This season has been so unpredictable, but I'm going to go out on a limb anyway.
Playoffs: Boston, Detroit, Orlando, Cleveland, Toronto, Washington, Philadelphia, New Jersey
Barely missing: Atlanta, Chicago
Bottom five: Charlotte, Indiana, Miami, Milwaukee, New York
8. New Jersey
Devin Harris, Vince Carter, Richard Jefferson, Sean Williams, DeSagna Diop, Stromile Swift and company wind up being a fairly decent team, and they actually make some of these games competitive. But KG, Ray and Pierce are men on a mission.
Winner: Boston in 5
This is up in the air, as we need to see how the chemistry will be in LeBron-land with the new additions, but since LeBron is the best player in the East, I'm sure he can put them on his back in the playoffs. I think Ben Wallace will play with renewed motivation, on his healthy days Wally will be a good floor-spreading outside threat, and Delonte West will fit right in. Joe Smith may not be as good as Drew Gooden but his maturity makes up for it. Salary-cap wise, Cleveland may not be too happy next year, but for now, they've loaded up to go deep back into the playoffs.
Meanwhile, while the Raptors keep improving, I still don't see them strong enough to get past the first round. Another year of experience, and they eke that much closer.
Winner: Cleveland in 5
The playoff experience will be invaluable to Andre Iguodala. But...
Winner: Detroit in 4
This could be a tight one. I'm guessing Caron Butler's return has an immediate positive impact on the Wizards and that Agent Zero makes it back as well. So Orlando will have its hands full. They still don't have that star point guard. Jameer Nelson's good, but not a point guard of an elite playoff team.
Winner: Orlando in 7
Boston beats Cleveland in 6
Detroit beats Orlando in 5
Playoffs: LA Lakers, New Orleans, Utah, San Antonio, Phoenix, Dallas, Houston, Golden State
Barely missing: Denver, Portland
Bottom five: LA Clippers, Memphis, Minnesota, Sacramento, Seattle
1. LA Lakers
8. Golden State
Either Golden State or Denver will miss the playoffs, and my hunch is by one game, at 50-32 to Denver's 49-33, Golden State will squeak in. And the 8th seed will not pull off the upset they did last year. Kobe Bryant will win the regular season MVP and he will not fold like Dirk. Bynum will be back and healthy.
Winner: LA Lakers in 4
4. San Antonio
I think the Spurs will steadily keep winning 3 out of 4 while the Suns are going to stumble a couple of games with Shaq in there. This will be an intense playoff series. Phoenix will boo Robert Horry any time he's allowed on the floor. Ginobili will give Phoenix fits. This will feel like the Conference Finals.
Winner: San Antonio in 6
2. New Orleans
I think this is where experience will matter. Houston's seen the first round before, but not New Orleans, plus the Hornets have shown home-court isn't that much of an advantage for them. Each team has mismatches they can exploit, but I think this will be the year T-Mac finally gets the monkey off his back.
Winner: Houston in 7
Another intense first-round match-up. I see Utah finishing third because they've won 20 of their last 23 games (assuming they beat the Clippers tonight). The key here is that Dallas got smaller and slower with Jason Kidd. Kidd's still good, Kidd's still a winner, but Deron Williams is quicker and a better shooter. Dirk will play outside more, leaving who to guard Boozer? And what does Dallas do if Dampier gets in foul trouble?
Winner: Utah in 6
LA Lakers beat San Antonio in 6
Utah beats Houston in 6
I think as long as San Antonio and Detroit aren't in the NBA Finals, the NBA head office will be happy. Lakers vs. Celtics is their dream, and it's looking like the most likely scenario.