2004-05: 42-40, 3rd in Atlantic.

Coach: Lawrence Frank (67-55, .549).

Key additions: F-C Marc Jackson (trade), G Jeff McInnis (free agent).

Key loss: F Brian Scalabrine (free agent).

They'll make the playoffs if: The trio of G Jason Kidd, G Richard Jefferson and F Vince Carter can stay healthy and keep feeding opposing defenses a steady diet of alley-oop dunks. The decision to pass on acquiring Fs Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Robert Traylor leaves them thin inside. However, C Nenad Krstic is promising.



2004-05: 43-39, 2nd in Atlantic.

Coach: Maurice Cheeks (162-139, .538).

Key addition: C Steven Hunter (free agent).

Key losses: F-C Marc Jackson (trade), G Aaron McKie (waived).

They'll make the playoffs if: G Allen Iverson's inability to wear a do-rag and platinum chain to the arena doesn't inhibit his game. Iverson's ability to mesh with F Chris Webber will be the key, and Cheeks must get this team to play hard each night -- something he was unable to do in Portland.



2004-05: 33-49, 5th in Atlantic.

Coach: Larry Brown (987-741, .571).

Key additions: Brown, C Eddy Curry (trade), G-F Quentin Richardson (trade), C Channing Frye (draft), G Nate Robinson (draft).

Key losses: G Allan Houston (retired), F-C Kurt Thomas (trade), F Michael Sweetney (trade).

They'll make the playoffs if: Brown can get this team of shoot-first talent to commit to defense and playing the "right way." Questions about Curry's heart, a potential clash between Brown and G Stephon Marbury, GM Isiah Thomas's itchy trade finger and the Knicks' considerable youth should make for an interesting season in Gotham.



2004-05: 45-37, 1st in Atlantic.

Coach: Doc Rivers (216-205, .513).

Key additions: G Dan Dickau (trade), F Brian Scalabrine (free agent), G Gerald Green (draft).

Key losses: F Antoine Walker (trade), G Gary Payton (free agent).

They'll make the playoffs if: Rivers can get G Paul Pierce to stop pouting and F Al Jefferson continues his growth in the low post. Pierce doesn't appear to fit in with GM Danny Ainge's youth movement and may be traded before the February deadline. Losing Walker and Payton left a huge leadership void.



2004-05: 33-49, 4th in Atlantic.

Coach: Sam Mitchell (33-49, .402).

Key additions: F Charlie Villanueva (draft), F Joey Graham (draft), G Mike James (trade).

Key losses: F Donyell Marshall (free agent), G Rafer Alston (trade).

They'll make the playoffs if: Seven Eastern Conference teams fold or cease operations during the season, leaving just eight remaining to participate in the postseason. A dreadful trade (Vince Carter for what?) and dubious draft picks (Villanueva and C Rafael Araujo) have left the Raptors with little more than a rising star in F Chris Bosh. Oh no, Canada.



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

Coach: Rick Carlisle (205-123, .625).

Key additions: G Sarunas Jasikevicius (free agent), F Danny Granger (draft).

Key losses: G Reggie Miller (retired), G James Jones (trade).

They'll make the playoffs if: F Ron Artest ducks the next time someone throws a drink at him. Too much of the Pacers' success depends on the capricious and combustible Artest, who has yet to truly show remorse for the actions that led to his 73-game suspension last season. Miller's leadership will be missed but the Pacers are deep, talented and should go far into the postseason.



2004-05: 54-28, 1st in Central.

Coach: Flip Saunders (411-326, .558).

Key additions: Saunders, F Dale Davis (free agent).

Key loss: Larry Brown.

They'll make the playoffs if: Saunders doesn't bring his bottle of mysterious meltdown potion from Minnesota. The chip-on-their-shoulder Pistons have practically the same team and Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Rasheed Wallace, and Ben Wallace also have the motivation they need with detractors insinuating they can't return to the NBA Finals without Brown.



2004-05: 42-40, 4th in Central.

Coach: Mike Brown (first year).

Key additions: G Larry Hughes (free agent), F Donyell Marshall (free agent), G Damon Jones (free agent).

Key losses: G Jeff McInnis (free agent), F Robert Traylor (free agent).

They'll make the playoffs if: LeBron James is truly ready to live up to the immense hype and provide leadership in addition to incredible highlights and statistics. New GM Danny Ferry has assembled considerable talent around James, bringing in Hughes, Marshall and Jones and re-signing C Zydrunas Ilgauskas.



2004-05: 30-52, 5th in Central.

Coach: Terry Stotts (52-85, .380).

Key additions: C-F Jamaal Magloire (trade), C Andrew Bogut (draft), G-F Bobby Simmons (free agent).

Key losses: G-F Desmond Mason (trade), C Zaza Pachulia (free agent), C Calvin Booth (waived).

They'll make the playoffs if: G Michael Redd can prove to be more than a scorer, Bogut can prove he's not a "white stiff" and Stotts can prove that he was merely a victim of poor circumstances when he coached in Atlanta. PG T.J. Ford's return from a spinal cord injury gives the Bucks an engine for a high-octane offense and Magloire's arrival gives them a legitimate presence in the post.



2004-05: 47-35, 2nd in Central.

Coach: Scott Skiles (182-161, .531).

Key additions: F Michael Sweetney (trade), F Tim Thomas (trade), F Darius Songaila (trade).

Key losses: C Eddy Curry (trade), F Antonio Davis (trade).

They'll make the playoffs if: Gs Kirk Hinrich and Ben Gordon can make up for the loss of Curry's scoring and F Luol Deng can bounce back from his wrist injury. GM John Paxson has been at the center of controversy for his handling of Curry, but he was able to retain C Tyson Chandler, trade for Songaila and get some scoring punch in Sweetney. The Bulls should be fine unless the team begins to tune out Skiles.



2004-05: 59-23, 1st in Southeast.

Coach: Stan Van Gundy (101-63, .616).

Key additions: F Antoine Walker (trade), G Jason Williams (trade), F James Posey (trade), G Gary Payton (free agent).

Key losses: G Eddie Jones (trade), G Damon Jones (free agent).

They'll make the playoffs if: G Dwyane Wade doesn't retire to pursue modeling full time and C Shaquille O'Neal doesn't quit to begin his second phase of life as a rapper-actor-police officer. The playoffs are a lock for the Heat, but bigger concerns are whether this mix of talent can work well together and Van Gundy can hold off GM Pat Riley from returning to the bench.



2004-05: 45-37, 2nd in Southeast.

Coach: Eddie Jordan (103-158, .395).

Key additions: G Antonio Daniels (free agent), G-F Caron Butler (trade), G Chucky Atkins (trade).

Key losses: G Larry Hughes (free agent), F-C Kwame Brown (trade), G Juan Dixon (free agent).

They'll make the playoffs if: G Gilbert Arenas continues his progression into superstardom, F Antawn Jamison can stay healthy and C Brendan Haywood, G Jarvis Hayes and F Jared Jeffries can take the next step in their respective development. With Daniels, Butler and Atkins, the Wizards are deeper and more experienced than last season, but they will miss Hughes's playmaking in crunch time.



2004-05: 36-46, 3rd in Southeast.

Coach: Brian Hill (222-227, .494).

Key addition: G Keyon Dooling (free agent).

Key losses: G Doug Christie (waived), F Fran Vasquez (drafted, but stayed in Spain).

They'll make the playoffs if: G Steve Francis cuts down on the dribbling and learns how to involve his teammates, F Grant Hill (out three to six weeks) can play more than 65 games and F Dwight Howard can have a breakout season and give the Magic an inside presence.



2004-05: 13-69, 5th in Southeast.

Coach: Mike Woodson (13-69, .159).

Key additions: G Joe Johnson (trade), C Zaza Pachulia (free agent), F Marvin Williams (draft).

Key losses: G Boris Diaw (trade), C Jason Collier, who died on Oct. 15.

They'll make the playoffs if: GM Billy Knight is truly able to revolutionize the league by winning with a team of like-sized wing players on the floor together. The Hawks gave up a bundle -- $70 million, two draft picks, Diaw -- and ousted co-owner Steve Belkin to get Johnson, who is a huge talent but also a huge question mark.



2004-05: 18-64, 4th in Southeast.

Coach: Bernie Bickerstaff (356-412, .464).

Key additions: G Raymond Felton (draft), F Sean May (draft), C Jake Voskuhl (trade).

Key losses: F Malik Allen (free agent), G Jason Hart (free agent).

They'll make the playoffs if: Owner Robert Johnson can convince buddy Michael Jordan to come out of retirement again and . . . what? Jordan is 42? And Jordan's last comeback was a flop? All right. The Bobcats have a new downtown arena and plenty of players with championship experience -- except it's NCAA, not NBA. At best, they'll play hard.

Vince Carter, above, Jason Kidd and Richard Jefferson will help Nets run. Indiana's fortunes will depend on Ron Artest, back from suspension. Dwyane Wade is a model NBA player and a great fit in Miami.