The NBA season tips off next week with all eyes on LeBron James and Miami as they chase a "Heat three-peat".
Over the next six days, division by division, Paul Suttor and Paul Zalunardo will preview how each team is lining up for season 2013-14, starting out west.
In the Pacific division, the Lakers look set to miss the playoffs for the first time since they went 34-48 in 2004-05 and it looks to be a two-horse race between LA's "other team", the Clippers and Andrew Bogut's Golden State Warriors.
The Pacific division:
LA Clippers (56-26)
They were all set to finally make a dent in the playoffs last season but were bounced in the first round 4-2 by Memphis. Coach Vinnie del Negro got the punt and veteran centre Lamar Odom went AWOL following his much-publicised bust-up with Khloe Kardashian. Championship-winning Boston coach Doc Rivers was eventually freed from his Celtics deal to convince point guard Chris Paul to stay at the Clippers. Bench spark plug Eric Bledsoe has left for a starting role Phoenix but the signings of Dallas guard Darren Collison and Milwaukee shooter JJ Redick make up for his loss. Put simply, there can be no more excuses for the Clippers and they should at least make the second round of the playoffs.
Will make it out of the first round but unlikely to go further
Gains: Reggie Bullock (rookie), Darren Collison (Dallas), Brandon Davies (rookie), Jared Dudley (Phoenix), Antawn Jamison(LA Lakers), Byron Mullens (Charlotte), JJ Redick (Milwaukee).
Losses: Chauncey Billups (Detroit) , Ronny Turiaf (Minnesota), Eric Bledsoe (Phoenix), Caron Butler (Milwaukee), Grant Hill (retired), Lamar Odom, DaJuan Summers.
Golden State (46-35)
Andrew Bogut is healthy, Steph Curry arguably had the biggest breakout season in the NBA last year and the Warriors made a shrewd acquisition by signing Denver swingman Andre Iguodala. This is a team on the rise which will probably make it all the way to the Western Conference finals for the first time in franchise history since the 1975 championship team. Bogut gives them a rim protector, Iguodala will fill any role coach Mark Jackson needs while Curry, along with Klay Thompson and David Lee, who was a non-factor at the end of last season due to injury, will pile up plenty of points.
Western Conference finals await
Gains: Seth Curry (rookie), Dewayne Dedmon (rookie), Toney Douglas (Sacramento), Andre Iguodala (Denver), Ognjen Kuzmic (rookie), Nemanja Nedovic (rookie), Jermaine O'Neal (Phoenix), Marreese Speights (Cleveland).
Losses: Andris Biedrins (Utah), Brandon Rush (Utah), Jarrett Jack (Cleveland), Richard Jefferson (Utah), Carl Landry (Sacramento), Dwayne Jones, Scott Machado.
LA Lakers (45-37)
Kobe Bryant wants to defy Father Time and modern medicine by making an early return from his torn Achilles tendon but seriously, he shouldn't rush. This Lakers team isn't going to get him his cherished sixth championship ring. This Lakers team won't make the playoffs let alone the finals. Dwight Howard's decision to do what no marquee player has done before and turn his back on the Lakers in his prime will ensure coach Mike D'Antoni will be lucky to survive the season. New recruits Nick Young and Chris Kaman are not going to restore the Lakers to anything near where their fans expect them to be.
A long season ahead in La-La Land
Gains: Elias Harris (rookie), Xavier Henry (New Orleans), Wesley Johnson (Phoenix), Chris Kaman (Dallas), Ryan Kelly (rookie), Nick Young (Philadelphia), Marcus Landry, Shawne Williams, Jordan Farmar.
Losses: Earl Clark (Cleveland), Dwight Howard (Houston), Antawn Jamison (LA Clippers), Darius Morris (Philadelphia), Metta World Peace (New York), Chris Duhon, Devin Ebanks, Andrew Goudelock.
There's not much happening in Arizona these days. Kudos to the front office for tearing up Michael Beasley's contract for repeated off-court dramas and being up front about it. Some teams at the bottom end of the food chain would have made excuses for the former No.2 draft pick because of his immense talent but his potential to produce wins on the court was being overshadowed by his propensity to produce headlines which led him to court. Eric Bledsoe was great off the bench for the Clippers and he doesn't have a lot of help around him as he tries to establish himself as a starting guard at Phoenix.
One of the certainties to have a high pick in next year's draft
Gains: Eric Bledsoe (LA Clippers), Dionte Christmas (rookie), Archie Goodwin (rookie), Gerald Green (Indiana), Vyacheslav Kravtsov (Detroit), Malcolm Lee (Minnesota), Alex Len (rookie), Miles Plumlee (Indiana), Ish Smith (Milwaukee).
Losses: Michael Beasley (Miami), Jared Dudley (LA Clippers), Wesley Johnson (LA Lakers), Jermaine O'Neal (Golden State), Luis Scola (Indiana).
Try as they might, the Kings can't shed the under-achievers tag. They re-signed erratic big man DeMarcus Cousins in the off season and even have a new co-owner, Shaquille O'Neal, who may get the best out of their starting centre. Cousins has All Star talent but has one of the worst reputations for erratic play in the league. Greivis Vasquez, one of the NBA's most improved players last season at New Orleans, is a handy pick-up while rookie shooting guard Ben McLemore was a college star at Kansas and the Kings were lucky he was still on the draft board when they used their No.7 pick.
Probably better than last season but playoffs unlikely
Gains: Carl Landry (Golden State), Trent Lockett (rookie), Luc Mbah a Moute (Milwaukee), Ray McCallum (rookie), Ben McLemore (rookie), Greivis Vásquez (New Orleans).
Losses: Toney Douglas (Golden State), Tyreke Evans (New Orleans), Cole Aldrich, James Johnson.