- Atlantic division: Sixers primed to knock Celtics over
- South-West division: Mills facing a battle for court time with Spurs
- Central divison: Bulls on parade towards playoffs
- Pacific division: Lakes reload to take shot at Heat
- Southeast division: Heat is on
Oklahoma City Thunder were on the verge of their first NBA title last season, leading 1-0 over Miami in the finals but fell in a heap, losing the next four matches.
Denver are the next-best threats in the North-West Division with the Nuggets acquiring Team USA swingman Andre Iguodala in the off-season without giving up much in return.
In the second instalment in the division by division preview of the NBA for season 2012-13, Paul Suttor and Paul Zalunardo examine how the five teams in the South-West Division are shaping up.
Denver Nuggets: Tagging in late into the Dwight Howard trade could prove a mixed blessing. Team USA swingman Andre Iguodala will bring a more than solid all-round game from Philadelphia to Denver but the jury is still out on whether he will develop into a franchise star capable of leading a team deep into the post-season. Point guard Ty Lawson and Danillo Galinari give coach George Karl added potency and they should figure in the play-offs again.
Last season: 38-28 (1st round playoffs)
Gains: G Evan Fournier (draft), F Quincy Miller (draft), C Izzet Turkylimas (draft), F Anthony Randolph (Timberwolves), G Andre Iguodala (76ers). Losses: F Rudy Fernandez (Real Madrid), F Chris Andersen (amnestied), G Arron Afflalo (Magic), F Al Harrington (Magic).
Minnesota Timberwolves: If Spanish guard Ricky Rubio didn't go down with a serious knee injury last season, Minnesota may have tasted play-off action. He is not set to return until December, which means Team USA power forward Kevin Love will have to shoulder the load. Love is the sweetest shooting three-point marksman in the NBA, a great rebounder and an all-round leader but he will also miss the first few weeks of the season due to a hand injury. The West is too strong to allow this Timberwolves outfit to qualify for the big games this season. Perhaps next year.
Last season: 26-40
Gains: G Brandon Roy (Trail Blazers), F Chase Budinger (Timberwolves), G Alexey Shved (CSKA Moscow), F Dante Cunningham (Grizzlies), F Andrei Kirilenko (CSKA Moscow), F Greg Stiemsma (Celtics). Losses: C Brad Miller (waived), C Darko Milicic (amnestied), F Martell Webster (waived), F Anthony Randolph (Nuggets), F Michael Beasley (Suns), G Wesley Johnson (Suns).
Oklahoma City Thunder: The young stars of the NBA were ready to take the next step. They had swept the Mavericks, eliminated the Lakers, won four straight after being 2-0 down against the Spurs. The past three Western Conference kings were roadkill and after winning game one of the finals against Miami, the trophy looked a fait accompli. But the Thunder didn't win another game and all of a sudden, those questions about the chemistry between Kevin Durant, James Harden and, in particular, Russell Westbrook came bubbling back to the surface. The talent is there. It is undeniable. This is the most talented roster in the NBA with young legs driving opponents crazy. But questions remain over the Thunder's mental readiness to dominate more experienced sides at the pointy end of the season.
Last season: 47-19 (Runners-up)
Gains: C Hasheem Thabeet (Trail Blazers), F Perry Jones III (draft), C Daniel Orton (Magic). Losses: C Nazr Mohammed (Bulls), G Royal Ivey (76ers).
Portland Trail Blazers: You've got to feel sorry for the Blazers. Just when they thought everyone had forgotten about their draft day disaster in 1984 (nobody ever will) when they took Sam Bowie ahead of Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley and John Stockton, they then have to deal with the Greg Oden bust. The 2007 No.1 draft pick, chosen by the Blazers ahead of Kevin Durant and Al Horford, has officially been waived after a succession of knee operations. Sadly, Oden remains without a team and may never play in the NBA again after 82 games – the equivalent of one season – over four years. Draft picks Damian Lillard and Meyers Leonard are the key to Portland's future – the Blazers hope they'll be a bit luckier with their selections this time around.
Last season: 28-38
Gains: G Damian Lillard (draft), C Meyers Leonard (draft), G Will Barton (draft), F Joel Freeland (Unicaja Malaga), F Victor Claver (Valencia), F Jared Jeffries (Knicks), C Dan Gadzuric (Knicks), G Ronnie Price (Suns), F Sasha Pavlovic (Celtics). Losses: G Brandon Roy (Timberwolves), G Jamal Crawford (Clippers), C Hasheem Thabeet (Thunder), F Shawne Williams (waived), C Joel Przybilla (Bucks).
Utah Jazz: The signings of Clippers guards Mo Williams and Randy Foye gives the Jazz plenty of speed in the back court but it is doubtful whether it gives them the necessary oomph to compete with the elite teams in the West. Hawks forward Marvin Williams is another solid contributor but with several teams below them from last season improving their rosters during the break, Utah are under pressure to remain in the play-off equation.
Last season: 36-30 (1st round playoffs)
Gains: G Kevin Murphy (draft), F Marvin Williams (Hawks), G Mo Williams (Clippers), G Randy Foye (Clippers). Losses: G Devin Harris (Hawks), G Raja Bell (waived), F CJ Miles (Cavaliers).