2004-05: 49-33, 2nd in Northwest.

Coach: George Karl (740-507, .593).

Key addition: G Earl Watson (free agent).

Key losses: None.

They'll make the playoffs if: GM Kiki Vandeweghe doesn't fire Karl at midseason and replace him with Tim Floyd. F Carmelo Anthony had a quiet, controversy-free offseason and should continue to flourish with a full season under Karl. The Nuggets went 32-8 with Karl at the helm last season and should be ready to move into the NBA's elite. They have three capable point guards and three capable big men but are limited at shooting guard.



2004-05: 52-30, 1st in Northwest.

Coach: Bob Weiss (210-282, .427).

Key addition: C Johan Petro (draft).

Key losses: Coach Nate McMillan, G Antonio Daniels (free agent), C Jerome James (free agent).

They'll make the playoffs if: Weiss can keep the Sonics running while defending and G Ray Allen continues to play at the same level as last season. The Sonics are practically the same team as a year ago, but they won't have McMillan poking and prodding anymore -- which could be a good thing. Allen will have to carry the Sonics again, but he'll get help from F Rashard Lewis, and free-agent-to-be F Vladimir Radmanovic needs to have a big season for a bigger payday.



2004-05: 26-56, 5th in Northwest.

Coach: Jerry Sloan (943-617, .604).

Key additions: G Deron Williams (draft), C Greg Ostertag (trade), G Devin Brown (free agent).

Key loss: G Raja Bell (free agent).

They'll make the playoffs if: Williams can solve their problems at point guard and all-around F Andrei Kirilenko doesn't get hurt. Kirilenko's knee injury crippled the Jazz last season as Sloan had his worst season in 17 years in Utah. Sloan, however, should be able to coax some more wins out of a team that also features F Carlos Boozer and C Mehmet Okur.



2004-05: 44-38, 3rd in Northwest.

Coach: Dwane Casey (first year).

Key additions: G Marko Jaric (trade), G Rashad McCants (draft).

Key losses: G Sam Cassell (trade), F Latrell Sprewell (free agent), G Fred Hoiberg (heart ailment).

They'll make the playoffs if: They can shake off the doldrums. With the exception of former MVP Kevin Garnett, they don't have much -- unless F Wally Szczerbiak can return to his all-star status of four seasons ago now that he's back in the starting lineup. GM Kevin McHale did little to improve his stale team, but at least he won't have to hear Cassell or Sprewell crying for a contract extension.



2004-05: 27-55, 4th in Northwest.

Coach: Nate McMillan (212-183, .537).

Key additions: McMillan, G Martell Webster (draft), G Jarrett Jack (draft), G Juan Dixon (free agent), G Steve Blake (free agent).

Key losses: F Shareef Abdur-Rahim (free agent), G Damon Stoudamire (free agent), G Nick Van Exel (waived), G Derek Anderson (waived).

They'll make the playoffs if: McMillan truly is a magician. McMillan helped Seattle overachieve last season, but he has a much greater challenge in Portland, which is undergoing a massive rebuilding project. Most of the Trail Blazers should still be in college, F Darius Miles remains a mystery and their best talent and F Zach Randolph is recovering from knee surgery.



2004-05: 59-33, 1st in Southwest.

Coach: Gregg Popovich (455-233, .661).

Key additions: G Michael Finley (free agent), F Fabricio Oberto (free agent), G Nick Van Exel (free agent).

Key loss: G Devin Brown (free agent).

They'll make the playoffs if: They show up for all 82 games. The Spurs weren't satisfied with winning an NBA championship, having the league's best player (F Tim Duncan) or one of the league's most exciting back courts (Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker). They had to get greedy. By convincing Finley, Oberto and Van Exel to take less money for a shot at a title, the Spurs are the league's most feared team -- again.



2004-05: 51-31, 3rd in Southwest.

Coach: Jeff Van Gundy (344-240, .589).

Key additions: F Stromile Swift (free agent), G Derek Anderson (free agent), G Rafer Alston (trade).

Key losses: None.

They'll make the playoffs if: C Yao Ming and G Tracy McGrady don't take those Shaq & Kobe comparisons too seriously, get jealous of each other and start fighting for shots and photo ops. Seriously, the Rockets -- and specifically McGrady -- should finally win a playoff series after making improvements at power forward (Swift) and shooting guard (Anderson).



2004-05: 58-24, 2nd in Southwest.

Coach: Avery Johnson (16-2, .889).

Key additions: G Doug Christie (free agent), C DeSagana Diop (free agent).

Key loss: G Michael Finley (waived).

They'll make the playoffs if: Johnson can convince his team to commit to defense, natural scorer Jason Terry can play a convincing role as a point guard and F Dirk Nowitzki can stay happy with two of his best friends -- Finley and Steve Nash -- leaving in the past two seasons. Finley's leadership will be missed, so Nowitzki will have to continue to carry the team offensively and become more vocal.



2004-05: 45-37, 4th in Southwest.

Coach: Mike Fratello (612-491, .555).

Key additions: G Eddie Jones (trade), G Damon Stoudamire (free agent), G Bobby Jackson (trade), F Hakim Warrick (draft).

Key losses: F Stromile Swift (free agent), G Jason Williams (trade), F James Posey (trade), G Bonzi Wells (trade).

They'll make the playoffs if: F Pau Gasol can put together an all-star caliber season, F Mike Miller (remember him?) can play a full season and thirty-somethings Jones, Stoudamire and Jackson have anything left in the tank. The Grizzlies have a much more experienced and steady back court, which should please Fratello. But, with the exception of Warrick, they lack the youth of the past two playoff runs.



2004-05: 18-64, 5th in Southwest.

Coach: Byron Scott (167-203, .451).

Key additions: G Chris Paul (draft), F Rasual Butler (trade), G Kirk Snyder (trade), G Arvydas Macijauskas (free agent), G-F Desmond Mason (trade).

Key losses: C-F Jamaal Magloire (trade), Dan Dickau (trade), Lee Nailon (free agent).

They'll make the playoffs if: This isn't fair. It would be easy to poke fun at the Hornets' roster. But considering all that was lost in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, it'll be an accomplishment for this team to play 82 games away from home. The Hornets will stink, but at least Oklahoma City can enjoy NBA basketball (sort of).



2004-05: 50-32, 2nd in Pacific.

Coach: Rick Adelman (708-443, .615).

Key additions: F Shareef Abdur-Rahim (free agent), G Bonzi Wells (trade).

Key losses: G Cuttino Mobley (free agent), G Bobby Jackson (trade), C Greg Ostertag (trade).

They'll make the playoffs if: Abdur-Rahim doesn't bring the dark cloud that has followed him from Vancouver to Atlanta to Portland. Abdur-Rahim has played a league-leading 672 games without a postseason appearance, but he has his best chance in Sacramento, where he is reunited with former Grizzlies teammate Mike Bibby. To make a serious run, the Kings will need Abdur-Rahim's knees to hold up and Wells to act nice for once.



2004-05: 62-20, 1st in Pacific.

Coach: Mike D'Antoni (97-96, .503).

Key additions: G Raja Bell (free agent), F Kurt Thomas (trade), F Brian Grant (free agent), F James Jones (trade).

Key losses: G-F Quentin Richardson (trade), G Joe Johnson (trade), C-F Steven Hunter (free agent).

They'll make the playoffs if: F-C Amare Stoudemire is able to come back from microfracture surgery on his knee. Stoudemire is expected to return in February, but the Suns have the weapons to withstand his loss with reigning league MVP Steve Nash and fellow all-star Shawn Marion. Following an offseason overhaul, the Suns will still look to run.



2004-05: 34-48, 4th in Pacific.

Coach: Phil Jackson (832-316, .725).

Key additions: Jackson, F-C Kwame Brown (trade), G Aaron McKie (free agent), C Andrew Bynum (draft).

Key losses: G-F Caron Butler (trade), G Chucky Atkins (trade), F Brian Grant (waived).

They'll make the playoffs if: GM Mitch Kupchak can convince the Heat to trade back Shaquille O'Neal. Just kidding. The Lakers re-hired Jackson, who has never missed the playoffs and previously pushed G Kobe Bryant to his best seasons as a pro. Bryant will have an awesome season, but F Lamar Odom must find comfort in his role and Brown must make something of his career for the Lakers to find success.



2004-05: 34-48, 5th in Pacific.

Coach: Mike Montgomery (34-48, .415).

Key additions: F Ike Diogu (draft), G Monta Ellis (draft), F Chris Taft (draft).

Key loss: F Rodney White (free agent).

They'll make the playoffs if: G Baron Davis doesn't break down (a huge if), G Jason Richardson and F Troy Murphy continue to improve and F Mike Dunleavy finally plays with some consistency. The Warriors have the longest playoff drought in the NBA (11 years), but they have one of the most exciting young teams in the league -- and optimism, for the first time in awhile.



2004-05: 37-45, 3rd in Pacific.

Coach: Mike Dunleavy (463-489, .486).

Key additions: G Sam Cassell (trade), G Cuttino Mobley (free agent).

Key losses: G-F Bobby Simmons (free agent), G Marko Jaric (trade).

They'll make the playoffs if: They can find some chemistry on a team with four starters -- Elton Brand, Corey Maggette, Cassell and Mobley -- all looking to shoot. In recent years, the Clippers have always looked impressive on paper but managed to disappoint in the end. This season shouldn't be any different, unless they can move Maggette for a difference-making defender.

Nuggets small forward Carmelo Anthony should continue to shine. Tim Duncan is the NBA's best player, but the Spurs keep upgrading. Mike Bibby will need some help for the Kings to make the playoffs.