1. Miami Heat: Three of the top 20 players in the league; a prohibitive favorite in East.
2. Boston Celtics: This now is Rajon Rondo's team, for better or worse.
3. Indiana Pacers: Roy Hibbert has made himself into a top NBA center.
4. New York Knicks: Raymond Felton back with the team he never wanted to leave.
5. Brooklyn Nets: Spent a fortune to retain their starting unit.
6. Philadelphia 76ers: Their future now revolves around the health of Andrew Bynum.
7. Chicago Bulls: They'll be careful not to rush Derrick Rose back from knee surgery.
8. Milwaukee Bucks: Monta Ellis, Brandon Jennings form a Smurf backcourt.
9. Cleveland Cavaliers: Kyrie Irving already is one of league's best players.
10. Toronto Raptors: Just a hunch this group will contend for a playoff spot.
11. Atlanta Hawks: Starting over, minus Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams.
12. Detroit Pistons: Greg Monroe is a nice piece for Joe Dumars' rebuild.
13. Washington Wizards: This franchise got rid of the knuckleheads in its locker room.
14. Charlotte Bobcats: Better defensively but still can't score reliably.
15. Orlando Magic: Ready to move on from last season's Dwightmare.
1. Los Angeles Lakers: A wealth of talent, so long as all the old guys stay healthy.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder: Even with the loss of James Harden, a formidable roster.
3. San Antonio Spurs: An old Tim Duncan is still better than a young almost-anyone-else.
4. Los Angeles Clippers: Wouldn't be a complete shock if they passed the Lakers in the regular season.
5. Denver Nuggets: Andre Iguodala will make them appreciably better defensively.
6. Memphis Grizzlies: An abundance of quality big men on this roster.
7. Utah Jazz: Could benefit from injuries in Dallas and Minnesota.
8. Dallas Mavericks: They need Dirk Nowitzki back from injury in the worst way.
9. Portland Trail Blazers: LaMarcus Aldridge doesn't get enough attention as a star player.
10. Golden State Warriors: They need Stephen Curry's ankle to get strong again.
11. Minnesota Timberwolves: Injuries to Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio throw them off schedule.
12. Phoenix Suns: They're going to miss Steve Nash greatly in the desert.
13. Houston Rockets: About to find out if James Harden is a difference-maker.
14, New Orleans Hornets: Anthony Davis will have instant impact as a rookie.
15. Sacramento Kings: Might DeMarcus Cousins lead the NBA in rebounds this season?
EAST: The Heat beats the Pacers in six games.
WEST: The Thunder beats the Lakers in six games.
The Heat beats the Thunder in seven games.
MVP: LeBron James, Miami
Comment: It's either James, the NBA's most versatile player, or OKC's Kevin Durant.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Anthony Davis, New Orleans
Comment: The other rookie to monitor closely is Portland's Damian Lillard.
SIXTH MAN OF THE YEAR: Antawn Jamison, L.A. Lakers
Comment: He'll put up big numbers with the Lakers' second unit.
FIRST TEAM: G Chris Paul, G Deron Williams, C Dwight Howard, F LeBron James, F Kevin Durant.
SECOND TEAM: G Rajon Rondo, G Russell Westbrook, C Andrew Bynum, F LaMarcus Aldridge, F Blake Griffin.
DID YOU KNOW ...
• With all the changes in Orlando and Atlanta, it's conceivable the Heat will win the Southeast Division by a dozen or more victories.
• The NBA is initiating a series of fines for players found guilty of flopping to get calls. Vlade Divac is lucky to be long retired.
• Players' pregame rituals - the LeBron talcum cloud, for instance - can't last longer than 90 seconds or teams will be charged with delay of game.
• The Thunder made the biggest move of the preseason, trading James Harden to Houston, rather than award him a max contract or lose him in eventual free-agency.
• The Bobcats need to win one of their first four games to avoid setting the longest losing streak in NBA history. They're at 24 and the Cleveland Cavaliers hold the record at 27.