1-CLEVELAND CAVALIERS (M. Williams, West, James, Varejao, S. O'Neal): Things are tight around Cleveland. With LeBron in possibly the final year of his deal and Shaq on his last legs, this could be the last year the window stays open before slamming shut. I'm not sold on how Shaq helps LeBron, and this Delonte West mess has me concerned. They are easily the best in the Central but this team won't top last year's regular season record.
2-CHICAGO BULLS (Rose, Salmons, Deng, Noah, B. Miller): The team that put fear in the Celtics last year should be back for more. I'm not sure if they can challenge the top three in the conference, but they are right there in the level just behind. This is a very athletic team that will miss Ben Gordon if Deng doesn't get back to his pre-injury production level.
3-DETROIT PISTONS (Stuckey, Gordon, Prince, Villeneuva, K. Brown): There has been quite a turnover in Detroit. Gone are Billups/Iverson and Sheed. Enter Gordon and Villeneuva. It really isn't a fair trade, but at least the team should have better chemistry. The key will be if Rip Hamilton can come be the sixth man we know he can be.
4-INDIANA PACERS (Ford, D. Jones, Granger, Murphy, Foster): This team is in a holding pattern. Granger is a stud, but the rest aren't much more than role guys. One key to the season is trying to develop Roy Hibbert and Tyler Hansbrough. If yes, then the future does look a little brighter.
5-MILWAUKEE BUCKS (Jennings, Redd, Delfino, Warrick, Bogut): Boy, things have fallen fast. Their two remaining studs, Bogut and Redd, are coming off injuries. Delfino and Warrick aren't much more than journeymen. The excitement will come from what Brandon Jennings brings to the table. He could have a Derrick Rose-type season and give the Bucks some hope.