You have seen the Pacific, Northwest & Southwest Divisions as previewed by someone. Time to put in my two cents on the picture.
Yes, I know the season has started. Been a little busy. And as per someone's wishes, the Miami admiration / bashing via the one-off posts will be kept at a bare minimum.
Here we go.
1st Tier: The Champs
Los Angeles Lakers
What I Like: Adding Steve Blake, Theo Ratliff and Matt Barnes is certainly a huge upgrade.
What I do not Like: Injury woes with Andrew Bynum still dogging them.
The one key factor: Pau Gasol. He's gonna carry this team (especially early on) with Kobe taking it nice and easy due to his knee issues. I think he will be in the 20-10 range this season.
2nd Tier: The Wily VeteransDallas Mavericks
What I Like: Having Tyson Chandler to lob to for Jason Kidd. Dirk being Dirk. Mark Cuban. The possibility of Mavs games at the Jerryworld.
What I do not Like: Kidd is 38. He's reduced to shooting threes at this point.
The one key factor: Do the veterans still have it in them? They always seem to come up short. Dirk has logged in a lot of minutes as well and can he withstand the long season (although he did not participate in Istanbul).
San Antonio Spurs
What I Like: They are the most fundamental team on earth. They'll bore you to death.
What I do not Like: Injury concerns with Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker.
The one key factor: DeJuan Blair as the starting center of the Spurs. Timmy D's is in the downward slope of his career. He needs to help him carry the weight, so to speak.
What I Like: How the Jazz stole Al Jefferson the way the Lakers stole Pau Gasol. A stud PG in Deron Williams. Jerry Sloan still coaching the pick & roll.
What I do not Like: The hole in their shooting guard position, because Portland millsap'd Wesley Matthews after his playoff performance. All up to CJ Miles and Raja Bell.
The one key factor: Whether AK-47 will return to his peak form. If not with the Jazz, he's a good expiring contract to use as an asset.
3rd Tier: The Wildcard
Oklahoma City Thunder
What I Like: Pretty much everything. I got a mancrush on this team, have to admit.
What I do not Like: They don't have a savvy veteran leadership who would say, "I've been here before." Does Mo Pete apply in this case? Law of averages? (They were pretty much injury-free last year.)
The one key factor: Can they handle the pressure of being one of the top teams in the conference? Lots of eyes are on them. Will they live up to the expectations? Remember, they were one-and-done last time.
4th Tier: Central Question Marks
What I Like: Brandon Roy. Their head coach Nate McMillan. The mix of good veteran leaders and youngsters.
What I do not Like: Greg Oden going the Sam Bowie route. And he did the Brett Favre (even though he predated it). The lingering row between Miller and Roy.
The one key factor: Injuries have kowtowed their chances to succeed the past few seasons, especially last year. I know Sam Presti has seen what the Blazers have gone through, because what Portland was before, Oklahoma City is now.
What I Like: Kevin Martin and Aaron Brooks shooting lots and lots of FT attempts. That and Luis Scola.
What I do not Like: None, really. But if pressed, probably the Chinese obsession in All-Star voting.
The one key factor: What Yao Ming can do in 24 minutes/game. Career wise, that would be translating into 14-7 with 1 blk.
What I Like: The altitude factor. Chauncey Billups. The promise of Ty Lawson. The Fight against Cancer by George Karl.
What I do not Like: The atrocious neck tattoos on Kenyon Martin and Chris Andersen.
The one key factor: The Carmelo situation, also known as the white elephant in the room. Everything follows once that is settled. Could last as long as Lebron's.
5th Tier: Good, but not THAT Good
What I Like: Alvin Gentry's version of the SSOL. Steve Nash. Jared Dudley. Josh Childress. Sideshow Mel a.k.a Robin Lopez. Alvin Gentry's daughter (she's an avid tweeter.)
What I do not Like: Too much wings, which may result in Hedo playing PF. God held him.
The one key factor: As always, the medicine men of the Suns. Grant Hill was finally healthy. Imagine that.
New Orleans Hornets
What I Like: Current GM Dell Demps used to play in the Philippines as a reinforcement. The Skip Prosser connection (CP3 / David West)
What I do not Like: Still bogged down by bad contracts (although not as much as before). Marco Bellinelli starting alongside CP3. I still remember Marco as the Summer League stud.
The one key factor: How Monty Williams fares in his head coaching debut. I think I still have his NBA trading card. My how old I am.
6th Tier: On the Cusp
Los Angeles Clippers
What I Like: Admittedly biased, I like almost everything with them. Starting with Blake Griffin.
What I do not Like: Knowing that the Clipper malaise is just around the corner, waiting and waiting. Losing Steve Blake to the other side of Staples.
The one key factor: Baron Davis. All I ask him is to Getcha Head in the Game. And stay healthy, too.
What I Like: How these guys can go up and down the court and showcase their athleticism.
What I do not Like: They'll be making a lot of financial decisions this coming offseason, starting with Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. Still think they overpaid Rudy Gay.
The one key factor: Will Mike Conley be the PG that can run this team? They need a capable PG to run an offense.
What I Like: The young cast of characters. The uptempo nature of Paul Westphal.
What I do not Like: Logjam with Cousins, Dalembert, Landry, Thompson at the bigs and Garcia, Greene, Casspi at the wings.
The one key factor: #Reke4ROY is over. What's the next step for Tyreke? His development will determine if they would be able to go up to the tier above within the next two years.
7th Tier: Needs Reimaging
Golden State Warriors
What I Like: Steph Curry, who is one of the smartest young studs out there. The fans who stood by with this team even when they stink, and out here, there are a lot of people I know who trace their links to the Bay Area who love them as well.
What I do not Like: How this team is really that bad defensively. Dorell Wright starting at the 3. Monta Ellis, because he really is overrated.
The one key factor: How Keith Smart will do in his first head coaching job. Will he keep the Nellieball concept? Based from how things are, he just might.
What I Like: As a Clipper fan, having their first round pick in 2012 (Thank you, Marko). Kevin Love.
What I do not Like: David Kahn running this franchise, knowing Stephen Curry could have made wonders.
The one key factor: The potential of Michael Beasley could be realized. Or it could set them back so far...