Here are All Net's top 10 teams for the upcoming 2009-2010 NBA season with their '08-'09 regular-season records in brackets.
10). New Orleans Hornets (49-33). The Hornets absolutely needed to acquire (but couldn't afford) more support for NBA All-Stars Chris Paul and David West. They traded Tyson Chandler for Emeka Okafor to become a tad bit more offensive. But with the aging Peja Stojakovic, 34, putting in only 13 points a contest, the Hornets simply lack the consistent firepower on a nightly basis to bang with the Top Dogs.
9). Denver Nuggets (54-28). Can they duplicate last year's amazing run? That might be a daunting task. After acquiring a true floor leader in Chauncey Billups, the Nuggets tied their franchise record of 54 regular season victories in '09. Billups and Carmelo Anthony will continue to shine, so it's up to their big men Kenyon Martin, Nene, and Chris Andersen to come through again if the team hopes to duplicate their Western Conference Finals appearance or advance beyond it.
8). Atlanta Hawks (47-35). Jamal Crawford's a nice touch to the already talented Hawks roster. With his acquisition, the team has a legit scorer to complement fellow backcourt stars Joe Johnson (above photo) and Mike Bibby. The problem, though, with the Hawks still lies in the frontcourt. With no true proven center on their current roster, the athletic Hawks just can't physically counter the brute force of Orlando's Dwight Howard or the Cavs' Shaquille O'Neal in the paint.
7). Portland Trailblazers (54-28). Crafty veteran point guard Andre Miller adds valued experience to the young, promising Blazers this upcoming season. Brandon Roy has established himself as a perennial NBA superstar. The bench has established itself as one of the deepest, featuring Rudy Fernandez of Italy. Now the time's ripe for oft-injured center Greg Oden to show his full worth as the No. 1 selection in the 2007 NBA Draft. If he does, the Blazers could pose big problems for the Mavs and Spurs.
6). Dallas Mavericks (50-32). No one's talking much about the Mavericks these days. That could be a good thing for them. When expectations were high, they always disappointed their fans. This season has to be the final ride for point guard Jason Kidd, 36, (above photo driving) and maybe even Dirk Nowitzki, 31. The squad inserted much needed quickness and depth in the lineup with Shawn Marion and Drew Gooden. It's just a matter if all these old men can stay healthy or not for 82 games and a playoff stretch.
5). Boston Celtics (62-20). Kevin Garnett's knee is still a question mark. If K.G. misses any chunk of time or doesn't return to his old former league MVP self, the Celtics will have trouble handling the Top 4 teams. Rasheed Wallace should be a help rather than a hindrance. But perhaps what's most bothersome is the wearing down of Paul Pierce in the conference finals in May. At 31-years-old, Pierce seemingly lost that oomph in his game he so elegantly displayed in '08 when they won the title.
4). San Antonio Spurs (54-28). Though The Big Three (Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili) were scheduled to return, the Spurs recognized the necessity to get better to remain an elite team in the league. Richard Jefferson, Antonio McDyess, Theo Ratliff along with rookie DeJuan Blair shore up a great supporting cast for the Spurs. But it's how the team's youngest star Parker will productively integrate these new guys which will ultimately decide how far the Spurs will go this season.
3). Orlando Magic (59-23). The runner-ups in the 2009 NBA Finals lost a key component in their run when Hedo Turkoglu bolted to the Toronto Raptors. Replacement Vince Carter's legs may be a bit wary, but his game translates well into the Magic's system. He can drain the 3-ball as well as penetrate through the lane. Both Dwight Howard (above photo) and Rashard Lewis will benefit immensely when Carter's on the floor. If point guard Jameer Nelson returns to his All-Star play, the Magic could ruin things again for the Celts and Cavs.
1). Los Angeles Lakers (65-17). The Lakers have the best coach, player and team in the league. Yes, starter Trevor Ariza departed, but Ron Artest can quickly fill that role. At this juncture in his career, Artest wants to win and that's what the Lakers do. So despite some anxiety, Ron Ron won't be a distraction at all. Back-to-back titles would virtually be a wrap if the Lakers could get steadier production from big fellas like Andrew Bynum and Josh Powell. The team's Jekyll and Hyde play is a concern. There are just too many potentially good squads in the NBA for that inconsistency in '09-10.