(in predicted order of finish)
James, Love and All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving are the NBA's latest version of the Big Three. It will be up to them to lead shooting guard Dion Waiters, center Anderson Varejao, reserve big man Tristan Thompson and the rest of the Cavs. Blatt is a rookie NBA coach but was very successful coaching in Israel, Greece, Russia and Turkey. And now he has James to help out.
The best two teams in the East compete in the Central Division. With a healthy Derrick Rose, the newly acquired Gasol, defensive player of the year Joakim Noah and super-sub Taj Gibson, the Bulls are one of the contenders to be crowned NBA champion in June. But small forwards McDermott and starter Mike Dunleavy have to make outside shots to open up the court for Rose and Gasol.
The self-proclaimed best backcourt in the NBA — point guard John Wall, 24, and shooting guard Bradley Beal, 21 — took a hit when Beal had surgery for a broken left wrist that will sideline him six to eight weeks. Power forward Nene and center Marcin Gortat were a nice duo down low last season; it will be interesting to see how much Pierce, 37, can contribute in the frontcourt.
Coming: Lou Williams, James Johnson.
Going: Nando De Colo, Steve Novak.
The Raptors have enough talent, depth and athleticism to make some noise in the East. All-Star shooting guard DeMar DeRozan averaged a career-high 22.7 points last season; point guard Kyle Lowry re-signed for $48 million over four years after career bests of 17.9 points and 7.4 assists; and center Jonas Valanciunas, 22, averaged 11.3 points and 8.8 rebounds.
For the Heat to pose a threat, Chris Bosh has to produce more than the 16.2 points and 6.6 rebounds he averaged last season. No one knows if Dwyane Wade, 32, and his balky knees can match the 54 games he played last season. And Deng has the big task of replacing James at small forward.
The Nets found a talented coach in Hollins, who guided the Grizzlies to the Western Conference finals in 2013 before he was fired. For them to have any success, point guard Deron Williams must stay healthy after surgery on both ankles. Center Brook Lopez returns after playing in just 17 games last season following surgery on his right foot. Kevin Garnett, 38, returns for another season, and guard Joe Johnson is back to provide offense.
Will Stephenson blow in owner Michael Jordan's ear as he did to LeBron James in a playoff game? Antics aside, Stephenson, 24, is a talent who will provide the Hornets with offense and defense. Center Al Jefferson is coming off a monster season, averaging 21.8 points and 10.8 rebounds, and point guard Kemba Walker is a handful to defend.
Coming: Adreian Payne, Thabo Sefolosha, Kent Bazemore.
Going: Lou Williams, Gustavo Ayon, Cartier Martin.
The Hawks have enough talent to make the playoffs again. Former All-Star center Al Horford is back after playing in just 29 games last season because of a torn pectoral muscle. Forward Paul Millsap made his first All-Star team, point guard Jeff Teague has improved and shooting guard Kyle Korver is one of the best shooters in the NBA.
Coming: C.J. Miles, Rodney Stuckey.
Going: Lance Stephenson, Evan Turner, Andrew Bynum.
After a disappointing loss to the Heat in the playoffs, the news got worse for the Pacers over the summer. Free-agent guard Stephenson signed with the Hornets, then the Pacers lost All-Star small forward Paul George likely for the season after he fractured his right leg playing for Team USA. Center Roy Hibbert, who had a down 2013-14 season in which he averaged 10.8 points and 6.6 rebounds, must return to All-Star form.
It will be tough for Jackson, All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony and first-year coach Fisher to get the Knicks back into the playoffs after they were ninth in the East last season. Amar'e Stoudemire, J.R. Smith and Calderon need to be productive scorers while learning the triangle offense.
Going: Chauncey Billups, Rodney Stuckey.
The Pistons tried to play big last season with 6-11 Andre Drummond at center, 6-11 Greg Monroe at power forward and 6-9 Josh Smith at small forward. It didn't work. Smith is better suited as a power forward. The Pistons may unload one of those three for another player who fits into their rebuilding plans.
The Magic have some young talent in center Nikola Vucevic, 24, who averaged 14.2 points and 11 rebounds last season; second-year guard Victor Oladipo, 22; and rookie power forward Gordon, 19, who is athletic but needs to refine his offense.
Coming: Marcus Smart, Tyler Zeller, Marcus Thornton.
Going: Jerryd Bayless, Keith Bogans.
The Celtics are in rebuilding mode, and that cannot sit well with point guard Rajon Rondo, the only player left from the 2008 championship team. Rondo is recovering from a broken bone in his left hand but should return soon. Rookie point guard Smart has been impressive in the preseason.
Kidd had more talent last season in Brooklyn, so this Bucks roster will test his coaching skills. Parker, the No. 2 pick, is considered a major talent, and forward Ersan Ilyasova and guard Giannis Antetokounmpo are developing into solid players.
Going: Thaddeus Young, Byron Mullens.
The 76ers drafted 7-foot center Embiid with the No. 3 pick, although he won't play this season because of a fractured right foot. In 2013, they acquired 6-11 forward Noel, the No. 6 pick, who missed last season because of a torn left ACL. Noel appears healthy, but rookie of the year Michael Carter-Williams is still recovering from shoulder surgery.