NBA preview

Eastern Conference

A highly active off season for the East widened the gap between the contenders and bottom feeders. The Boston Celtics will look to regain their championship calibre form with a healthy Kevin Garnett and the additions of smooth shooting big man Rasheed Wallace and versatile guard Marquis Daniels.

The Cleveland Cavaliers cruised through last season with a league high 66 wins, but fell victim to the efforts of the Orlando Magic and Dwight Howard in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Cavaliers addressed that issue by signing an aging Shaquille O’Neal to battle Howard and patrol the paint. Former Toronto Raptors Jamario Moon and Anthony Parker also deepen the bench for the Cavs while providing them with much needed length on the wing.

The Magic also faced an overhaul of their roster with the addition of Vince Carter and the loss of Hedo Turkoglu and Courtney Lee. Carter joins Orlando after a so-so run in New Jersey; it remains to be seen whether or not he will be able to patch up the hole left by Lee and Turkoglu. The subtraction of Lee could prove to be a significant loss, as the young defensive specialist gave the Magic a huge boost in last season’s playoffs.

The Toronto Raptors conducted the busiest off season in the league, bringing in nine new faces and inking developing big man Andrea Bargnani to a five year, $50 million dollar contract. The most publicized addition was that of offensive-minded swingman Hedo Turkoglu, who signed a five year, $56 million dollar contract. But another important addition was that of rebounding and defensive expert Reggie Evans.

Last year’s Raptors were among the worst in the League in rebounding; Evans will provide them with their most active rebounding specialist since the days of the Junkyard Dog, Jerome Williams.

If the Raptors can blend their offence and heavily improve upon their defence and rebounding, they should be able to make some noise in the playoffs.

Western Conference

The defending champions, the Los Angeles Lakers, beefed up their roster with the addition of the volatile Ron Artest, at the cost of losing the emerging Trevor Ariza. If Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson can work together to get the most out of Artest, there is no reason why the Lakers can’t repeat as champions.

Having arguably the best off season in the league, the San Antonio Spurs will hope to capture their fourth championship of the decade. The Spurs were able to pry athletic swingman Richard Jefferson from the Milwaukee Bucks, giving them a slashing and scoring presence on the wing. San Antonio also signed hardworking veterans Theo Ratliff and Antonio McDyess to back up senior citizen Tim Duncan. Perhaps the best move of all was drafting big man DeJaun Blair from the University of Pittsburgh, with the 37 pick in the NBA draft.

Another team to watch for will be the Portland Trailblazers. The addition of proven point guard Andre Miller will give the Blazers one of the best backcourts in the league, as Miller will run the offence alongside all-star Brandon Roy. The only question mark that remains is the development of 2007 number one draft pick Greg Oden. If the former Ohio State standout can live up to his potential and blossom into one of the better young centres in the league, the Blazers could surprise come playoff time.