(in predicted order of finish)
1. GOLDEN STATE
2015–16 finish: 73-9
The Warriors signed Durant, and could very well threaten the NBA record for regular-season wins of 73, set by Golden State last season. Durant joins All-Stars Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. It will be considered a Titanic-like failure if all this talent doesn’t lead to a championship.
2. SAN ANTONIO
2015–16 finish: 67-15
Life after Duncan begins. Kawhi Leonard is an unquestioned top player in the league, LaMarcus Aldrige a tier below. Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili have plenty of miles on their legs and will be relied on again. And their new teammate, Gasol, at 36, will feel the heat to help make up for Duncan’s absence.
2015–16 finish: 53-29
Going: Jeff Green, Pablo Prigioni, Cole Aldrich.
The Clippers are among a small group of teams that can actually challenge Golden State “on a given night.” The Clippers’ veteran core returns healthy — Blake Griffin and Chris Paul were injured in last spring’s first-round playoff exit — and DeAndre Jordan looked strong during Team USA’s gold medal Olympic run.
2015–16 finish: 44-38
Coming: Festus Ezeli, Shabazz Napier, Evan Turner.
Going: Gerald Henderson.
Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum can catch fire at any time, and the Trail Blazers made solid moves to build around their talented backcourt. Ezeli’s defensive presence at center was a big part of the Warriors’ 73-win season, and Turner provides a big ballhandler who can free Lillard to play more off the ball.
2015–16 finish: 42-40
Coming: Coach David Fizdale, Chandler Parsons, Wade Baldwin IV (rookie), Troy Daniels.
It all depends on how Marc Gasol (broken foot) and Mike Conley Jr. (Achilles) recover from last season’s injuries. Free-agent addition Parsons also missed the preseason after knee surgery. Coach Fizdale has moved veteran Zach Randolph to the second unit to let him work against inferior post defenders.
6. OKLAHOMA CITY
2015–16 finish: 55-27
Russell Westbrook can say that this isn’t a big revenge season for him and the Thunder, but Durant left them for a team OKC nearly beat in the West finals last season. Westbrook welcomes Oladipo, 24, as his new backcourt mate, and the rookie Sabonis as a sound pick-and-roll option, for the retooled Thunder.
2015–16 finish: 40-42
Going: Trevor Booker, Trey Burke.
Gordon Hayward is out indefinitely with an injury to his left ring finger, but the Jazz’s initial timetable for his return was four to six weeks. Center Rudy Gobert, aptly nicknamed the “Stifle Tower,” will continue to defend the rim. Hill finally gives Utah a stable point guard, and Johnson and Diaw add experience.
2015–16 finish: 41-41
D’Antoni moved James Harden to point guard, and who knows what this offense will be capable of. It’s possible the Rockets will set the all-time record for three-point attempts in a season. With Howard gone, though, any thought of rim defense will be a dim memory.
2015–16 finish: 42-40
Going: Chandler Parsons, Zaza Pachulia, Raymond Felton, Charlie Villanueva.
The Mavericks welcome two players (Barnes and Bogut) who started for the Warriors last season. Dirk Nowitzki averaged 18.3 points last year and shows few signs that he’ll slow down in his 19th season. Barnes will be asked to be a dependable scorer for the first time in his career.
2015–16 finish: 29-53
Going: Kevin Garnett, Tayshaun Prince.
The Timberwolves’ young nucleus added Dunn and he is already considered the best point guard of this rookie class. If Dunn’s development is as speedy as his team hopes, they should see increased production from former No. 1 picks Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. The Wolves aren’t quite there, but are very close.
2015–16 finish: 33-49
Coming: Jamal Murray (rookie), Juancho Hernangomez (rookie), Malik Beasley (rookie), Nate Wolters.
Going: D.J. Augustin.
The Nuggets, against modern convention, are planning to play centers Nikola Jokic and Jusuf Nurkic together. This could work because both Jokic and Nurkic can go off the dribble and are reliable rim protectors. A more mature Emmanuel Muddiay at point guard should keep moving the team in a positive direction.
12. NEW ORLEANS
2015–16 finish: 30-52
Coming: Terrence Jones, Lance Stephenson, Buddy Hield (rookie), Solomon Hill, Langston Galloway.
Anthony Davis averaged 24.3 points and 10.3 rebounds in 61 games last season, but Alvin Gentry’s offense didn’t turn into a Davis-led juggernaut. The Pelicans were 14th in scoring last season, and off-season additions of Stephenson and Jones don’t form the supporting cast Davis needs.
2015–16 finish: 23-59
Going: Mirza Teletovic, Chase Budinger, Ronnie Price, Jon Leuer.
The Suns are full of solid roster pieces that don’t quite fit together, and added two big men (Bender, Chriss) in the lottery to shore up their frontcourt. There is certainly talent in the backcourt with Devin Booker, Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight, but coach Earl Watson needs to figure out their minutes.
2015–16 finish: 17-65
Going: Kobe Bryant, Brandon Bass, Roy Hibbert, Robert Sacre.
The Lakers won 17 games last season, a franchise-low. It should get better this season, even with coach Walton ready to accept the drawbacks of a rebuild. The Lakers’ young nucleus of D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle and Ingram offers them the chance to grow together.
2015–16 finish: 33-49
Going: Rajon Rondo, Marco Belinelli, Seth Curry, Quincy Acy.
Point guard Darren Collison will miss eight games after pleading guilty to domestic battery and Lawson and Farmar will help fill the void. It’s nearly impossible to keep center DeMarcus Cousins happy for a whole season — or a whole game, for that matter — and this roster won’t change that.