Joe Dumars had a great run with his Piston team as a player, and as a GM. Then last season they had a down year. Dumars decided the team he had couldn't win a championship so he imploded the team, and now gone are Chauncey Billups and Rasheed Wallace. He kept mainstays Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince around for their experience, but he wanted to change the direction of the team. He has stockpiled a lot of talent in the last 2 years, and with the additions of Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva, this team looks to have turned it around pretty quickly. They are really under the radar, but this team is very deep, and they have the potential to have a strong front court. It is going to come down to point guard play and whether or not Stuckey and Bynum are up to the task.
Portland Trail Blazers
The Portland Trail Blazers have been ascending the Western Conference for 3 years. With an experienced group of young players, this is the year the Blazers will start to push through into the top 4 of the West. Brandon Roy is a star, and perennial all star for years to come, to go along with all star LaMarcus Aldridge. Having two horses like that has been key for the Blazers, but it is their depth that separates them from the middle of the pack in the West. Being able to bring Andre Miller, Rudy Fernandez, Travis Outlaw, Martell Webster, and Greg Oden off the bench, the Blazers suffer no drop off when the 2nd unit comes on the floor. They are also a really hard matchup in the post season because they can score so many different ways that they don't give away games with shooting slumps. To beat this team you have to earn it, and Brandon Roy has shown he is an ice cold killer late in the game. This is just a scary team, and if Oden shows up, they might make an Orlando Magic type leap forward.
Los Angeles Clippers
The Los Angeles Clippers on paper have as talented a starting 5 as there is in this league. Baron Davis dropped the extra weight he was carrying last season and looks like he's going to be the old dominate Baron of old. Eric Gordon showed he was a tremendous find for the Clippers in the lottery last season, as this 2 guard can really shoot the ball, as well as put it on the deck and go to the rim. Free agent acquisition Rasual Butler has pushed aside Al Thornton as their small forward, and he will stretch the court with his long range shooting. Butler is also an active defender with good athleticisim. Up front they will feature Marcus Camby, Chris Kaman, Deandre Jordan, and rookie Blake Griffin. Camby is a defensive player of the year candidate, year in and year out, and all that stops him is his health. Kaman is very good big man, with skills around the hoop to score the ball, and the ability to block shots as well. Jordan is more of a project, who is starting to fill out. He looks visibly stronger and much surer of himself this season. He is a great insurance policy for Camby. #1 overall pick Griffin will be out the first 6 weeks, but he is going to establish himself as a star in the making as soon as he steps on the court. All of this talent is going to be a matchup nightmare night in and night out for the teams in the NBA this year. The Clippers will be much improved.