The Inquirer's 2011-12 NBA Team-By-Team Preview
Listed in order of 2010-11 division finish
Last season: 56-26. Playoffs: Lost in the conference semifinals. Coach: Doc Rivers
Forward Paul Pierce is questionable for opening day against the Knicks with a heel injury, but his star teammates — center Jermaine O'Neal, guards Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen, and forward Kevin Garnett — appear to be ready to challenge Miami and Dallas for the 2012 title.
New York Knicks
Last season: 42-40. Playoffs: Lost in the first round. Coach: Mike D'Antoni
There is optimism at MSG with the addition of Tyson Chandler, a solid defensive presence at center, and veteran backup guards Mike Bibby and Baron Davis. Add them to power forward Amar'e Stoudemire and the electric Carmelo Anthony, and the Knicks suddenly become contenders.
Last season: 41-41. Playoffs: Lost in the first round. Coach: Doug Collins
Can youth be served? That's the question for the Sixers. It will be up to Collins to help young guards Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner mesh with veteran forwards Andre Iguodala and Elton Brand. If they can, and if center Spencer Hawes can dominate a bit up front, and provide some defense and rebounds, this team could surprise.
New Jersey Nets
Last season: 24-58. Playoffs: Missed the playoffs. Coach: Avery Johnson
The Nets traded for center Mehmet Okur after Brook Lopez was lost until February with a foot injury, but general manager Billy King has plenty of holes yet to fill. All-star point guard Deron Williams is a talent, but he needs more help. Will forward Kris Humphries fill the bill?
Last season: 22-60. Playoffs: Missed the playoffs. Coach: Dwane Casey
On the bright side, the worst defensive team in the NBA last season hired a defensive coach. Like the 76ers, the Raptors are young. Shooting guard DeMar DeRozan and forward Ed Davis, both 22, are the future, with DeRozan to provide points and Davis the presence inside.
Last season: 62-20. Playoffs: Lost in the conference finals. Coach: Tom Thibodeau
The Bulls blew it last season by losing to Miami in the conference finals, and that has made reigning MVP Derrick Rose eager to cash in this season. Shooting guard Rip Hamilton, from Coatesville High, should assume some of the scoring chores, and forward Carlos Boozer and center Joakim Noah need to control the boards.
Last season: 37-45. Playoffs: Lost in the first round. Coach: Frank Vogel
Another young team with loads of potential, the Pacers added guard George Hill and veteran forward David West to a team on the rise. West should help small forward Danny Granger score some points, and center Roy Hibbert has developed nicely as a force inside. Depth is likely to be an issue.
Last season: 35-47. Playoffs: Missed the playoffs. Coach: Scott Skiles
One of the top defensive teams needs to score more points. And the Bucks might do that now that center Andrew Bogut, point guard Brandon Jennings, and small forward Carlos Delfino are back from injuries. The addition of shooting guard Stephen Jackson should also help in that area.
Last season: 30-52. Playoffs: Missed the playoffs. Coach: Lawrence Frank
Last season was a nightmare, so new coach Frank wants to move on quickly. Guard Rodney Stuckey, the team's leading scorer, is back, and shooting guard Ben Gordon replaces Rip Hamilton. Promising young center Greg Monroe and veteran forward Tayshaun Prince will patrol inside.
Last season: 19-63. Playoffs: Missed the playoffs. Coach: Byron Scott
Scott hopes that point guard Kyrie Irving, the No. 1 pick in the draft, can do for the Cavs what LeBron James did before him: make Cleveland a solid playoff team. He will get help from veteran guard Anthony Parker, forwards Antawn Jamison and Omri Casspi, and center Anderson Varejao.
Last season: 58-24. Playoffs: Lost in the Finals. Coach: Erik Spoelstra
The Big Three are back for Act Two after folding in the Finals last season against the Mavericks. Superstars LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh resume their quest with point guard Mario Chalmers and defensive center Joel Anthony. Shane Battier is a nice addition at forward.
Last season: 52-30. Playoffs: Lost in the first round. Coach: Stan Van Gundy
Is star center Dwight Howard still on the roster? If so — he could be traded any — the Magic will be an interesting team. If he is not, point guard Jameer Nelson will team with shooting guard Jason Richardson to form a decent backcourt. Forward Glen Davis was added up front.
Last season: 44-38. Playoffs: Lost in the conference semifinals. Coach: Larry Drew
Point guard Jeff Teague in the only new starter for the Hawks. He can expect all-star guard Joe Johnson to carry on as the leading scorer, and power forward Josh Smith, small forward Marvin Williams, and center Al Horford to take care of things in the frontcourt.
Last season: 34-48. Playoffs: Missed the playoffs. Coach: Paul Silas
Bobcats owner Michael Jordan is pushing a youth movement, and guard Kemba Walker and forward Bismack Biyombo are expected to do most of the moving. Guards Gerald Henderson and D.J. Augustin will need to help out, while center Tyrus Thomas and forward Corey Maggette supply the points.
Last season: 23-59. Playoffs: Missed the playoffs. Coach: Flip Saunders
Point guard John Wall, power forward Andray Blatche, and center JaVale McGee are the young stars expected to lift the Wizards out of last place. The 2010 top pick, Wall showed great promise as a rookie but needs to cut down on turnovers and take better shots.
Listed in order of 2010-11 division finish
Last season: 55-27. Playoffs: Lost in the conference finals. Coach: Scott Brooks
Small forward Kevin Durant, a two-time scoring champion, and point guard Russell Westbrook, another all-star, should team with healthy center Kendrick Perkins and block-machine forward Serge Ibaka to challenge the Mavericks and Lakers for the conference crown.
Last season: 50-32. Playoffs: Lost in the first round. Coach: George Karl
The Nuggets may not have a superstar, but shooting guard Arron Afflalo and Brazilian center Nene are solid players to build around. The addition of guard Andre Miller and the return of small forward Danilo Gallinari should earn the team a ninth straight playoff appearance.
Portland Trail Blazers
Last season: 48-34. Playoffs: Lost in the first round. Coach: Nate McMillan
The Blazers lost Brandon Roy to bad knees and retirement and Greg Oden to yet another knee injury, so they carry on with power forward LaMarcus Aldridge and guards Raymond Felton and Nolan Smith, a rookie out of Duke. Marcus Camby is a veteran but fragile center.
Last season: 39-43. Playoffs: Missed the playoffs. Coach: Tyrone Corbin
The young Jazz have four players under 21, and all four were lottery picks. Guard Alec Burks, small forward Gordon Hayward, power forward Derrick Favors, and center Enes Kanter are the future. But what about this season? Forward Paul Millsap and guard Devin Harris need to step up.
Last season: 17-65. Playoffs: Missed the playoffs. Coach: Rick Adelman
The Wolves haven't made the playoffs since 2004, but this group could turn that around. Power forward Kevin Love was the league's top rebounder, and Ricky Rubio is developing at the point. But forwards Michael Beasley and Derrick Williams need to help out Love more underneath.
Los Angeles Lakers
Last season: 57-25. Playoffs: Lost in the conference semifinals. Coach: Mike Brown
Can superstar shooting guard Kobe Bryant carry this team on his back again? With forward Lamar Odom traded to the Mavericks, Bryant will be teamed with veteran point guard Derek Fisher, who may be losing steam after 16 seasons. Power forward Pau Gasol will need to make up for Odom's absence since center Andrew Bynum's health is questionable.
Last season: 40-42. Playoffs: Missed the playoffs. Coach: Alvin Gentry
The Suns are oldies but goodies. Steve Nash is 37, and Grant Hill is 39. But both can still play. First-round draft pick Markieff Morris, a 6-foot-10 power forward from Philadelphia via Kansas, will add some youth, and this could be the season that center Marcin Gortat blossoms into a star.
Golden State Warriors
Last season: 36-46. Playoffs: Missed the playoffs. Coach: Mark Jackson
Shooting guard Monta Ellis and 7-foot center Andris Biedrins are the known quantities on this team. Ellis must score, and Biedrins must play better defense. What's unknown is whether first-round draft pick Klay Thompson, a guard, can live up to Jackson's high expectations.
Los Angeles Clippers
Last season: 32-50. Playoffs: Missed the playoffs. Coach: Vinny Del Negro
It's playoffs — for the first time since 2006 — or bust for point guard Chris Paul and power forward Blake Griffin. In addition to getting superstar Paul from the Hornets, the Clippers also added forward Caron Butler and guard Chauncey Billups, so you can see why Bryant and the Lakers are playing second fiddle.
Last season: 24-58. Playoffs: Missed the playoffs. Coach: Paul Westphal
Distracted by a possible move to Anaheim last season, the Kings look to point guard Tyreke Evans, the 2009-10 NBA rookie of the year from Chester, to invigorate center DeMarcus Cousins, shooting guard Marcus Thornton, and rookie guard Jimmer Fredette. There is nowhere to go but up.
San Antonio Spurs
Last season: 61-21. Playoffs: Lost in the first round. Coach: Gregg Popovich
Tim Duncan, a four-time NBA champ, may be playing his last season, so point guard Tony Parker, shooting guard Manu Ginobili, and small forward Richard Jefferson, all back from last season's playoff collapse, need to send him out as a winner. It would be a good time for young center Tiago Splitter to emerge.
Last season: 57-25. Playoffs: Won the title. Coach: Rick Carlisle
Finals MVP Dirk Nowitzki is back with some new teammates to motivate. Power forward Lamar Odom was acquired from the Lakers, and Vince Carter will be the new shooting guard. A reserve last season, Brendan Haywood will take over at center. Jason Kidd returns at the point. In a must-see game, Dallas opens the season at home against Miami on Sunday in a rematch of the NBA Finals.
New Orleans Hornets
Last season: 46-36. Playoffs: Lost in the first round. Coach: Monty Williams
Chris Paul and David West have moved on, so the Hornets will feature shooting guard Eric Gordon, a budding star who arrived from the Clippers in the Paul trade. Jarrett Jack takes over for Paul at the point. A key factor is likely to be whether center Chris Kaman can stay healthy.
Last season: 46-36. Playoffs: Lost in the conference semifinals. Coach: Lionel Hollins
After an impressive run to the conference semifinals last season, the Grizzlies have high hopes for center Marc Gasol and small forward Rudy Gay. Add leading scorer Zach Randolph, an emerging star at power forward, to the mix, and that frontcourt is dynamite. Point guard Mike Conley adds scoring and solid defense. This team could go the distance.
Last season: 43-39. Playoffs: Missed the playoffs. Coach: Kevin McHale
The big trade to land Pau Gasol from the Lakers was rejected by commissioner David Stern, so the Rockets have pretty much the same team they had last year when they struggled. McHale needs point guard Kyle Lowry from Villanova and small forward Chase Budinger to keep improving and shooting guard Kevin Martin and power forward Luis Scola to provide the points.