2003-04: 42-40, 2nd in Atlantic Division.

Coach: Stan Van Gundy (42-40, .512).

Key addition: 7-1 C Shaquille O'Neal (21.5 ppg).

Key losses: F Lamar Odom (trade), F Brian Grant (trade).

They'll make the playoffs if: AmericanAirlines Arena doesn't sink into Biscayne Bay. Prospects skyrocket with O'Neal's overpowering inside game. Downside is that he draws defenders to the paint, which may clog the lane for guard Dwyane Wade, who likes to penetrate.

What realignment means to them: O'Neal makes Miami a sure bet for the division title and a major threat to be playing deep into June.

2003-04: 21-61, 8th in Atlantic Division.

Coach: Johnny Davis (42-111, .275).

Key additions: 6-3 G Steve Francis (16.6 ppg), 6-4 G Cuttino Mobley (15.8 ppg), 6-11 F Dwight Howard (rookie).

Key losses: G Tracy McGrady (trade), F Juwan Howard (trade).

They'll make the playoffs if: The influx of talent meshes. Rebuilt team is a lock to improve on last year's league-worst record. Francis and Mobley, transplanted from Houston, instantly become one of East's best backcourts. Health of Grant Hill (remember him?) is something to monitor.

What realignment means to them: A healthy Hill could mean the Magic will press the Heat in the Southeast.

2003-04: 28-54, 7th in Central Division.

Coach: Mike Woodson (first season).

Key additions: 6-9 F Al Harrington (13.3 ppg), 6-9 F Antoine Walker (14 ppg).

Key losses: G Jason Terry (trade), F Alan Henderson (trade), G Stephen Jackson (trade).

They'll make the playoffs if: Woodson works a miracle and the Hawks forge a solid inside-outside attack with Harrington in the post and Walker from the perimeter. Next on the shopping list should be someone who plays defense.

What realignment means to them: Their record might not look so bad in feeble Southeast.

2003-04: First season.

Coach: Bernie Bickerstaff (338-348, .493).

Key additions: Well, they're all new. Top pick, F-C Emeka Okafor, is probably the best known. Others who will see their share of minutes include 6-8 F Jason Kapono, 6-7 F Gerald Wallace, 6-9 C Jahidi White and rookie 6-6 G-F Bernard Robinson.

Key losses: Can't lose what you never had.

They'll make the playoffs if: The world fails to turn on its axis. Club's roster lacks a starter who scored in double digits last season. Bobcats' management went bargain basement but could use at least one marquee player.

What realignment means to them: Soft Southeast might get them a few wins.


2003-04: 39-43, 5th in Atlantic Division.

Coach: Lenny Wilkens (1,321-943, .673).

Key addition: 6-5 G Jamal Crawford (17.3 ppg).

Key losses: C Dikembe Mutombo (trade), F Othella Harrington (trade).

They'll make the playoffs if: Crawford steps up to fill in for the injury-plagued Allan Houston. Wilkens can create potent attack if he can get Stephon Marbury, Houston and Crawford to share shots and minutes.

What realignment means to them: They figure to be in the thick of a race that includes the suddenly budget-conscious Nets and the Sixers, but their rivalry with Miami -- the NBA's best of the 1990s -- is dead.

2003-04: 33-49, 5th in Atlantic Division.

Coach: Jim O'Brien (139-119, . 539).

Key additions: 6-9 F Brian Skinner (10.5 ppg.), 6-7 F Corliss Williamson (9.5 ppg).

Key losses: G Eric Snow (trade), F Derrick Coleman (trade).

They'll make the playoffs if: Mercurial Allen Iverson embraces O'Brien's defense-first strategy. Not an easy sell.

What realignment means to them: O'Brien will get plenty of cracks at Celtics, his former team. Atlantic is fairly wide open.

2003-04: 36-46, 4th in Atlantic Division.

Coach: Doc Rivers (171-168, .504).

Key addition: 6-4 G Gary Payton (14.6 ppg).

Key losses: None.

They'll make the playoffs if: They can find a reliable second scoring option to Paul Pierce, the NBA's fifth-leading scorer last season (23 ppg). The starting lineup features the irascible Gary Payton, erratic Ricky Davis and gimpy Raef LaFrentz.

What realignment means to them: The division is not exactly teeming with superpowers; they should be in the mix for a playoff spot.

2003-04: 47-35, 1st in Atlantic Division.

Coach: Lawrence Frank (25-15, .625).

Key additions: 7-0 C Nenad Krstic (rookie), 6-8 F Eric Williams (10 ppg).

Key losses: F Kenyon Martin (trade), G Kerry Kittles (trade).

They'll make the playoffs if: It's not quite a total rebuild from a stormy offseason. Runners-up in two of the past three NBA Finals, the Nets dealt Martin and Kittles and appeared to wave a white flag.

What realignment means to them: At best, they should finish in the middle of the smaller Atlantic; at worst, they'll be battling to stay out of the basement.

2003-04: 33-49, 6th in Central Division.

Coach: Sam Mitchell (first season).

Key additions: 6-2 G Rafer Alston (10.2 ppg) 6-11 C Rafael Araujo (rookie).

Key losses: None.

They'll make the playoffs if: Vince Carter carries them there. Toronto was quiet over the summer and installed a rookie head coach. It could be a long winter.

What realignment means to them: A move to the Atlantic may help club squeeze a few more victories, but expectations are low.


2003-04: 54-28, 2nd in Central Division.

Coach: Larry Brown (933-713, .567).

Key additions: 6-10 F Derrick Coleman (8 ppg), 6-9 F Antonio McDyess (6.9 ppg).

Key losses: F Mehmet Okur (free agent), F Corliss Williamson (trade).

They'll make the playoffs if: Anything short of a return to the Finals would qualify as a disappointment. Defense is Detroit's calling card, but the team added scoring punch and depth in McDyess (16.7 points career scoring average). He just needs to be healthy, a factor the past three seasons.

What realignment means to them: Very little. They're strong no matter where they play.

2003-04: 61-21, 1st in Central Division.

Coach: Rick Carlisle (161-85, .654).

Key addition: 6-8 F Stephen Jackson (18.1 ppg).

Key loss: F Al Harrington (trade).

They'll make the playoffs if: The roof doesn't cave in. The question, again, is how deep will they go? Last season's postseason was cut short when volcanic forward Ron Artest blew his cool and Jermaine O'Neal's game never got into high gear.

What realignment means to them: Staying in the Central division may mean calling the Pistons their daddies.

2003-04: 35-47, 5th in Central Division.

Coach: Paul Silas (321-370, .465).

Key additions: 6-3 G Eric Snow (10.3 ppg), 6-10 F Drew Gooden (11.6 ppg).

Key loss: F Carlos Boozer (free agent).

They'll make the playoffs if: Cavs missed the playoffs by one game last season, but loss of Boozer leaves team shorthanded in the paint. How far can a more experienced LeBron James carry this team?

What realignment means to them: Will once again be in the battle for a playoff spot, but will need to feast on the Chicagos and Milwaukees.

2003-04: 41-41, tied for 3rd in Central Division.

Coach: Terry Porter (41-41, .500).

Key addition: 6-2 G Mike James (9.3 ppg).

Key loss: F Brian Skinner (free agency).

They'll make the playoffs if: Starting G T.J. Ford recovers from back surgery. Bucks still pack plenty of firepower in Michael Redd and Keith Van Horn, and the addition of James will help, but these guns need someone to get them the ball.

What realignment means to them: Bucks are still in the Central shadows of Detroit and Indiana, so they will need to make hay out of the Chicagos and Clevelands.

2003-04: 23-59, 8th in Central Division.

Coach: Scott Skiles (135-126, .517).

Key additions: 6-2 G Ben Gordon (rookie), 6-8 G-F Luol Deng (rookie) .

Key losses: G Jamal Crawford (trade), F Jerome Williams (trade).

They'll make the playoffs if: They get big seasons from a slimmer Eddy Curry and healthier Tyson Chandler, both of whom are in the final years of their contracts.

What realignment means to them: They could be fishing for a No. 8 seed, but will be no match for Central powers Detroit and Indiana.

-- Greg Sandoval