1:57 p.m. CST, December 24, 2011(Predicted order of finish)55-27 in 2010-11 4th in West
Lost in West finals
Coming: Reggie Jackson
Going: No one of note
Thunder was spared from mad free-agent scramble, returning every key player from last season. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook should help young roster come of age, with potential No. 1 seed in West preceding deep playoff run. James Harden is poised to continue development into an upper-echelon guard, and slimmed-down Kendrick Perkins no longer has to slog up the court.57-25 in 2010-11
3rd in West
Coming: Lamar Odom, Vince Carter, Delonte West, Brandan Wright
Going: Tyson Chandler, Jose Barea, Caron Butler, Corey Brewer, Rudy Fernandez
Chandler and Barea each represent huge losses from defending NBA champions, but Odom should be an inspired addition ? particularly in the four games against Lakers ? and Carter clings to vestiges of greatness. Oh, yeah, and there's still that Nowitzki guy. Biggest question might be how long it takes owner Mark Cuban to zing Khloe Kardashian.
Lakers57-25 in 2010-11
2nd in West
Lost in second round
Coming: Coach Mike Brown, Josh McRoberts, Troy Murphy, Jason Kapono
Going: Coach Phil Jackson, Lamar Odom, Shannon Brown
If it seems only direction Lakers can go without their longtime coach and top reserves is down, fall shouldn't be long one. Lakers still have core that would make almost every other NBA team envious and coach who has been to Finals. Health of aging superstar Kobe Bryant and fragile big man Andrew Bynum will be assessed on a knee-to-know basis, with any significant setbacks curtailing title aspirations.