1. LOS ANGELES LAKERS
2011–12 Record: 41–25
WHAT THEY'VE GOT: The next Superteam. By bringing in former MVP point guard Steve Nash and six-time All-Star center Dwight Howard to join guard Kobe Bryant, it's clear that the Lakers are making a push for a title. Now. Nash brings production from the point that the Lakers have missed in recent years, and he can run a nice pick-and-roll offense with Howard, as long as Bryant lets them command the ball enough.
WHAT THEY NEED: Time to gel. Both Bryant and Nash are used to having the ball in their hands, so there will be an adjustment period as they learn to play to each other's strengths.
BOTTOM LINE: After two years of early exits from the playoffs, the Lakers are back to being title contenders.
[Video: NBA rookie photo shoot]
2. LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS
2011–12 Record: 40–26
WHAT THEY HAVE: The most dynamic 1–2 combination in the league. In his first season in L.A., point guard Chris Paul expertly controlled the pace of games. The Clippers had the second-fewest turnovers in the NBA, one season after having the second most. Forward Blake Griffin brings the power that balances Paul's finesse. Griffin has expanded his game beyond monster dunks to become a more complete player.
WHAT THEY NEED: A dominant defensive presence. While Griffin and center DeAndre Jordan give the Clippers athleticism on offense, it hasn't translated on the defensive end.
BOTTOM LINE: To be a true title contender, the Clippers have to toughen up on D.
[Photo Gallery: NBA stars with new teams]
3. GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
2011–12 Record: 23–43
WHAT THEY HAVE: The ability to put a lot of points on the board. Though the Warriors lost their top scorer when they traded Monta Ellis to the Bucks, they can still get buckets from guards Stephen Curry and rookie Harrison Barnes. The Warriors play an uptempo style that may not always result in wins but is always entertaining to watch.
WHAT THEY NEED: The ability to stop opponents from putting points on the board. The Warriors traded for center Andrew Bogut last year to strengthen one of the league's worst defenses. He needs to be a stopper without slowing down the transition game.
BOTTOM LINE: The Warriors will be competitive but need an elite player to earn a playoff spot.
4. PHOENIX SUNS
2011–12 Record: 33–33
WHAT THEY HAVE: The chance to unlock Michael Beasley's potential. The newly-acquired forward has shown flashes of brilliance over the past few years. If the Suns can develop him into more of a team-first player, he will payoff in a big way. Power forward Luis Scola also joins the team, providing smart low-post scoring and defense.
WHAT THEY NEED: A player to fill Steve Nash's shoes. The Suns have a talented, young point guard in Goran Dragic. As a starter for the Rockets late last season, Dragic showed promise, averaging 18 points and 8.4 assists per game.
BOTTOM LINE: This is season one of a full-scale rebuilding effort.
5. SACRAMENTO KINGS
2011–12 Record: 22–44
WHAT THEY HAVE: A shot at redemption. The Kings need to forget about all the issues swirling around about whether the team will move to a new city and just focus on basketball. Guard Tyreke Evans was the Rookie of the Year in 2009–10. While his production has slipped of late, he can still take over games. Power forward DeMarcus Cousins is capable of 20-plus points and 15 rebounds a night. He just needs to be more consistent.
WHAT THEY NEED: Defense, defense, defense. The Kings allowed a league-worst 104.4 points per game last year.
BOTTOM LINE: There are too many uncertainties for the Kings to be a playoff contender this season.