The NBA canvas got a fresh coat of, well, freshness from Golden State last June. How could you root against Steph Curry (and his daughter Riley) and the rest of the Warriors? They were fun to watch hitting those 3-pointers and slicing through the lane. They were gritty and locked opponents down defensively. First-year coach Steve Kerr masterfully pushed all the right buttons with personnel and style of play. But that was last season. In a copycat league and a loaded Western Conference, not to mention that big, bright target on their backs, repeating won’t be a stroll in Golden Gate Park. (Yes, we know it’s in San Francisco and not Oakland.) “Mentally for us will be the biggest thing,” Curry said recently. “How we approach this season, keeping our hunger, our fire, our vision as a group, how we’re going to go through the season as defending champs — that’s going to be huge.”
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Coach: Dwane Casey
Last season; playoff results: 49-33; lost in first round to Wizards
Key additions: Anthony Bennett, DeMarre Carroll, Cory Joseph
Key losses: Greivis Vasquez, Amir Johnson
Player to watch: Jonas Valanciunas
Outlook/Notable: After setting a franchise record for wins in back-to-back seasons, it’s time to find postseason success. The backcourt of DeMar DeRozan and a slimmed-down Kyle Lowry is salty. The Raptors need offensive-minded Valanciunas to take another step.
Coach: Brad Stevens
Last season; playoff results: 40-42; lost first round to Cavaliers
Key additions: David Lee, Amir Johnson
Key losses: Brandon Bass, Gerald Wallace
Player to watch: R.J. Hunter
Outlook/Notable: Stevens has this ship on the right course, as the C’s take a boatload of momentum into the season. Lee brings a veteran presence down low if he can stay healthy. Marcus Smart had a solid rookie campaign. Hunter, a rookie this year, could be contributor on a surprisingly deep squad.
Coach: Lionel Hollins
Last season; playoff results: 38-44; lost in first round to Hawks
Key additions: Andrea Bargnani, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Shane Larkin
Key losses: Deron Williams, Mason Plumlee
Player to watch: Bojan Bogdanovic
Outlook/Notable: Buying out Williams signaled going into rebuild mode, but there are a few key holdovers. Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young were re-upped. Bogdanovic is a sharpshooter off the bench who can take over. Bargnani, a former No. 1 pick, is a low-risk gamble.
Coach: Brett Brown
Last season; playoff results: 18-64; missed playoffs
Key addition: Jahlil Okafor
Key loss: Joel Embiid (surgery)
Player to watch: Nerlens Noel
Outlook/Notable: The tanking Sixers had a nice surprise last season in Robert Covington, a promising shooting guard who improved as his minutes rose. Noel and rookie Okafor, the third pick, are developing chemistry down low. Still, Philly will likely be counting pingpong balls come June.
New York Knicks
Coach: Derek Fisher
Last season; playoff results: 17-65; missed playoffs
Key additions: Robin Lopez, Kristaps Porzingis, Arron Afflalo
Key losses: Andrea Bargnani, Shane Larkin
Player to watch: Carmelo Anthony
Outlook/Notable: Phil Jackson’s underwhelming off-season doesn’t lead to much optimism in the Big Apple. Anthony can’t get it done without a decent supporting cast. Porzingis, the fourth pick in the draft, is an intriguing prospect for a franchise likely headed back to the lottery.
Coach: David Blatt
Last season; playoff results: 53-29; lost in NBA Finals to Warriors
Key additions: Mo Williams, Richard Jefferson
Key losses: Shawn Marion, Mike Miller, Kendrick Perkins
Player to watch: LeBron James
Outlook/Notable: The overwhelming favorites to get out of the East aren’t without their issues, especially when it comes to health. James recently had an injection in his back. Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving are coming off surgeries. Expect the Cavs to start slow as everyone rounds back into shape.
Coach: Fred Hoiberg
Last season; playoff results: 50-32; lost in East semifinals to Cavaliers
Key additions: Hoiberg, Bobby Portis
Key loss: Coach Tom Thibodeau
Player to watch: Jimmy Butler
Outlook/Notable: Thibodeau is out after five successful regular seasons and five disappointing playoff runs. Derrick Rose is dealing with another injury (orbital fracture) and might not be ready for the season opener. Hoiberg wants to score with a roster that was made to defend.
Coach: Jason Kidd
Last season; playoff results: 41-41; lost in first round to Bulls
Key additions: Greg Monroe, Miles Plumlee, Greivis Vasquez
Key losses: Zaza Pachulia, Ersan Ilyasova
Player to watch: Jabari Parker
Outlook/Notable: Kidd did a bang-up job in his first year in Milwaukee, steering a banged-up squad into the playoffs and a near upset of Chicago. The Bucks are crazy athletic, starting with Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Monroe. Parker appears to be healing nicely from last December’s knee injury.
Coach: Frank Vogel
Last season; playoff results: 38-44; missed playoffs
Key additions: Monta Ellis, Myles Turner
Key losses: David West, Roy Hibbert
Player to watch: Paul George
Outlook/Notable: After only playing six games last season, George might be the only recognizable piece on a rebuilt squad. These Pacers want to play with, um, pace. Vogel wants to run, unleashing a backcourt of Ellis and George Hill along with bigs who can get up and down the court.
Coach: Stan Van Gundy
Last season; playoff results: 32-50; missed playoffs
Key additions: Ersan Ilyasova, Marcus Morris
Key loss: Greg Monroe
Player to watch: Reggie Jackson
Outlook/Notable: As the team’s highest-paid guy, Jackson needs to play like a star. At about 18 points and nine assists per, he’s on the way, no matter what John Wall thinks. Rookie Stanley Johnson adds to a nice group on the wing. Andre Drummond making a free throw every now and then would help.
Coach: Mike Budenholzer
Last season; playoff results: 60-22; lost in East Finals to Cavaliers
Key additions: Tiago Splitter, Tim Hardaway Jr.
Key loss: DeMarre Carroll
Player to watch: Paul Millsap
Outlook/Notable: Last year’s magic included the entire starting five earning All-Star honors, Coach Bud being named coach of the year and Atlanta’s first trip to the East Finals. The balanced Hawks, owners of the East’s longest playoff streak at eight years, are still lacking a take-the-game-over star.
Coach: Randy Wittman
Last season; playoff results: 46-36; lost in East semifinals to Hawks
Key additions: Jared Dudley, Gary Neal
Key losses: Paul Pierce
Player to watch: Otto Porter
Outlook/Notable: The Wizards started strong (31-15) and finished poorly (15-21) before dominating the Raptors in the first round. As with much of the East, Wittman wants to up the tempo offensively. That should play into the hands of John Wall and Bradley Beal, along with Porter and Dudley.
Coach: Erik Spoelstra
Last season; playoff results: 37-45; missed playoffs
Key additions: Gerald Green, Amare Stoudemire
Key loss: Michael Beasley
Player to watch: Hassan Whiteside
Outlook/Notable: If this were 2010, this would be a playoff team. Counting on Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and Luol Deng to play a complete season is as likely as a snowstorm on South Beach. Whiteside came out of nowhere to become the second coming of Wilt Chamberlain. Can he repeat?
Coach: Steve Clifford
Last season; playoff results: 33-49; missed playoffs
Key additions: Nicolas Batum, Jeremy Lin, Spencer Hawes, Frank Kaminsky
Key losses: Lance Stephenson, Gerald Henderson, Noah Vonleh
Player to watch: Kemba Walker
Outlook/Notable: Kaminsky might be the latest in the line of questionable draft picks for Michael Jordan, whose best move was jettisoning Stephenson after one year. Al Jefferson, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Walker are serviceable pieces. Hard to believe the Hornets were in the playoffs in 2014.
Coach: Scott Skiles
Last season; playoff results: 25-57; missed playoffs
Key additions: Skiles, Jason Smith, C.J. Watson
Key loss: Kyle O’Quinn
Player to watch: Tobias Harris
Outlook/Notable: Skiles can do worse than starting with a three-man nucleus of Nikola Vucevic, Victor Oladipo and Tobias Harris. That trio combined to average 54 points per game. Keep an eye on rookie Mario Hezonja, a high flyer with long-distance range from Croatia via Barcelona.
Portland Trail Blazers
Coach: Terry Stotts
Last season; playoff results: 51-31; lost in first round to Grizzlies
Key additions: Mason Plumlee, Ed Davis, Al-Farouq Aminu, Gerald Henderson, Noah Vonleh
Key losses: LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum, Wesley Matthews, Robin Lopez, Arron Afflalo, Steve Blake
Player to watch: Damian Lillard
Outlook/Notable: Talk about your complete reboot. Lillard, the franchise’s one true star, has spent the off-season meeting new teammates. More than 60 percent of last season’s minutes are gone, with Aldridge’s defection to San Antonio being the hardest pill to swallow.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Coach: Billy Donovan
Last season; playoff results: 45-37; missed playoffs
Key addition: Donovan
Key loss: Perry Jones III
Player to watch: Kevin Durant
Outlook/Notable: Donovan’s foray back into the NBA (remember: he coached the Magic for about 15 minutes) couldn’t be better. Not only does he get a healthy Durant back, but triple-double machine Russell Westbrook might the league’s best point guard. Expect OKC back in the playoff mix.
Coach: Quin Snyder
Last season; playoff results: 38-44; missed playoffs
Key additions: Trey Lyles
Key losses: None
Player to watch: Rudy Gobert
Outlook/Notable: The Jazz finished last season with a flourish, going 21-11 down the stretch buoyed by one of the league’s best defenses. Gobert was unleashed after Enas Kanter was dealt to Oklahoma City. The Jazz waits on the return of Dante Exum, who’s rehabbing a knee injury suffered in international play.
Coach: Michael Malone
Last season; playoff results: 30-52; missed playoffs
Key additions: Malone, Emmanuel Mudiay, Kostas Papanikolaou
Key losses: Coach Brian Shaw, Ty Lawson
Player to watch: Mudiay
Outlook/Notable: Imagine if Mudiay spent one year at SMU. The one-time Larry Brown commitment who attended Arlington Grace Prep Academy blew away everyone at Summer League and is a rookie of the year favorite. Malone brings a youthful energy to a club that dealt with a toxic locker room throughout last season.
Coach: Sam Mitchell (interim)
Last season; playoff results: 16-66; missed playoffs
Key additions: Karl-Anthony Towns
Key losses: Coach Flip Saunders (cancer treatment)
Outlook/Notable: If you’re looking for young talent, head to Minneapolis. The past two No. 1 picks — Towns and Wiggins — reside in the starting lineup, along with Ricky Rubio. Kevin Garnett returned to his original franchise to provide what KG does: leadership, toughness, mentoring. Not a playoff team, but worth a watch.
Golden State Warriors
Coach: Steve Kerr
Last season; playoff results: 67-15; beat Cavaliers in NBA Finals
Key addition: Jason Thompson
Key losses: David Lee, assistant coach Alvin Gentry
Player to watch: Steph Curry
Outlook/Notable: The Warriors ended a 40-year title drought and gave the NBA a fresh makeover. Curry, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and Co. burst onto the scene, and the basketball world fell in love. After a summer of playing golf with President Obama (Curry) and appearing on Kimmel (Thompson), it’s time for an encore as the hunted.
Los Angeles Clippers
Coach: Doc Rivers
Last season; playoff results: 56-26; lost in West semifinals to Rockets
Key additions: Paul Pierce, Josh Smith, Lance Stephenson
Key losses: Matt Barnes, Glen Davis, Spencer Hawes
Player to watch: DeAndre Jordan
Outlook/Notable: Jordan tore the heart out of the Mavericks but saved the Clips in the process. Rivers has his deepest team to complement stars Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and Jordan. Pierce adds the steely nerves they could have used in the second round against Houston.
Coach: Jeff Hornacek
Last season; playoff results: 39-43; missed playoffs
Key additions: Tyson Chandler, Mirza Teletovic
Key loss: Marcus Morris
Player to watch: Eric Bledsoe
Outlook/Notable: Chandler brings stability and credibility to another retooling project in the desert. Markieff Morris isn’t too happy about the Suns trading his twin, Marcus, and wants out of Phoenix. That drama could derail the team’s locker room vibe.
Coach: George Karl
Last season; playoff results: 29-53; missed playoffs
Key additions: Willie Cauley-Stein, Rajon Rondo, Caron Butler, Kosta Koufos, Marco Belinelli
Key losses: Derrick Williams, Jason Thompson
Player to watch: Rondo
Outlook/Notable: Vlade Divac has completely reshaped the roster with a new backcourt (Rondo and Belinelli) and plenty of pieces for Karl to move around. Cauley-Stein and DeMarcus Cousins form a Kentucky frontline that’s long on talent. It’s all a grand experiment that could easily blow up — good or bad.
Los Angeles Lakers
Coach: Byron Scott
Last season; playoff results: 21-61; missed playoffs
Key additions: D’Angelo Russell, Roy Hibbert, Lou Williams, Brandon Bass
Key losses: Ed Davis, Jeremy Lin, Wesley Johnson, Carlos Boozer, Jordan Hill
Player to watch: Russell
Outlook/Notable: Is this Bryant’s final go-round, a last victory lap for 20 years of greatness? Perhaps, but guys such as Julius Randle (out all but 14 minutes of last year) and Russell are worth your attention, too. Bringing in vets Hibbert, Williams and Bass ups the talent level for a franchise woefully lacking last season.
Coach: Kevin McHale
Last season; playoff results: 56-26; lost in West Finals to Warriors
Key additions: Ty Lawson, Sam Dekker
Key loss: Josh Smith
Player to watch: Donatas Motiejunas
Outlook/Notable: The Rockets made an unlikely run to the West Finals despite being hit hard by injuries. James Harden makes it all work on the offensive end but should be able to give up some playmaking duties to Lawson. Staying healthy is the key, starting with Dwight Howard.
San Antonio Spurs
Coach: Gregg Popovich
Last season; playoff results: 55-27; lost in first round to Clippers
Key additions: LaMarcus Aldridge, David West
Key losses: Marco Belinelli, Cory Joseph, Tiago Splitter
Player to watch: Aldridge
Outlook/Notable: Will the ball ever touch the ground? The authors of “The Beautiful Game” decided the time was finally right to “buy” a title shot. Aldridge is hardly a rental. He’s an elite talent who pairs beautifully with Tim Duncan on the block and extends the championship window with Kawhi Leonard.
Coach: David Joerger
Last season; playoff results: 55-27; lost in West semifinals to Warriors
Key additions: Matt Barnes, Brandan Wright
Key losses: Kosta Koufos, Nick Calathes
Player to watch: F Jeff Green
Outlook/Notable: No one enjoys playing the Grizzlies. Their bruising style, epitomized by the immovable frontcourt duo of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, is built for the playoffs. Well, the 1990s playoffs. In an increasing up-tempo league, it’s time to shift the focus more to guys like Mike Conley and Green.
Coach: Rick Carlisle
Last season; playoff results: 50-32; lost in first round to Rockets
Key additions: Wesley Matthews, Deron Williams, Zaza Pachulia, Justin Anderson
Key losses: Monta Ellis, Tyson Chandler, Rajon Rondo
Player to watch: Williams
Outlook/Notable: This isn’t how good soldier Dirk Nowitzki wanted to spend his golden years. DeAndre Jordan’s about-face in free agency cast a pall over the summer, forcing Mark Cuban into scramble mode. Matthews kept his word and Williams is a worthwhile reclamation project, but the playoffs are likely out of reach.
New Orleans Pelicans
Coach: Alvin Gentry
Last season; playoff results: 45-37; lost in first round to Warriors
Key addition: Gentry
Key loss: Coach Monty Williams
Player to watch: Anthony Davis
Outlook/Notable: Well-traveled Gentry attempts to take some of the Golden State championship moxie to the Big Easy. The Pelicans finished strong last season and were showing improvement under Williams, but not enough to save his job. Everything the Pels do will run through Davis, a true top-five talent.