Who's next?

The Baltimore Sun

Five story lines to watch

1. Will the Lakers trade Kobe Bryant (right)?

2. Will Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen vault the Celtics back to Eastern Conference pre-eminence?

3. Will fans regain trust in officials after the Tim Donaghy betting scandal?

4. Will Kevin Durant emerge as the league's next multiskilled superstar?

5. Will any team challenge the Spurs-Mavericks-Suns troika in the West?

Rookies worth watching

Kevin Durant, SuperSonics: Second pick in draft will score right away, but efficient shooting and solid defense might have to wait.

Al Horford, Hawks: Has the physical maturity and big-game experience to handle the NBA paint.

Al Thornton, Clippers: Plenty of shots available on Western also-ran.

Rodney Stuckey, Pistons: Could be a key cog off the bench for an NBA Finals contender.

Teams on the upswing

Rockets: New depth and up-tempo style make Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady happy.

Celtics: No depth, but they might not need it with new star power.

Nuggets: Not quite up to challenging in the West, but could win 55 games with Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony.


Likely to disappoint

Warriors: Postseason aside, they played like a .500 team last season.

Heat: Ailing Dwyane Wade and too-old, too-heavy Shaquille O'Neal mean title days are past.

Raptors: Too many of their players are due for slight drop-offs.

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