MOST SURPRISING NEWCOMER The offensive creativity of North Carolina guard Rashad McCants will help him finish second to Andrew Bogut in the Rookie of the Year voting.
LEAST-PRODUCTIVE LOTTERY PICK High school swingman Gerald Green will barely contribute, though a patient approach should eventually bring out the Vince Carter in him.
WORST MANAGEMENT Having lost two months searching for front-office leadership (Danny Ferry was finally hired on Monday) instead of developing a plan for the draft and free agency, the Cavaliers will alienate LeBron James, who can leave as an unrestricted free agent in 2008.
MOST IMPORTANT FREE-AGENT SIGNING If Ray Allen re-signs with the Sonics they'll remain a title contender; if he doesn't, the 30-year-old shooting star could well make his new team into one.
BIGGEST TRADE The Celtics will exchange swingman Paul Pierce for a similarly potent scorer by the midseason deadline.
MOST SURPRISING CHANGE Heat president Pat Riley returns to coaching--though not in Miami.
BREAKOUT TEAM The Warriors won't have as dramatic a turnaround as Phoenix did this season, but after an 11-year drought they'll return to the postseason.
BREAKING-DOWN TEAM Unless Jerry West can magically overhaul his roster this summer, the once up-and-coming Grizzlies will slide out of the playoff picture.
MVP Under Phil Jackson, Kobe Bryant will lead the Lakers to a surprising 50 wins and again be recognized as the game's best all-around player.
NBA FINALS MATCHUP San Antonio and Miami will square off, and with Dwyane Wade leading the charge, the Heat prevails.
BILL FRAKES (BRYANT)
Look for Bryant (left) to snag the MVP award and Wade a ring.
DOUG PENSINGER/GETTY IMAGES (WADE)
[see caption above]