1. Oklahoma City Thunder
They need a lot of help from some unlikely sources.
2. Portland Trail Blazers
A solid rotation that will challenge the Thunder.
3. Denver Nuggets
Their depth is unmatched, but will it all mesh?
4. Minnesota Timberwolves
With a reboot in order they have a great future ahead.
5. Utah Jazz
A new coaching staff will look to build a contender in the next 2 years.
Head Coach: Scott Brooks
Key Position: Shooting Guard – Will it be Andre Roberson, Jeremy Lamb or Anthony Morrow? One of those three will be looked on to be the third scoring option. Yes, Serge Ibaka can be that option, but his offense is generated from the defensive end. Since trading James Harden the Thunder have struggled mightily to find that third option whether in the lineup or off the bench.
Key Rookies: F Josh Huestis, F Mitch McGary
Key Acquisitions: G Anthony Morrow (New Orleans Pelicans)
Starting Lineup: G Russell Westbrook, G Jeremy Lamb, F Kevin Durant, F Serge Ibaka, C Kendrick Perkins
Head Coach: Terry Stotts
Key Position: Point Guard – He is quickly becoming an elite point guard, but Damian Lillard needs to show it in the playoffs. San Antonio easily took care of Lillard last year and he knows it. He will be keeping the Trail Blazers in contention and could be a possible MVP candidate if they overtake the Thunder in the division.
Key Rookies: None
Key Acquisitions: G Steve Blake (Golden State Warriors), C Chris Kaman (Los Angeles Lakers)
Starting Lineup: G Damian Lillard, G Wesley Matthews, F Nicolas Batum, F LaMarcus Aldridge, C Robin Lopez
Head Coach: Brian Shaw
Key Position: Shooting Guard – Bringing back Afflalo solves two problems. One is on the defensive side and the other is the playmaking. Afflalo can do both where Randy Foye and Nate Robinson only do one or the other. Ty Lawson is continuing to show that he belongs in the conversation of elite point guards, but having a guy like Afflalo will help him continue to grow.
Key Rookies: G Gary Harris, C Jusuf Nurkic
Key Acquisitions: G Arron Afflalo (Orlando Magic)
Starting Lineup: G Ty Lawson, G Arron Afflalo, F Danilo Gallinari, F Kenneth Faried, C Timofey Mozgov
Head Coach: Flip Saunders (President of Basketball Operations)
Key Position: Point Guard – Ricky Rubio seems to welcome the leadership role on this team and why not. He is now two years removed from his ACL injury and it will be incredibly exciting to watch him and Andrew Wiggins play on the same team. Defense will be a struggle with so many new young players on the roster, but the Wolves will be able to outscore most opponents.
Key Rookies: F Andrew Wiggins, G Zach LaVine
Key Acquisitions: G Mo Williams (Portland Trail Blazers), F Anthony Bennett (Cleveland Cavaliers), F Thaddeus Young (Philadelphia 76ers), F Andrew Wiggins (Cleveland Cavaliers)
Starting Lineup: G Ricky Rubio, G Kevin Martin, F Andrew Wiggins, F Thaddeus Young, C Nikola Pekovic
Head Coach: Quin Snyder (Atlanta Hawks Assistant- 2014)
Key Position: Power Forward – This will be a crucial year for Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter. When these two were paired together they was some thought that they form a dynamic duo in the paint. Inconsistency and injuries have saddled that talk for some time and now with a new coaching staff they will get one more chance. Depending on their performances one or both could be looking for new homes.
Key Rookies: G Dante Exum, F Rodney Hood
Key Acquisitions: F Trevor Booker (Washington Wizards), F Gordon Hayward (re-signed)
Starting Lineup: G Trey Burke, G Alec Burks, F Gordon Hayward, F Derrick Favors, C Enes Kanter