This team is weak at shooting guard until Lou Williams fully returns from a torn ACL. This squad has less depth than a puddle, but Al Horford is one of the best big guys in the league. I just don't see that they lost that much.
13. MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES
The Wolves would've been a playoff team if they didn't lose 341 man games to injury. That number was a tad inflated considering it also counted Brandon Roy and he came with a gigantic "As is" sign on him.
Kevin Love is still the key. Before last season, which was a lost cause with a twice-broken hand, Love was a top-10 player in the league. If he's healthy, that should continue.
Nikola Pekovic is a beast. Ricky Rubio might win the Most Improved Player award. They brought in Kevin Martin to play shooting guard and Rick Adelman is still on the bench. He wanted to give it one good shot with everyone in place.
They get to the postseason for the first time in 10 years.
12. LOS ANGELES LAKERS
That's right, the Lakers not only make the playoffs, but they don't squeak in either.
This is about two things: complete unconditional faith in Kobe Bryant and how good Bryant and Pau Gasol can be.
It's laughable to have that kind of trust in a 35-year-old who has played over 54,000 minutes and is returning from a torn Achilles tendon. If you had to pick one guy in the NBA right now to do it, it has to be Bryant.
He had a monstrous season last season before he went down. Bryant matched a career-best with 6.0 apg. He did it all because he had to. Now, with a huge chip on his shoulder based on no one's belief he can come back from the injury at his age, and no one's belief the Lakers are any good, expect a huge season from the Mamba.
Plus, anything the Lakers did to make Bryant and Gasol, and just those two guys, the focal point of the offense, was smart. There are two types of people in this world - Mike D'Antoni guys, or people like me. But with a full camp, an extremely motivated Bryant, who is also a free agent at the end of the season, and those two back as stars, together, I am buying the Lakers.
11. NEW YORK KNICKS
Carmelo Anthony's impending free agency is already looming as a distraction in the preseason even though anyone with a brain knew he would file for free agency. He's most likely staying in New York, but the Knicks are always good for a story.
How will Amare Stoudemire fit in when/if healthy?
How will Andrea Bargnani, who head coach Mike Woodson seems to really like, fit in?
How will Metta World Peace fit in?
Will Iman Shumpert get traded?
Will J.R. Smith grow up?
That's a lot of questions to be answered, but don't lose sight of the fact that the Knicks are a really good team. When they play defense, they are elite.
And Anthony is elite as well. He's been branded a scorer and not a true superstar which is poppycock. Anthony should've been more a part of the MVP conversation last season when he played power forward to cause matchup havoc.
Woodson is a solid coach and the man for this team. The Knicks are just fine.
10. HOUSTON ROCKETS
Dwight Howard is not enough to vault the Houston Rockets into championship contenders. That said, he's enough to make them a really dangerous regular- season team.
The reason they aren't title caliber yet is that there is no natural power forward to go alongside Howard. If Omer Asik slides over to play alongside Superman in a huge front line, that might work. Asik was pretty unhappy with the Howard signing, but it's time to suck it up, Omer. Howard was a no-brainer signing.