You have seen the Atlantic, Southeast & Central Divisions as previewed by someone. Time to put in my two cents on the picture.
1st Tier: The Big ThreesBoston Celtics
What I like: Having a chip on their shoulders. Because quite simply, all the attention in South Beach just set off a rejuvenation of Beantown. In addition, the continued evolution of Rajon Rondo into the post-PGA Tour leader. Their bench depth, by the way, rivals Orlando's.
What I do not like: Perk being unavailable until post-All Star Break, because again, they never lost with the Pierce-KG-Ray-Rajon-Perk starting 5 in the postseason. Looks like the O'Neals will have to do until then.
The one key factor: the Celtics medical staff. I hope they can be a creditable facsimile of Phoenix, because the health of their veterans will dictate how far they can go.
What I like: Having three superstars team up like this will be something worth paying attention to.
What I do not like: How they are really dependent on the glue guys. Already a bad sign with Mike Miller being out until next year.
The one key factor: Lebron. It's all up to him. He needs to prove himself and show it.
2nd Tier: Armed to the TeethOrlando Magic
What I like: Their depth comes in very handy, as they can go big or small.
What I do not like: Rashard Lewis not stepping up to the value of his contract. Having to rely on Vince Carter. PG drop-off after Jameer Nelson
The one key factor: Will Dwight mature enough? Better yet, will the Olajuwon apprenticeship pay off?
What I like: The development of Derrick Rose and the fiery yet possibly annoying Joakim Noah.
What I do not like: Their chase of Carmelo Anthony, because there really is not a fit for him with the roster as currently constituted. Carlos Boozer's injury history.
The one key factor: Tom Thibodeaux. A definite upgrade over Vinny Del Negro in coaching acumen, but the players liked Vinny.
3rd Tier: Good, but not THAT GoodAtlanta Hawks
What I like: They're high-flying. They're exciting. The Philips Arena is said to be called the "Highlight Factory".
What I do not like: That ridiculous contract of Joe Johnson. Still lacking size on the bench save for Zaza Pachulia.
The one key factor: Jamal Crawford is in a contract year. And is still seeking an extension. He could make or break them.
What I like: The #FearTheDeer concept. Squad 6. Brandon Jennings.
What I do not like: The trend of Scott Skiles burning people out the next season. Lack of a veteran PG to guide Jennings (like how Luke Ridnour played last year). Balancing minutes with the swing wings (Delfino, Maggette, Salmons, Mbah a Moute, Ilyasova).
The one key factor: Andrew Bogut being back in form after that horrific injury. Huge drop-off, although the Bucks made moves to shore it up. but still...
What I like: C & C (Music) Factory in Gerald "Crash" Wallace & "Captain Jack" Stephen Jackson.
What I do not like: As pointed out, high probability of the "checking out" concept, from Larry Brown to Jackson. Boris Diaw out of shape again.
The one key factor: DJ Augustine being asked to play the right way. Raymond Felton bolted to the Knicks, and the promise of Shaun Livingston remains unfulfilled. Could be a bit too much.
4th Tier: Mediocrity ReignCleveland Cavaliers
What I like: JJ Hickson looks primed to emerge.
What I do not like: Small forward rotation is composed of Anthony Parker, Jamario Moon and Joey Graham. That happens when the person who they called "Quitness" leaves them on a lurch.
The one key factor: How Byron Scott can properly channel the energy that came after The Decision.
What I like: Doug Collins being the taskmaster on this underachieving bunch.
What I do not like: Elton Brand being a shell of his former Clipper self.
The one key factor: Jrue Holliday. He's going to be given the keys to the offense.
New York Knicks
What I like: Exciting offense. The SSOL is always fan-friendly. Having a decent point guard like Felton running the team. Adding people who knew about it helps (Amar'e and the former Warriors who ran a similar offense dubbed as Nellieball)
What I do not like: Eddy Curry's still on the roster.
The one key factor: The Carmelo Sweepstakes. If the Knicks can find a way to get him without having to trade away Gallinari, it would be great.
What I like: The acquisition of Darren Collison, making the team less scrappy.
What I do not like: Josh McRoberts starting at the PF position.
The one key factor: the PF position. Currently held by McRoberts, but Psycho T is creditable backup. Danny Granger can play it in a pinch.
What I like: Hard to find one, honestly. Rip Hamilton running through screens the way he does it is something worth seeing as a basketball nut.
What I do not like: Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon, the overpaid guys not starting. Jonas Jerebko being out.
The one key factor: The ownership situation. Who takes over this franchise? That then dictates the next step, which is the idea of trading Rip Hamilton and or Tayshaun Prince.
5th Tier: Needs ReimagingNew Jersey Nets
What I like: The Russian Billionaire. Jay-Z. Brook Lopez and Devin Harris. The signings, because they acquired role players that can contribute immediately.
What I do not like: Not playing in the Barclays yet (Brooklyn), being stuck in the nowhereness of Newark.
The one key factor: Avery Johnson and Devin Harris. Avery was the coach during Devin's first few seasons in the league.
What I like: The development of John Wall, the acquisition of Kirk Hinrich.
What I do not like: Unproven mettle of their big men. Josh Howard being hurt.
The one key factor: What they will actually do with Gilbert Arenas. He's such a wildcard that could help or hurt them. The contract is definitely a huge millstone.
What I like: The cosmopolitan surroundings of Canada. There has to be a reason why Hedo decided to party party last year.
What I do not like: The fact that they are a mess. Period.
The one key factor: Someone has to step up and lead this team. Whether it would be either of Calderon / Jack or Bargnani remains to be seen.