Trades and free agent signings can turn everything on its ear, but right now, who do you see coming to the top next season? East (ranked by this year’s finish) Detroit – Assuming Billups comes back, the top four ought to play at least as well for another season (maybe two). The bench will be better, but there is still a piece missing. Will finish near the top of the East, and with the right addition will be the pre-season favorites. Cleveland – No where near as good as a Finals appearance would suggest. Maybe Gibson could turn into the real thing, and maybe Vercingetorix can buy an offensive move, and maybe Big Z can keep it together for one more year, and maybe Hughes will actually play, but that’s a lot of maybes. Pax has his work cut out for him or next year is really disappointing. Toronto – Bosh is good without a doubt, but is clueless in the post. Unless you can run him a la Stoudemire, he can’t carry the team. There are a lot of role players who probably won’t get much better. Holding your own won’t help if the East really is getting better. Miami – All over but the shouting. They don’t have another late season push in them as currently configured and could miss the show. Chicago – Can the other Pax make a move to put them over the top? They have the pieces to do something really great and are more experienced this year than last. Moving up. New Jersey – Even the shouting is over. No playoffs unless you can get in next year five games below 0.500. Washington – Stand to be a better team next year. The bench is the problem, but maybe someone out there can be enticed over. Or you trade Arenas or Butler for a big man who can score down low. Arenas for Gasol would make them scary. Orlando – Without some major restructuring at the one, two, and three, they will again struggle to make the playoffs. D & D aren't enough. West Dallas – Ought to come out angry, but still need to find a real point guard. When things get tough neither Terry nor Harris can get it done and the offense becomes Dirk against the world. Phoenix – Just missed their best chance. Nash cannot get any better, and Stoudemire will struggle to stay at this level with his knee. They will be fun to watch and will win lots of regular season games, but might not make it out of the first round next time around. San Antonio – Can Barry, Vaughn, Horry, Finley, and Bowen ever play at this season’s level again? The big three will be still be tough as ever, and Oberto/Elson will suffice nicely, but winning again depends on the role players. I don’t see them getting it done with the same bunch. Utah – They’ll be smarter and stronger next year. Maybe the preseason favorite. Houston – Probably also just missed their best chance with this lineup. JVG didn’t play slow just because he liked it, it was the only way to get Yao involved. Heading downhill. LA Lakers – Must have different players around Kobe. If they don’t find a strong second fiddle, it will be more of the same. Golden State – That flash is over. Maybe the Clips can finally make the playoffs again.