But New Orleans is the hunted now and has added forward James Posey, a two-time champion, to aid Paul in his championship quest. The Hornets’ core of David West, Tyson Chandler and Peja Stojakovic return as well.
Paul leads his Hornets into the Ford Center on Nov. 21 and Feb. 17.
4. LeBron James and the Cavaliers
Does LeBron James finally have enough help in Cleveland to win it all?
The knock on the Cavs has been their inability to surround James with the talent he needs to win a championship. But Cleveland now has championship expectations after acquiring Mo Williams in a three-team, six-player trade that included Milwaukee and Oklahoma City in August.
James and Williams are joined by a talented group of role players in Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Ben Wallace, Daniel Gibson, Anderson Varejao, Delonte West, Wally Szczerbiak and rookie forwards Darnell Jackson and J.J. Hickson.
Cleveland must reach championship status soon because the clock is ticking on the countdown to 2010, when James is eligible for free agency and many are thinking he’s headed for New York. It’ll be worth watching how the Cavs continue catering to James this season and into next year.
James and the Cavs make their lone Ford Center appearance on Dec. 21.
5. Kevin Pritchard: Basketball genius?
The former Tulsa Edison standout turned Portland Trail Blazers general manager looks to be building something special in the Great Northwest. Pritchard has amassed a heap of young talent and now has the Blazers poised to become the NBA’s next big thing.
With Greg Oden set to make his debut Tuesday after missing 2007-08 with a knee injury, the Blazers could be a 50-win team in the Western Conference after last year’s 41-41 finish.
Oden will join a roster that includes 2007 Rookie of the Year Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge Travis Outlaw, Martell Webster and rookie guards Jerryd Bayless, Nicolas Batum and Rudy Fernandez. Oklahoma will get two chances to see what Pritchard has put together. The Blazers come to town Feb. 6 and April 3.