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Friday, August 29, 2008
Updated: September 11, 3:11 PM ET
Summer Forecast: Which way is the West going?

• 2008-09 offseason predictions: East | West | Awards | Conf. champs | NBA champs

In the NBA, summer is the season for optimism. New draft picks, big trades, new coaches, new hope. New and improved. That's how almost every team appears through the rose-tinted sunglasses of summer.

But if you like a dose of realism with your optimism, we're here to help.

We asked 25 of our writers, editors and contributors for their take on the upcoming season, team by team.

Here is the collective wisdom of our committee:

Los Angeles Lakers
55 27 .671 57 25 .695
Kobe, Pau and Phil should build on their half-year of history and keep L.A. atop the West, especially if Andrew Bynum is healthy. Now they need to get tough and gritty enough to win it all, and that includes the Bench Mob of Jordan, Sasha, Vlad, Luke and Mihm ... but no more Ronny. | Offseason Moves

New Orleans Hornets
54 28 .659 56 26 .683
Chris Paul's breakout season ended with him ahead of LeBron James and just behind Kobe Bryant in the MVP race. Even if CP3 can't make another quantum leap, the optimists in New Orleans hope that James Posey brought his championship moxie from Miami and Boston with him. | Offseason Moves

Houston Rockets
53 29 .646 55 27 .671
Tracy McGrady, Yao Ming and the Rockets should finally make it out of the first round. But along the way, expect Ron Artest to create some chemistry challenges on the offensive end. Fortunately, he'll make up for it on defense, which is where Houston will really shine once again. | Offseason Moves

Utah Jazz
51 31 .622 54 28 .659
The Jazz faithful might not like this forecast, but the team's meek exit from the conference semifinals left a bad taste and the Jazz did very little to improve in the offseason. But with a young roster this strong, led by Olympians D-Will and Booz, maybe they didn't need to do much. | Offseason Moves

San Antonio Spurs
51 31 .622 56 26 .683

Fill in the blank: 2003, '05, '07, __. If you said '09, you're probably wrong, because that's the year we should be putting the Spurs "odd-year champions" pattern to rest -- or at least that's how it looked at the end of last season, as the aging Spurs limped out of the West finals. | Offseason Moves

Phoenix Suns
47 35 .573 55 27 .671
The Suns slumped when Shaq arrived, then got hot, then flamed out. So who are the real Suns? With the noisy exit of Mike D'Antoni and the quiet arrival of Terry Porter, the hope in Phoenix is that Nash and Amare can keep their offensive mojo working while defense is added to the mix. | Offseason Moves

Dallas Mavericks
45 37 .549 51 31 .622
Jason Kidd arrived with a thud and he'll be 36 in March. But the glass-half-full view in Cuban Country is Dirk, Josh and J-Kidd have plenty left, new coach Rick Carlisle will be a tonic for their damaged psyches, and the Mavs are just 26 months removed from a spectacular run to the Finals. | Offseason Moves

Portland Trail Blazers
44 38 .537 41 41 .500
Oden, Oden, Oden. That's the story in Portland, where the rookie big man is working out to rave reviews after his microfracture recovery. With Brandon Roy leading a young, exciting team and Jerryd Bayless setting the summer league afire, expectations are through the roof in Blazerland. | Offseason Moves

Golden State Warriors
39 43 .476 48 34 .585
Corey Maggette will add scoring for the run-and-gun Warriors, but how will they replace point man Baron Davis, who took his act to the Clippers? Couple the loss of B-Diddy with the recent injury to Monta Ellis, and things aren't looking so hot for Don Nelson's bunch -- this season, at least. | Offseason Moves

Denver Nuggets
39 43 .476 50 32 .610
The giveaway of Marcus Camby made it official: Denver is rebuilding. The loss of their backstop also raises a question: How many points per game will the Nuggets allow? Still, they'll get theirs, with A.I., Melo and J.R. free to fire, creating the best pickup games in the NBA. | Offseason Moves

Los Angeles Clippers
35 47 .427 23 59 .280
The '09 Clip Show has a new cast of characters ... and we do mean characters. Boom Dizzle and The Cambyman are joined by Ricky D and J-Will plus rooks Gordon and Jordan. This is going to be really fun or a complete disaster. The movie "Semi-Pro" comes to mind. | Offseason Moves

Sacramento Kings
34 48 .415 38 44 .463
Ron Artest is gone, and this is Kevin Martin's team now. His uncanny talent for high-efficiency scoring will be enough on some nights, but to really make noise the Kings need extraordinary contributions from ordinary players like Udrih, Salmons, Garcia, Moore and Miller. Good luck. | Offseason Moves

Minn. Timberwolves
26 56 .317 22 60 .268
Minnesota has a different look this season -- and they got new uniforms, too. By acquiring sharpshooter Mike Miller and rookie big man Kevin Love for draftee O.J. Mayo, the Wolves have put some nice new pieces around Al Jefferson. But the improvement will be incremental at best. | Offseason Moves

Memphis Grizzlies
23 59 .280 22 60 .268
O.J. Mayo is one of the early-season favorites for ROY, and he'll team with Rudy Gay and Mike Conley to form an exciting young nucleus in Memphis, which has plenty of '09 cap room. But while the future might be bright, this looks like another season in the basement for the Grizzlies. | Offseason Moves

Oklahoma City
23 59 .280 20 62 .244
Season 1 will be one long, thunderous pep rally for Oklahoma's new team -- even if OKC appears to be the NBA's worst team, nothing can dampen the local optimism. What would stoke that fervor further would be measurable growth by Kevin Durant, Jeff Green and Russell Westbrook. | Offseason Moves

* - The Jazz finished slightly ahead of the Spurs in our average prediction.
* - The Warriors finished slightly ahead of the Nuggets in our average prediction.
* - The Grizzlies finished slightly ahead of OKC in our average prediction.

Predicted standings based on the forecasts of these 25 ESPN writers, editors and contributors: Henry Abbott, J.A. Adande, Kevin Arnovitz, Jon Barry, Jordan Brenner, Maurice Brooks, Chris Broussard, Ric Bucher, Chad Ford, Jemele Hill, John Hollinger, Mark Jackson, Scoop Jackson, Tim Legler, Jackie MacMullan, Chris Palmer, Chris Ramsay, Dr. Jack Ramsay, Jalen Rose, Chris Sheridan, Marc Stein, David Thorpe, Royce Webb, Brian Windhorst and Matt Wong.