NBA long-range forecast

The outlook for the 2010-11 season will have plenty of intrigue to keep fans tuned in for further updates. John Rohde breaks down the forecast, including the Miami Heat wave and the Lakers' chances at another three-peat.
BY JOHN ROHDE Published: October 24, 2010
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NORTHWEST DIVISION FORECAST

1. Thunder (52-30): One year better, one year wiser and three steps higher in the division standings.

2. Utah (50-32): As long as coach Jerry Sloan is calling the shots, this team can never be ignored.

3. Portland (48-34): Blazers have front-office turmoil, a disgruntled Rudy Fernandez and an enigmatic Greg Oden.

4. Denver (44-38): A ticking time bomb with a complete cast of characters. When is the explosion?

5. Minnesota (28-54): A flurry of offseason moves, but still a long way from moving out of the cellar.

NOR'EASTER: A LOOK AT THE NORTHEASTERN NBA TEAMS

A nor'easter is brewing, but it won't hit until next season at the earliest.

Boston once again is well-stocked and ready for the Atlantic Division storm with at least four Hall-of-Famers on its squad. The Celtics retained Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen and acquired free agents Shaquille O'Neal and Jermaine O'Neal to become an even more intriguing mix of old (five players age 32 and older) and young (seven players 25 and younger).

New York, which finished 21 games behind the Celtics last season, would at least like to rejoin the conversation, and the acquisition of free agent Amar'e Stoudemire certainly has people talking. So does a potential future with Carmelo Anthony, but that could be nothing but talk.

Toronto took a leap toward the basement with the departures of Chris Bosh, Hedo Turkoglu and a potentially decent Marco Belinelli.

Philadelphia brought in Doug Collins as coach, but he's got little to work with. His days as a Philly player were far more impressive.

New Jersey has an open checkbook with Russian ownership and the Nets might someday buy their way into contention, but not yet.

Look for the Celtics to win the Atlantic by at least 10 games.

LAKER LEVELS

The Los Angeles Lakers are looking for another three-peat under coach Phil Jackson, so here are three things they must conquer to get said three-peat:

1. Stay healthy: Kobe Bryant had (at least) his third surgery on his right knee and was only 60 percent at the outset of training camp. Amazingly, the 32-year-old Bryant is entering his 15th NBA season, having played 1,021 games and 37,366 minutes. Center Andrew Bynum chose to attend the World Cup rather than have his knee surgery immediately after last season, delaying the process several weeks. Bynum has since said there's a chance he might not be ready to play until December.

2. Stay focused: Let's be honest, who knows what Ron Artest is thinking from one minute to the next, and the Lakers won't three-peat if Artest doesn't show. Kobe is the king of focus, but truthfully it depends on the circumstances. Lamar Odom is married to a Kardashian, which is playing with fire, even in Hollywood. That's 60 percent of your starting lineup.

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