Go-to guy: Even though Goran Dragic might be the best player in South Beach, Dwyane Wade is still the Godfather. With the game on the line, D-Wade still gets the shot.
Player with upside: Center Hassan Whiteside came on to the scene in a big way last season. Expect more of that this year, as the late bloomer from Marshall continues to blossom into one of the best bigs in the East.
Best case: Wade, Whiteside, Dragic, Chris Bosh, Luol Deng, Josh McRoberts and Gerald Green all stay healthy, and rookie Justise Winslow has a good season. Miami exacts revenge on LeBron and takes down Cleveland in the Eastern Finals.
Go-to guy: John Wall is the obvious choice. Wall is one of the NBA’s premier guards and seems to have what it takes to lead a team deep into the postseason.
Player with upside: Otto Porter was the No. 3 pick in the draft just a couple of years ago, but has gone mostly unnoticed. Porter missed an enormous amount of time with an injury, but started to look really good at times last season.
Best case: Wall and Brad Beal each take another step, Porter turns into a Harrison Barnes-like two-way player, Washington beats Cleveland in an epic Eastern Finals, then loses a hard-fought series in the Finals. Kevin Durant decides to join the squad and they win the next three titles.
Worst case: Washington flames out in the opening round of the playoffs, and Durant announces that he would have come to the Wizards had they proven themselves a little more in the postseason.
Go-to guy: Jeff Teague just makes it happen. Teague can score from anywhere and isn’t afraid of the moment. Atlanta often goes how Teague goes.
Player with upside: Walter Tavares, a 7-foot-3 center has a lot of potential. At just 23, there’s a lot of time for Tavares to blossom, especially for a team that doesn’t need him quite yet.
Best case: Atlanta shows that last season wasn’t a fluke and seizes the East’s No. 1 seed yet again. The Hawks get a rematch with the Cavs, but this time, Cleveland’s roster is decimated by injuries and ATL sneaks into the NBA Finals before getting swept by a varsity team.
Worst case: Carroll’s loss is way too much to overcome. The flash-in-the-pan Hawks can’t live up to the hype now that the target is on their back, and they slip all the way to the East’s six seed.
Go-to guy: Al Jefferson is Charlotte’s most gifted player, but with the game on the line, the Hornets go to Kemba Walker. Walker is a terrific scorer who embraces taking the big shot.
Player with upside: Frank Kaminsky, the rookie from Wisconsin, has a very unique set of skills. Frank has excellent footwork around the basket and can step out and drain 3s. The young man has All Star potential.
Best case: Nic Batum helps make up for the loss of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, P.J. Hairston and Kaminsky both emerge, and Cody Zeller finds his niche. The Hornets win 46 games and take the No. 7 spot in the East.
Worst case: Charlotte never overcomes the loss of MKG and can’t defend effectively. Jefferson has more injury issues, while Hairston has more issues off the court. The Hornets miss the playoffs for the second straight season.
Go-to guy: Nik Vucevic has been Orlando’s best player for a while now, but it’s time for Victor Oladipo to take over. The former Hoosier has the skills on both ends to become the face of the Magic.
Player with upside: First-round pick Mario Hezonja can flat-out score. At just 20-years-old, he could become the Magic’s best player one day.
Best case: Orlando’s young core takes the next step and the Magic surge into the No. 8 playoff spot. Hezonja shows signs of becoming a franchise player.
Worst case: Hezonja plays softly, Oladipo and Elfrid Payton can’t improve their offense, and the Magic head right back into the tank.