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NBA PREVIEW / AROUND THE LEAGUE

Things to keep your eye on

It's all here: Key off-season moves, players on the hot seat, acquisitions that could backfire and more

October 28, 2008

TOP FIVE OFF-SEASON MOVES

1. Clippers heist Marcus Camby.

Camby for the mere right for the Nuggets to flip-flop 2010 second-round picks? Denver's cap pain was this off-season's ultimate gain.

2. 76ers sign Elton Brand.

The move delivered nothing short of legitimacy for Philadelphia, which finally has a post presence.

3. Bobcats hire Larry Brown as coach.

If nothing else, Charlotte finally will get a read on whether its talent is legit, or if Michael Jordan is the problem.

4. Magic signs Mickael Pietrus.

Sometimes it's the subtle moves than legitimize a contender.

5. Bulls don't blink with Ben Gordon.

No need to offer a starter's salary when Chicago isn't sure he's a starter.

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FIVE MOVES THAT COULD BACKFIRE

1. Hawks allow Josh Childress to depart overseas.

It's not the loss of the player, it's the loss of momentum for the franchise.

2. Mid-level madness.

Will Chris Duhon (Knicks) and DeSagana Diop (Mavericks) be the latest to make teams regret offering the full mid-level?

3. Cavaliers add Mo Williams.

Another good-but-not-great sidekick for LeBron James, who could regret the loss of Joe Smith in this deal.

4. 76ers pay big for Andre Iguodala.

A nice player? Sure. But $80 million over six years for a borderline All-Star candidate?

5. Making a point?

Can the Pacers and Knicks truly talk turn around with Jamaal Tinsley and Stephon Marbury still on their rosters?

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POWER POLL

1. LAKERS: They got to the NBA Finals, then they got Andrew Bynum back. Now there's bulk to go along with the bravado.

2. HOUSTON: Rockets have to stay healthy one year, don't they? Of course, the mental health with Ron Artest is another issue.

3. BOSTON: Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce now have their title. So how will that impact their hunger?

4. NEW ORLEANS: Will career years for David West and Tyson Chandler turn into consistent support for Chris Paul?

5. UTAH: Deron Williams keeps getting better. Carlos Boozer is in a contract year. And isn't Jerry Sloan due?

6. SAN ANTONIO: It's sort of like the stock market: Was last season a blip, or the start of a recessionary slide?

7. ORLANDO: Mickael Pietrus provides needed defense, and who's going to get in Dwight Howard's way in the East?

8. PHOENIX: Not because of Shaq (perhaps in spite of him), but Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire remain a potent 1-2 punch.

9. PORTLAND: Add Greg Oden to a mix that was on the precipice of the playoffs and look out.

10. DETROIT: It's difficult to bet against a team that consistently plays deep into the postseason.

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FIVE PLAYERS ON THE SPOT

1. Rafer Alston (above), PG, Rockets

The weakest link in a lineup of Yao Ming, Ron Artest, Tracy McGrady and Shane Battier merely has to hold things together.

2. Andrew Bynum, C, Lakers

What if he can't impose his will, and Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom prove to be as good as it gets in the power spots?

3. Shaquille O'Neal, C, Suns

The pace has slowed. A slow-go coach in Terry Porter was added. But has Phoenix essentially sold its soul?

4. Luol Deng, F, Bulls

Chicago wouldn't break the bank for Ben Gordon, but it shelled out for Deng. With the contract comes expectations.

5. Manu Ginobili, G, Spurs

At one point last season, he was an MVP candidate. Then came the injuries and Olympics. How much is left?

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THREE THAT COULD SURPRISE

1. MIAMI HEAT

This is not a 15-67 team. With a healthy Dwyane Wade, acclimated Shawn Marion and promising Michael Beasley, it just might be a .500 team.

2. CHARLOTTE BOBCATS

Larry Brown has a lot to prove, and far more talent to prove it with than he had in New York.

3. CLIPPERS

With Baron Davis, Chris Kaman and Marcus Camby, this almost certainly would be a playoff team in the Eastern Conference.

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THREE THAT COULD GO BUST

1. DENVER NUGGETS

Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony could be enough. But a defenseless team without the defense of Marcus Camby?

2. CLEVELAND CAVALIERS

LeBron James might look around and realize the new faces still have him in a bad place -- all by himself.

3. WASHINGTON WIZARDS

Can Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison handle the heavy lifting amid the injury absences of Gilbert Arenas and Brendan Haywood?

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-- Compiled by Ira Winderman

South Florida Sun Sentinel

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