5. Charlotte Bobcats: I'm putting the Bobcats at #5 because they've somewhat already broken out. Last year, the Bobcats won 35 games and just missed the playoffs. Gerald Henderson may have a decent rookie year, and I'm still waiting for Raymond Felton's breakout season...will it finally happen?
4. Washington Wizards: Until Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler, and Antwan Jamison can play 50+ games together, the Wizards will never be successful. But the Wizards did bring in some extra talent this off-season by adding Mike Miller and Randy Foye. Will the Wizards make the playoffs next year? Probably not, they didn't even crack 20 wins last year. But with the hiring of coach Flip Saunders, the Wizards will be much improved next year.
3. LA Clippers: Yeah I know--the Clippers only 19 games last year. But on paper, the Clippers have a pretty decent lineup. Baron Davis, WHEN MOTIVATED, is a very solid point guard. I also believe Marcus Camby had an off year last season, and he'll bounce back next year...and correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't the Clips draft Blake Griffin with the #1 pick? The Clippers won't make the playoffs next year, but they'll definitely be better than last year's disappointment.
2. Golden State Warriors: I'm calling it right now: When it's all said and done, Stephen Curry may be one of the better players to come out of the 2009 NBA Draft. And, yes, I know it doesn't mean much, but Anthony Randolph dropped 47 points in a summer league game. That's pretty impressive. I've already posted a blog about my playoff predictions, but I'll say it again--the Warriors may make a playoff push next year.
1. Oklahoma City Thunder: Sam Presti, Thunder GM, may be the smartest man in the business, in terms of building for the future. The Thunder are extremely young--Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are 20, Jeff Green is 22, and James Harden, who could win ROY is 19. I expect Kevin Durant to have a monster year next season, and he'll start to develop into one of the better players in the NBA. The Thunder won't make the playoffs next year either, but the young core may finally start to gel. Give it 3 more years, and the Thunder will be right into the thick of things in the playoffs.