Go-to-guy: Tim Duncan is 39, Manu Ginobili is 38 and Tony Parker looks a step slow for 33. Enter the biggest free agent of the offseason, LaMarcus Aldridge. Aldridge is one of the top power forwards in the game and he and Kawhi Leonard are the future in San Antonio. We'll call Aldridge the GTG as he's more offensively skilled.
Player with upside: Leonard’s potential isn’t maxed out. After winning Finals MVP in 2013-14, he followed up with his best season yet averaging 16.5 and 7.2 and being named Defensive Player of the Year.
Best case scenario: Popovich is able to integrate Aldridge into the offense seamlessly and the trio of Duncan/Parker/Ginobili continues to defy time propelling the Spurs to the top-seed in the West. They fend off the gauntlet on their way to yet another championship for Pop and the Aged Big Three.
Worst case scenario: Duncan’s knees give in, Parker is too slow to score and Leonard takes a step in the wrong direction now that he’s secured a huge contract. Then Aldridge is left with a worse supporting cast than he would’ve had this year in Portland. The Spurs still find a way to make the playoffs but are ousted by the resurgent Thunder.
Go-to-guy: James Tiberius Harden has the keys to the offense in H-Town. As long as he’s there, Harden will be “The Guy.” Looking back on 2014-15, his numbers were off the charts. 27.4 points per game to go with 7.0 assists nearly garnered MVP honors.
Player with upside: While he may still be a season away from getting serious minutes, the Rockets have a promising young center in Clint Capela. The rookie shined when given a chance toward the end of the regular season, albeit in limited minutes, and then he provided a boost off the bench in the playoffs as well.
Best case scenario: Don’t mess with a good thing. That’s the Rockets’ motto as they cruise to 60 wins and earn the No. 1 spot in the West. Harden wins MVP and Dwight Howard is the Defensive Player of the Year. Ty Lawson provides a tertiary scoring punch in the playoffs as Houston avenges last year’s series against Golden State and in the NBA Finals, Patrick Beverley collides with Kryie Irving and the Rockets take down LeBron and Cavs.
Worst case scenario: Howard continues to regress into a non-threat on offense and Beverley accidentally injures James Harden in practice so Houston turns into the Nuggets from few years – a middling team in the West that barely makes or barely misses the playoffs.
Go-to-guy: Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph are the guys who will get it done in Memphis. Mike Conley is the X-factor, but the bigs have Grade A chemistry. Both are tough to defend because of their size, both can shoot from mid-range.
Player with upside: Will we ever see Jeff Green turn the corner and force his way into the starting lineup? Green has the same size and skills of a Paul George, there just doesn’t seem to be the same aggression or drive.
Best case scenario: The Grizzlies’ Big Three of Gasol/Randolph/Conley leads them through the rugged West and secures the four-seed. Tony Allen locks down Steph Curry or Klay Thompson as Team Grit ‘n Grind gets to the Finals but comes up just short of a championship.
Worst case scenario: A couple injuries to Randolph and Allen early in the season sends the Grizzlies reeling. Every game is a struggle in the West and Memphis barely makes the playoffs as the last team in. There they are picked apart by the healthier Warriors and bow out in the first round.
Go-to-guy: Anthony Davis has made people forget about his unibrow. That’s how talented he is. Seriously, Davis has revolutionary skills for his size and he just keeps getting better. He’s never played more than 68 games in the regular season but that’s about as much of a knock as you’ll find on the 22-year-old.
Player with upside: If he can stay healthy, for once, Eric Gordon could be a great complement to Davis. He’s still entering his prime at 26 and shot a career-best 45-percent from three last year.
Best case scenario: The entire team stays relatively healthy and Davis carries them to the sixth seed in the West. Once in the playoffs the young Pelicans shock the NBA world by winning a pair of playoff series to reach the Western Finals where their run finally comes to an end.
Worst case scenario: The entire season hinges on Davis. If something happens to cause him to miss a large chunk of games, New Orleans could completely tank.
Go-to-player: Dirk Nowitzki might be 37 but he can still shoot the lights out. It’s incredible that he’s played 80 and 77 games the past two regular seasons and still produced.
Player with upside: Dallas may have struck gold when they drafted Justin Anderson. Anderson is a versatile wing with a nice combination of shooting and athleticism.
Best case scenario: Deron Williams shows signs of his old self and Dallas’ roster full of good-not-great players allows the Mavs to sneak up to the sixth spot in the loaded West. They’ve got the moxie and the coaching to upset a Houston or a San Antonio but probably still can’t get to the conference finals.
Worst case scenario: Nowitzki’s shooting drops off and he’s such a liability on defense that the Mavs give up 110 points per game. Williams sulks as the team keeps losing and Dallas misses the playoffs but also misses out on good lottery odds. Stuck in mediocrity for the foreseeable future.