Golden State: If sharpshooting point guard Stephen Curry and center Andrew Bogut, the former No. 1 draft pick out of the University of Utah, can come back strong from ankle injuries, maybe this will finally be the year the long-suffering Warriors are a factor in the West.
Houston: A very young, inexperienced lineup with a weak front line likely won't be a contender, even though "Linsanity" — point guard Jeremy Lin — has come to Texas, one of many wholesale changes to the Rockets' roster this season. The addition of Harden should help, however.
L.A. Clippers: Three starters — point guard Chris Paul (thumb), shooting guard Chauncey Billups (Achilles) and power forward Blake Griffin (knee) — are all recovering from surgeries on their respective body parts, and the health of these three established stars holds the key to the Clippers' success. The addition of aging veterans Grant Hill and Lamar Odom adds even further to the Clippers' deep bench.
Memphis: A strong return by power forward Zach Randolph (knee) and the continued emergence of center Marc Gasol and small forward Rudy Gay make the Grizzlies a dangerous team that's on the rise.
Minnesota: Power forward Kevin Love is one of the best big men in the league, but he's out 6-8 weeks with a broken hand and the Timberwolves' fate may hinge on how well they can hold up for the first couple months of the season until Love and point guard Ricky Rubio (knee) can return to the lineup. Among the T-wolves' new faces are former Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko, who spent last season playing in his native Russia, and former Portland star guard Brandon Roy, who's gonna give it a go again after retiring in 2011 with degenerative knee problems.
New Orleans: Point guard Eric Gordon returns after missing almost all of last season with a knee injury, and rookie center Anthony Davis has "superstar" written all over him. But the Hornets won't be a factor come postseason time.
Phoenix: Marcin Gortat and newly acquired Luis Scola give the Suns a solid one-two tandem of big men, but they'll miss the veteran leadership of Nash and Hill. And the stunning loss of last year's starting power forward, Channing Frye, with an enlarged heart certainly won't help their chances, either.
Portland: LaMarcus Aldridge and former Jazzman Wesley Matthews are proven performers, and rookie point guard Damian Lillard, the former Weber State star, sure looks like the real ready-for-prime-time deal. The Trail Blazers will battle for one of the West's last playoff spots.
Sacramento: Despite talented players like DeMarcus Cousins, Marcus Thornton and Tyreke Evans, the Kings are still among the most disjointed franchises in the league. Former BYU star Jimmer Fredette hopes to get some playing time at shooting guard, but this team truly seems to be a jumbled mess that's in constant disarray.
San Antonio: Any team with point guard Tony Parker, veteran big man Tim Duncan and sixth-man extraordinaire Manu Ginobili will always be a factor. But while the Lakers were busy wheeling and dealing during the offseason, the defending Southwest Division champs, who reached the Western Conference finals last season, just keep getting older and made few moves to improve themselves.
Start printing playoff tickets: Lakers, Thunder, Spurs, Clippers, Jazz, Nuggets, Grizzlies.
On the bubble: Trail Blazers, Mavericks, Timberwolves.
Better luck next year: Warriors, Rockets, Hornets, Suns, Kings.
So, at last, let the games begin.
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