah in 2006-07.

Big man Chris Mihm re-signed with the Lakers, while free agent guard Smush Parker decided to join Shaq in Miami as he inked a deal with the Heat. The team also added point guard Javaris Crittenton, Sun Yue of China and Spaniard Marc Gasol through the draft.

Rumors about a possible trade with the Indiana Pacers for All-Star forward Jermaine O'Neal were swirling during the summer. However, nothing happened. But, it would not be surprising if something came to fruition sometime before or even during the season.

The Lakers need to figure out how to get the right combination of players that fit with Bryant. They know their superstar is not thrilled with the current state of the team, and the only way to make him happy is to get him some teammates who can help him compete for a championship.

The offseason was boring, but the regular season should be anything but that. Expect plenty of fireworks from Kobe if the Lakers don't win early and often.

BACKCOURT

Bryant will play alongside Fisher, Jordan Farmar and Crittenton. A nine-time All-Star, Bryant does it all on both ends of the court. He is as dangerous a player on the offensive end as there is in the league, and defensively he can compete with any shooting guard in the NBA.

The 29-year-old Bryant can't win by himself. Fisher adds stability and will definitely help, while Farmar and Crittenton are question marks. Farmar will be entering his second year in the league, and did show some positive signs during his rookie campaign.

However, Crittenton and/or Farmar could be expendable in a package to bring in some instant help for Bryant. The future of the Lakers' backcourt is still up in the air. Some kind of change may be on the horizon.

FRONTCOURT

Odom represents the best that the Lakers have up front. Walton, who averaged 11.4 points, 5.0 boards and 4.3 assists last season, made big strides in 2006-07 and showed that he should continue to have a productive career. Walton knows he has a role on the Lakers and does a good job filling it.

Kwame Brown, Bynum, Mihm and Ronny Turiaf are the bangers down low, while Vladimir Radmanovic and Maurice Evans are expected to add scoring off the bench.

Jackson will go with what is working in the frontcourt. Odom has shown that he is a productive player, while Walton has to prove that last year was not a fluke. Bynum has potential, but may be years away from fulfilling it.

Bynum will most certainly be part of any package to acquire an All-Star caliber player. Management has to make a decision on him, and that will have an impact on how Bryant looks at his future with the Lakers.

OUTLOOK

Could play out like a soap opera this season for the Lakers. The big trade didn't happen during the offseason, but it could be coming during the new campaign.

The Lakers know they need Kobe. He is in the prime of his career and wants to be surrounded by players who can help him win now. If the Lakers stick with what they have, it would not be a shock if they miss the playoffs for the second time in four years.

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Memphis Grizzlies 2007-08 Season Preview

2006-07 FINISH: 22-60

ADDITIONS: Casey Jacobsen (G) - Free Agent; Darko Milicic (C/F) - Free Agent; Juan Carlos Navarro (G) - Traded with Washington.

SUBTRACTIONS: Chucky Atkins (G) - Signed with Denver; Alexander Johnson (F) - Waived.

RE-SIGNINGS: NONE

2007 DRAFT PICKS: 1. (4) Mike Conley Jr. (G, Ohio State).

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP: PG Mike Conley Jr., SG Rudy Gay, SF Mike Miller PF Darko Milicic, C Pau Gasol

COACH: Marc Iavaroni

(Sports Network) - Memphis has a new head coach and a young roster with plenty of potential. The Grizzlies finished a league-worst 22-60 during the 2006-07 campaign, and did not qualify for the playoffs for the first time in four years.

New head coach Marc Iavaroni has a roster full of players who have something to prove. One-time All-Star Pau Gasol played in 59 games and led Memphis in scoring (20.8 ppg) and rebounding (9.8 rpg) in 2006-07, while sharp-shooting Mike Miller averaged 18.5 points, 5.4 boards, 4.3 assists and shot over 40 percent from beyond the arc.

Gasol and Miller headline a roster that also includes forwards Rudy Gay, Hakim Warrick and point guard Kyle Lowry. Gay and Lowry will be entering their sophomore seasons in the NBA in 2007-08, while Warrick played in all 82 games and posted 12.7 points and 5.1 rebounds in his second year in the league.

The Grizzlies grabbed Ohio State's Mike Conley Jr. with the fourth overall pick in the draft. Conley was rated as the best point guard available in the draft, and should make an immediate impact. The Ohio State product should be able to earn the starting spot and will play big minutes during his rookie campaign.

Promising forward Darko Milicic signed with the club as a free agent during the summer. Milicic played 80 games for the Orlando Magic last season, starting 16, and averaged a career-best eight points and 5.5 rebounds per contest.

Memphis acquired guard Juan Carlos Navarro, who has been compared to San Antonio's Manu Ginobili, in a trade from Washington, signed free agent guard/forward Casey Jacobsen, and allowed veteran Chucky Atkins to ink a deal with Denver.

Iavaroni can put his stamp on the team right away. He will be working with young players who are still learning about the rigors of the NBA. Gasol and Miller are established players who should help the first-year coach when his patience starts to run thin with his young squad.

The future could be very bright in Memphis if the rookie general can get the most out of his young team.

BACKCOURT

This could be the x-factor for the Grizzlies. Conley is a pure point guard who does a nice job creating shots for his teammates, while Gay is athletic and is at his best when he is driving the lane and forcing contact or putting in a lay-up. Iavaroni may have an exciting tandem for may years to come in Conley and Gay.

Lowry played just 10 games last season because of a wrist injury. The 21-year- old Lowry is a hard-nosed competitor who plays tough defense and is a workhorse on both ends of the court. He could be a big contributor in Iavaroni's system.

Navarro is an unknown commodity. Scouts are high on his ability and think he could be instant offense. The Grizzlies backcourt could be the surprise of the year if it lives up to its potential.

FRONTCOURT

The Grizzlies have size up front. Gasol, Milicic and Miller would be a formidable starting frontcourt. The seven-foot Gasol is an inside scorer and can also rebound, while the 6-11 Milicic plays soft and scores his points from 12-15 feet away from the hoop. Miller is one of the most dangerous perimeter shooters in the league, and complements Gasol and Milicic very well. Gasol and Milicic will both log minutes and center and power forward.

The 6-9 Warrick is athletic, can play both forward spots and should continue to improve with more experience. The Syracuse product helps Memphis' transition game and is also solid defensively. Warrick will be entering his third season in the league.

Stromile Swift and Brian Cardinal will be called upon by Iavaroni to play minutes. The 6-9 Swift, who averaged 7.8 points and 4.6 boards in 54 games for Memphis last season, will play alongside both Gasol and Milicic and will be expected to add toughness in the paint, while Cardinal will spell Miller when he needs a break.

OUTLOOK


Memphis will be better than its 22 wins in 2006-07. This is a young team built around two solid players in Gasol and Miller. Iavaroni, who spent the last five years as an assistant with the Phoenix Suns, will preach tough defense and an up-tempo offense.

The Grizzlies could make a jump back into 40-win territory. Gasol and Miller are the real deal, while Gay will eventually put it all together and Conley is going to be contributor in his rookie campaign. Teams that look past Memphis may end up getting burned.

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Miami Heat 2007-08 Season Preview

2006-07 FINISH: 44-38

ADDITIONS: Daequan Cook (G) - Trade with Philadelphia; Anfernee Hardaway (G) - Free Agent; Alexander Johnson (F) - Free Agent; Smush Parker (G) - Free Agent.

SUBTRACTIONS: Eddie Jones (G) - Signed with Dallas; Jason Kapono (F) - Signed with Toronto; James Posey (F) - Signed with Boston.

RE-SIGNINGS: NONE

2007 DRAFT PICKS: 1. (20) Jason Smith (F, Colorado State) - Traded to Philadelphia; 2. (39) Stanko Barac - (C, Bosnia).

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP: PG Smush Parker, SG Dwyane Wade, SF Dorell Wright PF Udonis Haslem, C Shaquille O'Neal

COACH: Pat Riley

(Sports Network) - Has the window shut on Shaquille O'Neal, Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat?

All-Stars Wade and Shaq will try and bounce back from a disappointing 2006-07 campaign. The Heat, who defeated the Dallas Mavericks in six games during the 2006 NBA Finals, won the Southeast Division with a 44-38 record and were swept in the first round of the playoffs by the Chicago Bulls.

Wade played through pain in the postseason, as he underwent a pair of successful surgeries after the playoffs. The operations were to repair his dislocated left shoulder and his left patella tendon. Despite missing a total of 31 games due to injury this past season, the All-Star guard led Miami in scoring, a franchise-record 27.4 points per game, assists (7.5 apg) and steals (2.1 spg).

Shaq played in just 40 games and averaged 17.3 points and 7.4 rebounds, while Udonis Haslem, Jason Kapono, who signed with Toronto in the offseason, and Jason Williams all posted double-digits in scoring.

Veterans Alonzo Mourning and Antoine Walker are back, while Eddie Jones signed a contract with Dallas and James Posey joined Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in Boston. Guards Smush Parker, Anfernee Hardaway and forward Alexander Johnson signed as free agents with the Heat during the summer.

Head coach Pat Riley will be back on the bench for the Heat. Riley, who has also coached the Lakers and Knicks during his illustrious coaching career, has won five championships as the general of the Lakers (1982, 1985, 1987, 1988) and Heat (2006).He also guided New York to the championship round in 1994.

The Heat will take another shot at winning with Shaq and Wade leading the way. Health is the most important factor for this club, as they don't have a supporting cast that will be able to hang on without the two leaders of the club. Riley is going to have to work magic on the sidelines to get the Heat back amongst the elite.

BACKCOURT

Wade can do it all, but he needs help. Parker was nice addition in the offseason. The 6-4 Parker, who averaged 11.1 points and 2.8 assists for the Lakers last season, adds athleticism and is a versatile guard who should fit in well with Wade.

Williams has been mentioned in various trade rumors and could be moved. If Williams sticks, he will log his time at the point. The Heat did acquire rookie guard Daequan Cook from Philadelphia for rookie forward Jason Smith. Cook will get an opportunity to prove that he can play the point in first year.

Riley will take anything Hardaway, who did not play in the league last season, can give. Hardaway last played with the New York Knicks in 2005-06 when he appeared in just four games due to injury.

FRONTCOURT

The 35-year-old O'Neal is coming to the end of the road. He can still dominate at times, but the 82-game schedule takes its toll on his knees and wears him down for the playoffs. The 37-year-old Mourning and fellow veteran Michael Doleac will backup O'Neal. The key for Riley is to try and keep Shaq ready for the playoffs, but at the same time make sure his team qualifies.

Haslem is a hard worker and is tough on the boards, while the 31-year-old Walker, who averaged a career-low 8.5 points per game in 2006-07, still can shoot from the outside and is capable of putting up points quickly. Twenty- one-year-old Dorell Wright played just under 20 minutes per game last season, and should get a chance to start and play big minutes for the Heat.

Shaq's health is big the concern for Riley and the Heat. They need their big man to be in shape and ready to dominate when they need him to.

OUTLOOK

Teams do not fear the combination of Shaq and Wade anymore. The Heat are still a playoff team, but look more like a sixth, seventh or eight seed in the Eastern Conference.

The Orlando Magic will battle with the Heat for the Southeast crown. Riley will get the Heat back into the postseason with a win total close to last seasons. Unfortunately, this veteran squad is most likely headed for another first-round disappointment.

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Milwaukee Bucks 2007-08 Season Preview

2006-07 FINISH: 28-54

ADDITIONS: Royal Ivey (G) - Free Agent; Desmond Mason (F/G) - Free Agent; Awvee Storey (F) - Free Agent; Jake Voskuhl (C) - Free Agent.

SUBTRACTIONS: Ruben Patterson (F) - Signed with LA Clippers.

RE-SIGNINGS: Charlie Bell (G); Maurice Williams (G).

2007 DRAFT PICKS: 1. (6) Yi Jianlian (F, China) 2. (56) Ramon Sessions (G, Nevada).

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP: PG Maurice Williams, SG Michael Redd, SF Desmond Mason, PF Charlie Villanueva, C Andrew Bogut

COACH: Larry Krystkowiak

(Sports Network) - Milwaukee has talent and could be a team that sneaks up on its opponents this season. The Bucks finished a dismal 28-54 in the 2006-07 campaign, and did not qualify for the postseason.

Sharp-shooting Michael Redd led the Bucks in scoring (26.7 ppg) last season, while Andrew Bogut grabbed a team-best 8.8 rebounds and Maurice Williams handed out a club-high 6.1 assists.

The front office is building the team around center Bogut, who netted 12.3 per contest, and shooting guard Redd. Williams, who signed a multi-year contract with the Bucks during the summer, was second on the club in scoring at 17.3 points per game.

Forward Charlie Villanueva averaged 11.8 points and 5.8 boards in just 39 games in 2006-07, while Charlie Bell, Earl Boykins, who was acquired from Denver during the season were also solid contributors. The 28-year-old Bell registered a career-best 13.5 points per game in 2006-07 and was a restricted free during the offseason, but the Bucks matched Miami's multi-year offer to keep the 6-3 guard with the club.

The Bucks drafted forward Yi Jianlian of China with the sixth overall pick in the draft. The 6-11 Yi was not planning on signing with the franchise after his agent Dan Fegan stated he wanted his client to play in a city with a more prominent Asian community. However, that changed after the Bucks front office met with Yi, his family and Mr. Chen Haitao, owner of Yi's team in the Chinese Basketball Association, in Hong Kong.

Yi is an athletic player with strong offensive skills. The Bucks expect him to give their offense a huge boost because of his versatility and ability to score from 15-18 feet away from the basket.

Less than two years after being traded to the New Orleans Hornets, Desmond Mason re-signed with Milwaukee as a free agent. The Bucks inked the former Oklahoma State star to a multi-year contract. Mason played in 75 games and averaged 13.7 points and 4.6 boards for the Hornets in 2006-07.

Milwaukee also added free agents Jake Voskuhl and Royal Ivey, while forward Ruben Patterson inked a deal with the Los Angeles Clippers. Voskuhl gives head coach Larry Krystkowiak, who replaced Terry Stotts on March 14, 2007 and is the 10th head coach in team history, another big man off the bench, and Ivey will compete for minutes in the backcourt.

BACKCOURT

The Bucks have a decent core of guards. Redd and Williams can both score, which helps open the inside for Milwaukee's big men. The 6-6 Redd, who shot over 38 percent from beyond the arc last season, is one of the best long-range shooters in the league, while the 24-year-old Williams has been a pleasant surprise at the point and should continue to get better.

Bell will be Krystkowiak's first option off the bench at guard. He is instant offense and is capable of playing either spot in the backcourt. Lynn Greer, Ivey and rookie Ramon Sessions will compete for any remaining minutes.

Redd, Williams and Bell will take up the majority of the playing time at guard. All three handle the ball well, are dangerous from the outside and do play some defense.

FRONTCOURT

Bogut needs to give the Bucks more on the offensive end of the court. Milwaukee wants him to be a force in the low post, but that has not happened yet. Look for Bogut's numbers to increase to 17 points and 10 boards per game. The Utah product should be registering a double-double per game.

Yi is a project and has the ability to develop quickly. His game should compliment Bogut's low-post abilities very well. Bobby Simmons missed the entire 2006-07 campaign because of a right ankle injury. If Simmons returns 100 percent healthy, it would give Krystkowiak a nice combination of Mason, who can also play shooting guard if needed, and Simmons at small forward.

The 6-11 Villanueva is not a typical power forward. He has the size, but is not a tough, inside player. Villanueva can handle the ball and has a good 12-18 foot outside jumper.

The nucleus of Bogut, Mason, Simmons, Villanueva and Yi gives the Bucks some talent up front. Reserve centers Dan Gadzuric and Voskuhl add size off the bench and will help on the boards.

OUTLOOK


The Bucks are not a playoff team, but they should win more than the 28 victories they recorded last season. Bogut will continue to develop, and Redd and Williams make up a tough duo in the backcourt. Bringing back Mason and re- signing Williams were good moves in the offseason, while Milwaukee is counting on Yi to become an impact player.

Krystkowiak has some talent to work with. He just needs to find the right combinations. If Bogut can step up and become a force down low, the Bucks could reach 40 wins. A more likely scenario is 33-35 wins and an early vacation.

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Minnesota Timberwolves 2007-08 Season Preview

2006-07 FINISH: 32-50

ADDITIONS: Greg Buckner (G) - Trade with Dallas; John Edwards (C) - Free Agent; Ryan Gomes (F) - Trade with Boston; Gerald Green (F) - Trade with Boston; Al Jefferson (F) - Trade with Boston; Juwan Howard (F) - Trade with Houston; Theo Ratliff (C) - Trade with Boston; Sebastian Telfair (G) - Trade with Boston.

SUBTRACTIONS: Kevin Garnett (F) - Traded to Boston; Trenton Hassell (F/G) - Traded to Dallas; Troy Hudson (G) - Waived; Mike James (G) - Traded to Minnesota.

RE-SIGNINGS: NONE

2007 DRAFT PICKS: 1. (7) Corey Brewer (F, Florida) 2.(41) Chris Richard (F, Florida)

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP: PG Randy Foye, SG Ricky Davis, SF Ryan Gomes, PF Al Jefferson, C Mark Blount

COACH: Randy Wittman

(Sports Network) - The Minnesota Timberwolves will have a new look when their 2007-08 season begins on November 7th against the Denver Nuggets at the Target Center.

On July 31st, Minnesota and the Boston Celtics completed a blockbuster trade. The Timberwolves acquired forwards Al Jefferson and Ryan Gomes, guards Gerald Green and Sebastian Telfair, center Theo Ratliff and two first-round draft picks for All-Star Kevin Garnett, who averaged 22.4 points, 12.8 rebounds and 4.1 assists in 76 games last season.

The 31-year-old Garnett, who will be entering his 13th season in the league, was the NBA MVP in the 2003-04 campaign. A 10-time All-Star, Garnett has averaged over 20 points and more than 10 boards per game in nine straight seasons. He led the Timberwolves to the 2004 Western Conference finals, where they were eliminated in six games by the Los Angeles Lakers.

Originally drafted out of Farragut Academy High School by Minnesota in the first round (fifth overall) of the 1995 draft, Garnett has registered career- averages of 20.5 points and 11.4 rebounds in 927 contests. He has played in 47 postseason games, but has won only two playoff series.

With Garnett gone, Timberwolves vice president of basketball operations Kevin McHale is steering the franchise in a new direction. The 22-year-old Jefferson had a breakout campaign in 2006-07, as he posted 16.0 points and 11.0 boards in 69 contests for Boston. The 6-10 Jefferson was the key player in the deal for Minnesota, which will try and build around the up-and-coming big man.

Ratliff is a veteran with a big, expiring contract, while the 21-year-old Green and Gomes, who registered 12.1 points and 5.6 boards in 73 games in 2006-07, are athletic and look like they have bright futures ahead of them. Telfair will get a fresh start, and will have the opportunity to prove that he can be productive NBA point guard.

Minnesota ended with a poor 32-50 record in 2006-07 and looked like a team with no sense of urgency. Randy Foye posted 10.1 points, 2.7 boards and 2.8 assists during his rookie campaign, while Ricky Davis registered 17.1 points and a team-best 4.8 assists per game. Big man Mark Blount put up respectable numbers with 12.3 points and 6.2 rebounds.

Forward Craig Smith showed potential in his rookie season, and guard Marko Jaric played a lot of minutes but did not produce the way Minnesota had hoped they would.

The Timberwolves did acquire veteran forward Juwan Howard from Houston for guard Mike James on June 14th. The 6-9 Howard averaged 9.7 points and 5.9 boards in 80 games for the Rockets in the 2006-07 campaign. However, Howard has reportedly expressed his desire to be traded since the big trade with Boston.

Corey Brewer was selected out of Florida with the seventh overall pick in the draft. The 6-9 Brewer adds athleticism, can shoot from the outside and is an excellent defender. Brewer will get some playing time at shooting guard and small forward during his first year, and is expected to be a big part of the Timberwolves' future.

Head coach Randy Wittman will be on the bench for his first full season with the Timberwolves, who have missed the playoffs three straight years. Wittman signed a multiyear contract on May 23rd to remain coach of the team. He posted a 12-30 record with Minnesota after the team fired former head coach Dwane Casey on January 23rd.

BACKCOURT

Foye can play both spots in the backcourt. The 6-4 Villanova product played in all 82 regular-season contests last season and showed that he has a productive career ahead of him.

The 24-year-old Foye is expected to play next to the 6-7 Davis, who will also log minutes at small forward, in Minnesota's starting, backcourt. Davis, 28, is a proven scorer and does like to take his share of shots. With the new direction of the team, it would not be surprising if Davis and/or Jaric is traded sometime during the campaign.

Brewer's size and athletic ability will be a great asset for the Timberwolves. He will play with Davis and will also spell him. Rashad McCants, Brewer and Davis will compete for minutes at shooting guard. Wittman will try and make the most out of Brewer and Davis' versatility.

Minnesota waived point guard Troy Hudson and traded James during the offseason. The 22-year-old Telfair, who averaged 6.1 points and 2.8 assists in 78 contests for the Celtics in 2006-07, will get a lot of time at the point and will try and get his career on the right track.

FRONTCOURT

The Timberwolves have young talented forwards. This should be the strength of their squad. Jefferson, who will be entering his fourth season in the NBA, is tough in the low post, but lacks an outside game. He is still improving and is building block for the Timberwolves' future.

The seven-foot Blount is a serviceable center and will share time with Ratliff in the middle, while Smith is a banger. Brewer, Gomes and Green give Wittman plenty of depth and athleticism at small forward. Howard is the wild card, as his experience could benefit the younger players if he ends up staying with the team.

There is a lot of potential up front for the Timberwolves. McHale is counting on Jefferson to continue his tough play and for Gomes and Green, who registered 10.4 points in 81 games last season, to continue to develop.

OUTLOOK

McHale did the right thing by trading Garnett. He knew it was time to start over, and got some pieces to the puzzle in the big trade of the summer. Jefferson is the real deal and could eventually blossom into an All-Star forward, while Gomes and Green appear to have bright futures ahead of them. Brewer was a nice addition through the draft, while Foye is already a player and will continue to get better.

It will take some time for everything to come together. The Timberwolves will miss the postseason for a fourth straight year, but there is hope for the future.

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New Jersey Nets 2007-08 Season Preview

2006-07 FINISH: 41-41

ADDITIONS: Malik Allen (F) - Free Agent; Darrell Armstrong (G) - Free Agent; Robert Hite (G) - Free Agent; Jamaal Magloire (C) - Free Agent.

SUBTRACTIONS: Hassan Adams (G) - Waived; Eddie House (G) - Signed with Boston; Mikki Moore (C) - Signed with Sacramento; Cliff Robinson (F) - Waived.

RE-SIGNINGS: Vince Carter (F/G).

2007 DRAFT PICKS: 1. (17) Sean Williams (C, Boston College).

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP: PG Jason Kidd, SG Vince Carter, SF Richard Jefferson, PF Nenad Krstic, C Jamaal Magloire

COACH: Lawrence Frank

(Sports Network) - New Jersey will try once again to win with the nucleus of Vince Carter, Richard Jefferson and Jason Kidd. Head coach Lawrence Frank signed a multi-year contract extension and will continue to call the shots from the Nets' bench.

Carter, Jefferson and Kidd give the New Jersey Nets a dangerous threesome. However, it has not been good enough to get them back to the top of the Eastern Conference. In 2006-07, New Jersey finished 41-41 and earned a playoff berth in the East. The Nets knocked out the Atlantic Division champion Toronto Raptors in six games in the first round of the playoffs, but fell in six to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the semis.

The 30-year-old Carter. who re-signed with the club in the offseason, averaged a team-high 25.2 points per game during the regular season, while Kidd, who posted 13.0 points per game, led New Jersey in rebounds (8.2 rpg) and assists (9.2 apg). Jefferson collected 16.3 points, 4.4 boards and 2.7 assists in 55 games.

Center Nenad Krstic missed 56 games during the 2006-07 campaign because of a serious knee injury. He registered 16.4 points and 6.8 boards in the 26 contests he played in.

New Jersey signed free agent big men Malik Allen and Jamaal Magloire to one- year deals during the offseason. Magloire registered 6.5 points and 6.1 boards in 81 games for Portland last season, and will get the chance to earn a starting spot for the Nets. The 6-10 Allen will work in a reserve role and adds depth up front.

Gone are Eddie House, Mikki Moore and Clifford Robinson. House signed with Boston, Moore, who played very well for the Nets last season, inked a deal with Sacramento and Robinson was waived.

Center Sean Williams was selected out of Boston College with the 17th overall pick in the draft. Williams has questionable character and is a project. The Nets are gambling on his potential.

The Nets expect forwards Josh Boone, Antoine Wright and guard Marcus Williams, who is expected to miss the start of the campaign after he suffered a fractured fifth metatarsal of his right foot, to play more minutes in 2007-08. Frank is a methodical coach and is always prepared. The Nets' general will try and figure out how to get his club back to the top of the conference in the new campaign.

BACKCOURT

Kidd and Carter are arguably the best all-around backcourt in the league. The high-flying Carter athleticism makes him tough to guard, while Kidd excels on both ends of the court. They are the leaders of this team and will have to have big years if New Jersey hopes to get back to the top.

The 6-3 Williams is a pure point guard and should eventually be Kidd's successor. He averaged 6.8 points, 3.3 assists and played 16.6 minutes per game in 79 contests last season. The Connecticut product will backup Kidd and should get the opportunity to play alongside the All-Star point guard as well.

FRONTCOURT

There are plenty of active bodies in the frontcourt for Frank to work with. The return of Krstic will help, assuming he comes back 100% healthy. The seven-foot Krstic can shoot from the outside and will get the chance to play more minutes at power forward with the signing of Magloire.

Allen, Boone, Jason Collins, Krstic and Magloire will take up the minutes at center and power forward, while Jefferson, Bostjan Nachbar and Wright will spend their time at small forward. Jefferson played over 35 minutes per game last season and will most likely see that same amount of action this year.

Frank has a lot to work with. Jefferson has his minutes in the game plan, while the others will have some healthy competition for playing time. Depth is not the problem with the Nets' frontcourt, consistent production may be.

OUTLOOK

The Nets are a playoff team. Carter, Jefferson and Kidd need help from the role players on the roster. Magloire adds an inside presence, while Krstic will give them a big boost if he is healthy.

New Jersey is not in the same class as the Boston Celtics. Forty-five victories and a second place finish in the Atlantic sounds about right. However, it will be a challenge to win a first-round series in the playoffs for the Nets.

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New Orleans Hornets 2007-08 Season Preview

2006-07 FINISH: 39-43

ADDITIONS: Melvin Ely (C/F) - Free Agent; Morris Peterson (F/G) - Free Agent; David Wesley (G) - Trade with New Orleans.

SUBTRACTIONS: Brandon Bass (F) - Signed with Dallas; Devin Brown (G) - Signed with Cleveland; Desmond Mason (F/G) - Signed with Milwaukee; Cedric Simmons (F) - Traded to Cleveland.

RE-SIGNINGS: Jannero Pargo (G).

2007 DRAFT PICKS: 1. (13) Julian Wright (F, Kansas); 2. (43) Adam Haluska (G, Iowa).

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP: PG Chris Paul, SG Morris Peterson, SF Peja Stojakovic, PF David West, C Tyson Chandler

COACH: Byron Scott

(Sports Network) - New Orleans has not qualified for the playoffs the last three years. This season could be different, as the Hornets have a deep, talented roster that wants to prove they can compete with the best.

Chris Paul, Tyson Chandler and Peja Stojakovic headline a talented Hornets' roster. Add forward David West and swingman Morris Peterson to the mix, and this is a team that should be in the thick of the playoff race in 2007-08.

Paul is one of the most dynamic players in the league. The Wake Forest product can score and is excellent at creating opportunities for his teammates. The 2005-06 Rookie of the Year, Paul averaged 17.3 points, 4.4 rebounds and a team-best 8.9 assists in 64 games.

Chandler was a monster on the boards in 2006-07 for the Hornets, who finished 39-43 and were three games behind the Golden State Warriors for the eighth and final playoff berth in the Western Conference. The 6-11 Chandler posted 9.5 points and a team-high 12.4 rebounds per game.

New Orleans dealt with its share of injuries during the 2006-07 campaign, as Stojakovic, who was playing in his first season with the club, missed 69 games, West was sidelined for 30, Bobby Jackson was out for 26, Paul 18 and Chandler nine. West averaged a club-high 18.3 points and 8.2 rebounds, while Stojakovic netted 17.8 per game in the 13 contests he participated in.

Head coach Byron Scott is back for his fourth season on the Hornets' bench. Scott guided the club to a dismal 18-64 record 2004-05 and 38-44 mark in 2005-06. Injuries hurt the Hornets big time last season, but Scott did a good job keeping the team in playoff hunt until the final week of the season.

Peterson and big man Melvin Ely signed with the club as free agents during the offseason, while forward Brandon Bass and swingman Desmond Mason left through free agency. Jannero Pargo re-signed and the team added Kansas forward Julian Wright with the 13th overall pick on draft night.

BACKCOURT

Paul does it all for the Hornets, as the offense runs through the Wake Forest product. Management has tried to put together a team that will mesh with the talents of the multi-talented guard.

The addition of the 6-7 Peterson should be beneficial for the club. Scott will be able to team the six-foot Paul with Peterson, who averaged 12.0 points and 3.8 rebounds over his seven-year career with the Toronto Raptors. The 30-year- old Peterson posted just 8.9 points and 3.3 rebounds per contest for Toronto in 2006-07. His scoring should pickup by playing with Paul.

Jackson is an excellent guard to have off the bench, while the 6-1 Pargo is capable of playing both spots in the backcourt. Pargo was the only Hornet to appear in all 82 games last season, and averaged career-highs of 9.2 points, 2.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists.

FRONTCOURT

West continues to show that he is the real deal. He is a strong rebounder and has developed some solid low-post moves, which has made him a threat on the offensive end of the court.

The 7-1 Chandler is a ferocious rebounder and scores most of his points off offensive rebounds and his ability to get inside position. The 25-year-old Chandler has quickly become a productive NBA center. Add Stojakovic, who is an excellent outside shooter when healthy, to Chandler and West, and the Hornets have an all-around solid frontcourt.

Signing Ely adds depth, while Rasual Butler filled in for Stojakovic and had a good season in 2006-07. Butler posted 10.1 points and 3.8 boards in 81 contests. Hilton Armstrong had uneventful rookie campaign, but should get more time in his sophomore seasons.

Wright will compete for time at power and small forward. The 6-8 Wright needs more work on his outside game and is currently more suited to play closer to the basket.

OUTLOOK

Paul is the key. The Hornets will go as far as he can take them. Chandler is a monster down low and creates easy baskets in transition with his defensive ability, while a healthy Stojakovic is a threat from the perimeter and would open up the court more for the lightning-quick Paul.

New Orleans needs to stay away from the injury bug this season. If the Hornets can keep their players on the court and out of the trainer's room, they should be one of the squads vying for the seventh and eighth spots in the Western Conference playoffs. Watch out for the Hornets.

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Re: 2007/08 NBA Team Previews

New York Knicks 2007-08 Season Preview

2006-07 FINISH: 33-49

ADDITIONS: Fred Jones (G) - Trade with Portland; Demetris Nichols (F) - Trade with Portland; Zach Randolph (F) - Trade with New York.

SUBTRACTIONS: Steve Francis (G) - Traded to Portland; Channing Frye (F) - Traded to Portland.

RE-SIGNINGS: NONE

2007 DRAFT PICKS: 1. (23) Wilson Chandler (F, DePaul).

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP: PG Stephon Marbury, SG Jamal Crawford, SF Quentin Richardson, PF Zach Randolph, C Eddy Curry

COACH: Isiah Thomas

(Sports Network) - The New York Knicks looked like a solid basketball team at times during last season. However, they finished the campaign by losing 15 of their final 19 games and missed the playoffs for the third straight year.

The Knicks were just 33-49 in 2006-07 under the direction of head coach Isiah Thomas, who received a contract extension during the season. Center Eddy Curry had his best season as a pro, while forward David Lee was a pleasant surprise.

The 24-year-old Curry led the Knicks in scoring (19.5 ppg), grabbed 7.0 rebounds and shot an impressive 57.6 percent from the floor. The 6-11 center played in 81 games and looked like the player New York hoped it had acquired from the Chicago Bulls in 2005.

Lee, 24, he averaged 10.7 points and a team-best 10.4 rebounds in 58 games. The Florida product shot 60 percent from the floor in his second season in the league. The 6-9 Lee teamed with Curry to give the Knicks a solid tandem down low.

Point guard Stephon Marbury registered 16.4 points and a club-high 5.4 assists in 74 contests, while Jamal Crawford netted 17.6 in 59 games and Quentin Richardson collected 13.0 points and 7.2 boards in 49 outings. Mardy Collins and Renaldo Balkman showed progress during their rookie campaigns. However, Balkman was diagnosed with a stress reaction and cartilage injury in his right ankle, and could miss the start of the regular season.

Thomas did his best work during the offseason on draft night. He drafted a player he had targeted, as the Knicks added DePaul forward Wilson Chandler with the 23rd overall pick. While Chandler is a solid pick, his selection was not the addition New York fans are excited about. The acquisition of power forward Zach Randolph from Portland was a big move.

The 26-year-old Randolph, who led the Trail Blazers in scoring (23.6 ppg) and rebounding (10.3 rpg) last season, is a proven commodity. He can score down low and is a strong rebounder. Thomas wanted to make a big move after the season, and that is just what he did. New York also got rid of Steve Francis and his big contract in the deal, while Channing Frye had a disappointing 2006-07 campaign for the Knicks and may benefit from a change of scenery.

Thomas is banking on Randolph being a difference maker. If Randolph can keep his focus on the court and stay out of trouble off it, the Knicks have added a player who can be one of the top power forwards in the game.

BACKCOURT

There is depth in New York's backcourt. Collins, Crawford, Marbury, Nate Robinson and Fred Jones, who was part of the Randolph deal and will come off the bench to spell Crawford, gives Thomas players to rotate. Richardson will also log minutes at shooting guard when needed.

Marbury, who is entering his 12th season in the league, will run the point, and will be backed up by Robinson and Collins. The 30-year-old Marbury needs to limit his turnovers and be more consistent. Robinson is still working on his game, and Collins will look to be more productive in his sophomore season.

New York needs scoring from its off guards. The 6-5 Crawford is good at creating his shot and can put up points quickly. He shot just 40 percent from the field, including 32 percent from beyond the arc. Richardson shot over 37 percent from three-point range and will be used in the backcourt primarily when Thomas goes to a three-guard offense.

FRONTCOURT

Curry and Randolph give the Knicks a lot of girth up front, while Lee is also physical in the paint. Add defensive-stopper Jared Jeffries, who is coming off a disappointing first year with the Knicks, Randolph Morris, Richardson and Balkman to the mix, and Thomas has a deep frontcourt.

But, like the backcourt, the frontcourt lacks consistency. Adding Randolph will definitely help, as long as he has the right attitude and concentrates on playing basketball. Curry plays like an All-Star sometimes. If this duo can play well together, Thomas may have something to build around for the next several years.

The Knicks need Lee to continue to develop and put up solid numbers, while Jeffries will try and make everyone forget about his poor first season with the club. Richardson is athletic and can drain the long jumper. New York will also need minutes from the others, as Thomas hopes the 6-11 Morris will earn minutes behind Curry and Randolph.

OUTLOOK

Curry and Randolph are the keys. Thomas is banking on them become a potent one-two combination in the low post. Marbury's best days have passed him by, and Lee is a nice player to have coming off the bench.

Thomas will need to work some magic to get the Knicks back to the postseason. Don't expect any miracles in the Big Apple this season. Look for 35 wins and talk of Thomas being fired once again.

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Orlando Magic 2007-08 Season Preview

2006-07 FINISH: 40-42

ADDITIONS: Adonal Foyle (C) - Free Agent; Rashard Lewis (F) - Trade with Seattle; Milovan Rakovic (F) - Trade with Dallas.

SUBTRACTIONS: Travis Diener (G) - Signed with Indiana; Grant Hill (F) - Signed with Phoenix; Darko Milicic (C/F) - Signed with Memphis.

RE-SIGNINGS: NONE

2007 DRAFT PICKS: 2. (44) Reyshawn Terry (F, North Carolina) - Traded to Dallas.

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP: PG Jameer Nelson, SG Hedo Turkoglu, SF Rashard Lewis, PF Dwight Howard, C Adonal Foyle

COACH: Stan Van Gundy

(Sports Network) - It was an interesting offseason for the Orlando Magic. They have a new head coach and added an impact player through a sign-and-trade deal.

After becoming the new general of the Magic, Billy Donovan decided he didn't want the job. The team allowed him out of his contract to return to the University of Florida. Former Miami Heat head coach Stan Van Gundy will be calling the shots from the bench.

Van Gundy served as head coach of the Miami Heat for two-plus seasons from 2003-05 and recorded a regular-season mark of 112-73 and a postseason record of 17-11. His .605 regular season and .607 playoff winning percentages are both tops in franchise history. Van Gundy will stress defense and a controlled offense.

The Magic added arguably the top free agent in the offseason class in forward Rashard Lewis, who was acquired from the Seattle SuperSonics in a trade. The 28-year-old Lewis was an unrestricted free agent and received a lucrative, multi-year contract prior to the deal. Lewis was dealt by Seattle in exchange for a conditional second-round draft pick

The 6-10 Lewis averaged a career-high 22.4 points per game and 6.6 rebounds for Seattle last season. He has played in 16 playoff games during his career, and posted 15.6 points and 5.3 boards per game in those contests.

Free agent center Adonal Foyle signed with the club. Foyle, who was waived by Golden State in August, played in 48 games last season with the Warriors, averaging 2.2 points and 2.6 rebounds per game.

Gone is veteran Grant Hill, who signed with the Phoenix Suns. Hill collected 14.4 points, 3.6 boards and 2.1 assists in 65 games in 2006-07 for Orlando. Promising forward Darko Milicic, who averaged 8.0 points and 5.5 rebounds for the Magic last season, signed a contract with Memphis, while Travis Diener inked a deal with Indiana.

Orlando finished 40-42 in 2006-07 and was the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Magic were swept by the Detroit Pistons, 4-0, in the first round of the postseason.

All-Star big man Dwight Howard continues to get better and is on the verge of becoming a superstar. The 21-year-old Howard led the Magic in scoring (17.6 ppg), rebounding (12.3 rpg) and blocks (1.9 bpg) last season. He was the only Orlando player to play in all 82 regular-season games, and is the cornerstone of the franchise.

Point guard Jameer Nelson averaged 13.0 points and a team-best 4.3 assists in 77 contests in 2006-07. Nelson is a pure point guard who, like Howard, continues to become more of a complete player.

Howard, Lewis and Nelson are the nucleus. Hedo Turkoglu and Trevor Ariza join Howard in the frontcourt, while Carlos Arroyo is a solid guard and sharp- shooting J.J. Redick will look to improve on a disappointing rookie campaign. Redick played just 42 games and posted 6.0 points per game.

BACKCOURT

The time has come for the Magic to decide if they want to make a long-term investment in Nelson. The 25-year-old Nelson has proved that he can play in the NBA. He knows how to control the tempo of a game and makes smart decisions. Nelson wants to be paid a lot of money for his ability, which makes this season huge for his career.

Turkoglu is dangerous from the perimeter. Even though he is 6-10, Turkoglu likes to stay outside and do his damage from long distance. The 28-year-old Turkoglu causes mismatches because of his size, and that will be something Van Gundy will definitely try to use as an advantage.

Van Gundy needs production off the bench. Redick is a streaky shooter and will look to be more consistent during his sophomore season, while Carlos Arroyo, Keith Bogans and Keyon Dooling have to contribute when Van Gundy calls their numbers for Orlando to reach its potential.

FRONTCOURT

The addition of Lewis is going to help Howard the most. Like Turkoglu, Lewis does not use his size in the low post. He can drain a jumper from anywhere on the court and seems to shy away from the hoop when getting the ball.

Howard will have an easier time down low because of Lewis' outside shooting ability. Lewis has to be guarded wherever he is on the court, which will pull the defense out and open the low post for the All-Star big man.

Orlando is expected to be without center Tony Battie this season. The 6-11 Battie, who averaged 6.1 points and 5.2 rebounds in 66 games last season, had to have surgery on a torn rotator cuff.

Foyle will get help from Howard in the middle, while the 6-8 Ariza will get minutes at both forward spots. Veteran Pat Garrity played just 33 games last season and will get the opportunity to earn playing time off the bench.

OUTLOOK

Adding Lewis makes the Magic a threat to dethrone the Heat at the top of the Southeast Division. Donovan was the attractive name to become an NBA head coach, but Van Gundy may be better for this particular situation because of his experience.

The Magic are a 45-48 win team. Howard and Lewis will complement each other very well, which is bad news for the East. Nelson will continue to improve, and will get the contract he is looking for. It should be an exciting season for the fans of the Magic.

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