2. Los Angeles Clippers
Last season: 40-26, lost in conference semifinals.
Coach: Vinny Del Negro.
Starting five: Chris Paul, Jamal Crawford, Caron Butler, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan.
Outlook: Bizarre to say that a second-round elimination was a disappointment for the Clippers, but it was. With Paul healthy after a full training camp, Los Angeles should compete for the second or third seed . Griffin has to develop more of a face-up game and Jordan has to stay out of foul trouble. But this team is deep.
3. Golden State Warriors
Last season: 23-43, missed playoffs. Coach: Mark Jackson
Starting five: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, David Lee, Andrew Bogut.
Outlook: No more excuses for the Warriors. If they are healthy, they have a shot at the fifth or sixth seed. Thompson could be a future star while, and while Barnes may not have been the sexiest pick, he was the right one. It all depends on whether Curry and Bogut (ankles) hold up for an entire season. The Warriors should be a factor.
4. Phoenix Suns
Last season: 33-33, missed playoffs. Coach: Alvin Gentry.
Starting five: Goran Dragic, Jared Dudley, Michael Beasley, Luis Scola, Marcin Gortat.
Outlook: Not sure what direction the Suns are headed. They acquired the aging Scola and the mercurial Beasley to begin the post-Nash era. There are so many new players and question marks, you wonder what type of expectations management has. Gentry is a solid coach and an up-tempo style should win some games, but playoffs are far away.
5. Sacramento Kings
Last season: 22-44, missed playoffs. Coach: Keith Smart.
Starting five: Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Thornton, Tyreke Evans, Jason Thompson, DeMarcus Cousins.
Outlook: It’s likely back to the lottery for the Kings, who are playing in the league’s worst arena and are unsure how long they will remain in Sacramento. But the intriguing part is the young talent: Cousins is a potential All-Star and rookie Thomas Robinson a rugged addition. Evans has to produce this season after two disappointing ones.