Postseason Players

Michael Lee makes his predictions for the season's top finishers

Eastern Conference | Western Conference

Eastern Conference Top Eight Why They Rank
[1] CLEVELAND CAVALIERS

Predicted Record: 63-19
Coach: Mike Brown

 The Cavaliers were good enough to win 66 games, but not good enough to reach the NBA Finals. So, they spent the offseason adding size in the middle (Shaquille O'Neal) and some more athleticism (Anthony Parker, Leon Powe) in hopes that Cleveland can end its championship drought - and that LeBron James stays.

[2] BOSTON CELTICS

Predicted Record: 59-23
Coach: Doc Rivers

 The Celtics added Rasheed Wallace and Marquis Daniels, and retained Glen Davis. But they learned last season that even with Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, the most important element in their pursuit of an 18th championship is a healthy Kevin Garnett.

[3] ORLANDO MAGIC

Predicted Record: 58-24
Coach: Stan Van Gundy

  Instead of maintaining continuity after a surprising Finals run, the Magic swapped what was working (Hedo Turkoglu, Courtney Lee) for Vince Carter, in hopes that he can help Dwight Howard get over that championship hurdle.

[4] ATLANTA HAWKS

Predicted Record: 49-33
Coach: Mike Woodson

 The Hawks retained their core players (Mike Bibby, Marvin Williams) and added some quality veteran depth (Jamal Crawford, Joe Smith) in hopes of improving on their best season this decade. But they're concerned about Joe Johnson bolting next summer. 

[5] WASHINGTON WIZARDS

Predicted Record: 46-36
Coach: Flip Saunders

With new Coach Flip Saunders, a healthy Gilbert Arenas and Brendan Haywood and some veteran additions, the Wizards should make last year's 19-win campaign a distant memory. But Antawn Jamison's shoulder injury raises the annual question: Can they ever stay healthy?

[6] PHILADELPHIA 76ers

Predicted Record: 43-39
Coach: Eddie Jordan

 Eddie Jordan brings his Princeton offense to another stop, with a prepackaged playoff team that features Elton Brand and Andre Iguodala. The 76ers are hopeful that Louis Williams can make Andre Miller's departure tolerable.

[7] CHICAGO BULLS

Predicted Record: 42-40
Coach: Vinny Del Negro

 The Bulls lost some momentum from their classic series against Boston by letting Ben Gordon walk, but they expect the return of Luol Deng and the natural progression of rookie of the year Derrick Rose to compensate.

[8] MIAMI HEAT

Predicted Record: 41-41
Coach: Erik Spoelstra

 Miami did little to spare free-agent-to-be Dwyane Wade from having to repeat the one-man heroics that put him in the MVP discussion last season. The Heat traded for Quentin Richardson, but is banking on a resurgent Jermaine O'Neal and a breakout season from Michael Beasley, who had reportedly spent time in rehab this summer.

Western Conference Top Eight Why They Rank
[1] LOS ANGELES LAKERS

Predicted Record: 65-17
Coach: Phil Jackson

The Lakers are overwhelming favorites to be the first repeat NBA champion since, well, the Lakers won three straight from 2000-2002. Lost Trevor Ariza but gained Ron Artest in free agency, and maintained continuity by retaining Lamar Odom. With more depth and an improved Andrew Bynum, Kobe Bryant should remain fresh for his fifth title run.

[2] SAN ANTONIO SPURS

Predicted Record: 59-23
Coach: Gregg Popovich

Needing greater support for Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, the Spurs pulled off two heists with Richard Jefferson trade and DeJuan Blair draft pick, plus added Antonio McDyess. If Ginobili and Duncan can stay healthy, title No. 5 is within its grasp.

[3] PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS

Predicted Record: 57-25
Coach: Nate McMillan

With Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge and Greg Oden, Portland has one of the best collections of young talent in the NBA. After gaining some much-needed playoff experience, they added veteran Andre Miller to provide more stability at point guard.

[4] DALLAS MAVERICKS

Predicted Record: 54-28
Coach: Rick Carlisle

The addition of Shawn Marion adds an element of speed and athleticism, but it's now or never for Dallas with a roster that features 30-somethings Jason Kidd, Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry and Marion. They need Josh Howard to return to all-star form.

[5] DENVER NUGGETS

Predicted Record: 53-29
Coach: George Karl

Did nothing to upgrade their roster after making a magical run to conference finals. Kept Chris Andersen, but let key role players Dahntay Johes and Linas Kleiza walk. Should remain really good with Chauncey Billups and Carmelo Anthony leading the way.

[6] UTAH JAZZ

Predicted Record: 49-33
Coach: Jerry Sloan

Carlos Boozer should be motivated in a contract year, but success still hinges on the growth of Deron Williams, who should make his first all-star team. Paul Millsap should push Boozer and Coach Jerry Sloan will keep this deep, luxury tax team in the hunt.

[7] NEW ORLEANS HORNETS

Predicted Record: 47-35
Coach: Byron Scott

Traded for Emeka Okafor this summer but the team is moving backward. Chris Paul is the league's best point guard but limited depth and poor wing players make another deep postseason run, like the Hornets had two years ago, unlikely.

[8] LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS

Predicted Record: 44-38
Coach: Mike Dunleavy

With No. 1 pick Blake Griffin and a determined Baron Davis, the Clippers jokes might stop this season. They have a deep front line with Marcus Camby and Chris Kaman, solid wings with Eric Gordon and Al Thornton. They need to stay healthy to make noise.

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