The Charlotte Observer NBA writer Rick Bonnell ranks the teams in each conference.
1 Miami Heat: There's nothing easy about three superstars learning to blend what each one does into the others' games.
2 Chicago Bulls: They locked up Derrick Rose for the long haul, avoiding any future free-agent drama.
3 Boston Celtics: Their chances are all about age and health and how best to man the center position.
4 New York Knicks: New center Tyson Chandler brings a foreign concept to a Mike D'Antoni team: defense.
5 Orlando Magic: The will-Dwight Howard-go? distraction will be endless until he's traded or re-signed.
6 Milwaukee Bucks: If center Andrew Bogut stays healthy, Stephen Jackson could push them into the playoffs.
7 Atlanta Hawks: Still plenty of nice pieces, but Jamal Crawford leaving drops them from top four in East.
8 Indiana Pacers: David West takes some scoring pressure off Danny Granger, and Psycho-T can be a super-sub.
9 New Jersey Nets: Brook Lopez's fractured foot leaves Deron Williams without a primary target for his passes.
10 Philadelphia 76ers: The best of a host of non-descript teams in the bottom of the Eastern Conference.
11 Charlotte Bobcats: A lack of size, scoring and rebounding hold back some decent young pieces.
12 Cleveland Cavaliers: Kyrie Irving was justified leaving Duke as a frosh, but this could be a rough debut season.
13 Detroit Pistons: Richard Hamilton was miserable on a lottery team, but he'll still be missed finishing plays.
14 Washington Wizards: A bunch of young parts. Can point guard John Wall knit these kids into a unit?
15 Toronto Raptors: They just haven't been the same since Vince Carter decided to ditch Canada's metropolis.
1 Dallas Mavericks: Dirk Nowitzki is the NBA's toughest cover and Lamar Odom's versatility fills many holes.
2 Oklahoma City Thunder: Kevin Durant is spectacular; Russell Westbrook still is figuring out his role.
3 Los Angeles Lakers: Odom leaves for a trade exception. Kobe Bryant blasts front office in ... 5,4,3,2 ... 1
4 Los Angeles Clippers: Disregard the uniforms. They're still Chris Paul throwing lob passes to Blake Griffin.
5 Memphis Grizzlies: A great front court that grew up all at once in the playoffs. Avoid these guys in first round.
6 San Antonio Spurs: It's dangerous to doubt Tim Duncan, but how much longer can they hold this window open?
7 New Orleans Hornets: Two solid centers in Emeka Okafor and Chris Kaman, plus shooting guard Eric Gordon.
8 Portland Trail Blazers: They're now Bobcats West, with Gerald Wallace and Raymond Felton.
9 Denver Nuggets: Never underestimate coach George Karl's ability to turn any 15 NBA players into a playoff team.
10 Phoenix Suns: Maybe Steve Nash's last season as a Sun. He raises every teammate's game.
11 Houston Rockets: They'll win half their games, but that won't be enough to reach playoffs in the West.
12 Golden State Warriors: More ankle problems for Stephen Curry was a worrisome sign in the preseason.
13 Utah Jazz: Finally they must face a dramatic makeover, post-Jerry Sloan as coach.
14 Minnesota Timberwolves: If all you needed to win was a wealth of point guards, T'Wolves would be golden.
15 Sacramento Kings: They don't even know where they'll be, with an arena deal still in question.