'07-'08 NBA Features a Shift In Power

'07-'08 NBA Features a Shift In Power

'07-'08 NBA Features a Shift In Power
October 25th, 2007

(Sports Network) - Players have changed uniforms and teams have new looks for the 2007-08 NBA campaign. Some clubs have re-joined the class of the elite, while other franchises are starting the rebuilding process or need to think about tearing it all apart.

Take a glance at what the Eastern and Western Conferences look like heading into the season in our preseason power poll:

EAST

1. BOSTON CELTICS - The additions of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen have put Boston back at the top of the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference. Allen and Garnett team with five-time All-Star Paul Pierce to give the Celtics the most dangerous threesome in the conference. Boston's dismal 24-58 record of 2006-07 is a distant memory because of the new roster executive director of basketball operations Danny Ainge has put together.

2. CHICAGO BULLS - Chicago is ready to take the next step. In 2006-07, the Bulls won 49 games during the regular season, and fell in six to Detroit in the East semis. Luol Deng and Ben Gordon may be involved in Kobe Bryant trade rumors, but as long as the pair is in Chicago they will be on a mission to prove that they are worth big-dollar contracts. Kirk Hinrich, Andres Nocioni, Tyrus Thomas and Ben Wallace help make the Bulls a favorite to get back to the conference finals for the first time since 1998.

3. DETROIT PISTONS - This could be the last ride together for Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince and Rasheed Wallace. The Pistons have lost back-to-back years in the Eastern Conference finals, and Flip Saunders has to get them back to the championship round or it could mean his job. Right now, they are No. 3 in the East.

4. CLEVELAND CAVALIERS - Even though they are the defending Eastern Conference champions, the Cavaliers needed to improve during the offseason and that did not happen. LeBron James makes Cleveland a serious threat, but a one-man show won't be good enough this season.

5. ORLANDO MAGIC - Adding Rashard Lewis to the nucleus of Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson makes Orlando the favorite to win the Southeast Division. Howard has become one of the most dominant big men in the league, while the 6-10 Lewis is dangerous from the perimeter and should fit in perfectly with his new teammates.

6. TORONTO RAPTORS - The defending Atlantic Division champions are a fun team to watch. All-Star Chris Bosh and lightning-quick point guard T.J. Ford headline a team that is trying to become the Eastern Conference's version of the Phoenix Suns.

7. NEW JERSEY NETS - Vince Carter, Richard Jefferson and Jason Kidd still have plenty left in the tank. Unfortunately for the Nets, this trio doesn't make them an elite team anymore. New Jersey is still good enough to make the playoffs in the East.

8. MIAMI HEAT - Like Detroit, the Heat could be on their last ride with Dwyane Wade and an aging Shaquille O'Neal. The Heat made a big move when they acquired Ricky Davis, but it still has them looking like a team that will have to fight for the last playoff berth in the conference.

9. WASHINGTON WIZARDS - As great as Gilbert Arenas is, the Wizards are in danger of possibly having their three-year playoff run halted in the new campaign. If Arenas, Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison stay healthy, maybe Washington will finish above .500 and qualify for the postseason.

10. NEW YORK KNICKS - Zach Randolph, who was acquired from Portland during the offseason, gives the Knicks a force inside and will make them a better team. Head coach Isiah Thomas will look to Eddy Curry and Randolph to lead New York. But the fact remains that the Knicks are not a playoff team.

11. CHARLOTTE BOBCATS - Injuries have already hurt Charlotte, as forwards Sean May and Adam Morrison are expected to miss the entire 2007-08 season. If healthy, high-flying Jason Richardson, who was acquired on draft night in a trade with Golden State, will help the Bobcats stay in the playoff picture for most of the campaign. Expect Raymond Felton to improve to a top-notch point guard, while Emeka Okafor and Gerald Wallace are solid players.

12. MILWAUKEE BUCKS - The Bucks have some talent, but need to put it together. Guard Maurice Williams stayed with the club because he thought they would be better than their 28-54 record of a season ago. Michael Redd and Andrew Bogut need to have big seasons for Milwaukee to have a chance.

13. ATLANTA HAWKS - There is still plenty of work for the front office to do before the youthful Hawks can even think about the postseason. Al Horford and Acie Law should be solid rookies, while Joe Johnson and Josh Smith headline an athletic roster with a lot of potential.

14. INDIANA PACERS - Trade Jermaine O'Neal and start over. New head coach Jim O'Brien accepted a tough challenge when he decided to take the job in Indiana. This is a franchise that needs to go in a new direction.

15. PHILADELPHIA 76ERS - Team president Billy King and head coach Maurice Cheeks should be prepared to go down with the ship. King had a terrible offseason and did nothing to make the future look brighter for this franchise. It's going to be a long season for the fans of this franchise.

WEST

1. PHOENIX SUNS - Shawn Marion, Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire make the Suns the favorite in the Western Conference. Leandro Barbosa and Boris Diaw are versatile players who would be stars on most teams in the league, while veteran Grant Hill will be a major help if he can stay healthy.

2. SAN ANTONIO SPURS - History is not on the defending world champion Spurs' side this season. Following a championship, the Spurs have never made it past the Western Conference semifinals in the playoffs. In 2000 they fell in the opening round to Phoenix, and lost in the semis to the Lakers in 2004 and Dallas in 2006. Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and company will be on a mission this season.

3. DALLAS MAVERICKS - Reigning MVP Dirk Nowitzki will be on a mission to prove that last year's first-round loss to Golden State was a fluke. Nowitzki, Josh Howard and the rest of the Mavericks will once again battle with San Antonio for bragging rights in the Southwest Division.

4. UTAH JAZZ - Utah will try and prove that last year's berth in the Western Conference finals was not a fluke. Deron Williams is on the cusp of becoming one of the best point guards in the NBA, while Carlos Boozer and Mehmet Okur are All-Star-caliber big men. The Jazz are the real deal.

5. HOUSTON ROCKETS - New head coach Rick Adelman was hired to guide the Rockets to playoff success. Is this the year All-Stars Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady finally put it all together?

6. DENVER NUGGETS - A full season with Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson. Can head coach George Karl make it work? If Anthony and Iverson decide to put the team first, this could be a team that does some damage.

7. NEW ORLEANS HORNETS - Multi-talented Chris Paul can do it all, while Tyson Chandler was a monster on the boards last season and a healthy Peja Stojakovic makes the Hornets dangerous from the perimeter. New Orleans will be a playoff squad as long as it stays away from the injury bug.

8. GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS - Head coach Don Nelson will once again try to win with an athletic, small lineup. The Warriors, who lost to Utah in the West semis last year, are a fun team to watch, but teams will be ready for them this season. Baron Davis, Monta Ellis and company will be ready for the challenge.

9. LOS ANGELES LAKERS - The Kobe Bryant soap opera will definitely have an effect on the Lakers this season. With Kobe, the Lakers are a borderline playoff team. Without their superstar guard, the Lakers are a lottery team. For now, Bryant is a Laker.

10. MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES - Memphis will be better than its 22 wins in 2006-07. This is a young team built around two solid players in Pau Gasol and Mike Miller. New head coach Marc Iavaroni will preach tough defense and an up-tempo offense.

11. PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS - Portland is already dealing with adversity. Rookie center Greg Oden, who was selected with the first overall pick in the draft, will miss the entire 2007-08 season after undergoing right knee surgery. Oden is the franchise player. Combine him with reigning Rookie of the Year Brandon Roy, and Portland could have one of the most exciting, young tandems in the league. The vision of that will have to wait. While Oden gets ready for 2008-09, the Trail Blazers will be busy dreaming of a bright future.

12. SACRAMENTO KINGS - The Kings are very close to tearing it all apart. Kevin Martin is the one untouchable on the roster. Ron Artest, Mike Bibby and Brad Miller could be had in a deal if the price is right. New general Reggie Theus has a tough job ahead of him. Sacramento doesn't scare anyone in the West, as it is no longer a perennial playoff team.

13. LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS - It could be a long season for the Clippers. They have already suffered a devastating injury to their most productive player, as forward Elton Brand underwent surgery during the summer to repair a rupture to his left Achilles tendon. The 6-8 Brand is expected to miss at least the first several months of the season. Without Brand, this is a below-average team.

14. SEATTLE SUPERSONICS - Seattle will miss the playoffs for a third straight year. However, this franchise is headed in the right direction with its roster. The SuperSonics are starting to rebuild, and doing it with rookies Kevin Durant and Jeff Green is a good way to get the process moving.

15. MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES - Trading Kevin Garnett to Boston was the right thing to do. Vice president of basketball operations Kevin McHale is very high on big man Al Jefferson, who was the key for Minnesota in the Garnett deal. The Timberwolves will miss the postseason for a fourth straight year, but there is hope for the future.

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