Kenny Smith exclusive analysis : PRESEASON RANKINGS - Property of Yahoo Sports -


1. Boston Celtics With three unselfish stars in Paul Pierce , Ray Allen , and Kevin Garnett , the learning curve is shorter than most. They will dominate a conference with only three contenders (the others being Detroit and Miami ).

2. Detroit Pistons They are one of the few teams that can only beat themselves. That's why they always believe it's a fluke when they lose. Experience wins, and Detroit 's veterans can still get the job done.

3. Miami Heat Shaquille O'Neal and Dwyane Wade tasted the sweet smell of success two years ago and have the tools to get back to the NBA finals. With Alonzo Mourning leaving after this season, an aging Shaq gets one last real chance at another title before he's done.

4. Cleveland Cavaliers LeBron James and the young Cavs shocked the world last season, but the surprise factor is over. They will have a big task learning to live up to expectations.

5. Chicago Bulls The young and gifted Bulls are in trouble. When Garnett came to the East and didn't land in Chicago , it slowed their progress.

6. Toronto Raptors They're a nice team, and that very well might be their problem in getting over the top. The Raptors might need someone to get a little nasty or trade for a pit bull.

7. New Jersey Nets They didn't get better, but there's too much talent on the roster not to make the playoffs.

8. Washington Wizards With Agent Zero (aka Gilbert Arenas ), the Wizards are a playoff team, but with no consistent inside scoring, the Wizards will struggle this season.

9. Orlando Magic Just not enough firepower. The Magic have a lot of very good players, but none is a 20-point man on a good team. (Sorry, Rashard Lewis .)

10. New York Knicks Scandals, poor chemistry and a bunch of round pegs trying to fit in square holes. This once storied franchise is in disarray.

11. Indiana Pacers Who's on this team again?

12. Milwaukee Bucks Without sounding redundant, there's just not enough talent. The Bucks are potential driven which leads to losses in the NBA.

13. Philadelphia 76ers They'll be searching for an answer all year! OK, OK, that was a cheap shot, but it will take a lot of practice, practice, practice! (I crack myself up.)

14. Charlotte Bobcats The Bobcats are much too inexperienced at all positions, including coach, to make noise this season. That said, they still are my sleeper East team.

15. Atlanta Hawks Dominique Wilkins, Doc Rivers and Spud Webb are rolling over in their basketball graves right now. The Hawks have become the 2008 Clippers.



1. San Antonio Spurs They really didn't add much to their team. Why? Because the foreign legion team of Tony Parker , Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan is still the best. (Yes, Duncan is from the Virgin Islands, but they're foreign to me!) Depth, youth and experience makes them the blueprint franchise.

2. Phoenix Suns I know Amare Stoudemire is out for the preseason, but that's no concern. The Suns are primed this year, and here are two things to watch for: 120 points per game (which means championship dreams) or Stoudemire, Grant Hill and Raja Bell in street clothes (that'd mean a lottery nightmare).

3. Dallas Mavericks Avery Johnson has the challenge of getting rid of the Ghost of Playoff Failures Past. The inability to defend off the dribble and to have a true post-up scorer was exposed for the world to see in the postseason. Personnel changes are in their future.

4. Utah Jazz They are for real. Carlos Boozer and Deron Williams aren't Malone and Stockton, but they're more like Malone and the new Jason Kidd . These two should take off where they left off in the playoffs.

5. Houston Rockets The Rockets' biggest problem is chemistry. The questions are as follows: Is Steve Francis healthy or is he a head case? Is Rafer Alston streetball or street? And can Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady coexist?

6. Denver Nuggets Having Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony for a full season should make Denver the most dangerous team in basketball. If basketball is the only story throughout the year, then look out.

7. Los Angeles Lakers Kobe will be well, Kobe . However, this is the year Lamar Odom plays like an All-Star all season and the Lakers take a step closer.

8. Golden State Warriors The bodyguard Baron Davis and the upstart Warriors are great for the playoffs. But without depth in a lot of areas, they're looking like the eighth-best club in the West.

9. Memphis Grizzlies They improved their team by adding Mike Conley Jr. However, the best improvement comes from just being healthy. Pau Gasol is arguably the second-best power forward in the West behind Duncan , and don't underestimate Damon Stoudamire 's value.

10. New Orleans Hornets CP3 (aka Chris Paul ) needs three more studs to go with him. Tyson Chandler is a beast, but it ends there. The rest of the starters would be better served as being second-unit players.

11. Portland Trail Blazers No Greg Oden . No playoffs.

12. Los Angeles Clippers They're baaaaaaaack to losing, finger pointing and empty seats. With no Elton Brand or Shaun Livingston , the Clippers' future is in street clothes.

13. Sacramento Kings New coach Reggie Theus has inherited a glimpse of the Sacramento glory days. The Kings will be in dismantling mode by the All-Star break.

14. Minnesota Timberwolves The words that will become common place are "youthful," "patience" and "next year."

15. Seattle SuperSonics Too young for success. Kevin Durant will be fun to watch, but it will be difficult to find more than 25 wins.

Kenny Smith played 10 seasons in the NBA, winning back-to-back championships with the Houston Rockets in 1994 and 1995. He also works as analyst for TNT's "Inside the NBA" and on New York Knicks broadcasts, and hosts "Full Court Press" on Sirius Satellite Radio.

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