2014-15 NBA team previews

With LeBron James and Kevin Love, the Cleveland Cavaliers are legitimate title contenders. David Richard/USA TODAY Sports

ESPN Insider's group of NBA experts provides in-depth breakdowns of every team heading into the 2014-15 season.

Eastern Conference

1. Cleveland Cavaliers

Player profiles | Team forecast This isn't an exceptionally deep team, and it could be undone if Dion Waiters can't relegate himself to a supporting role or if Kevin Love can't re-adapt to his former status as a board crasher and complementary offensive option. Nevertheless, the Cavaliers project as the city's best hope in a long time to end a 50-year title drought.

2. Chicago Bulls

Player profiles | Team forecast
The health and production of Derrick Rose will likely be the barometer in determining whether the Bulls will be good or great. But at least great is back on the table.

3. Washington Wizards

Player profiles | Team forecast
John Wall wants to go to the Finals this season. And if Bradley Beal, after he returns from a wrist injury that is expected to sideline him for six to eight weeks, keeps developing as he has, Wall's wish might not be too far off base.

4. Toronto Raptors

Player profiles | Team forecast
The Raptors need to get more points from the subs after ranking 28th in the NBA in bench scoring. If that happens, and Toronto's young players (Jonas Valanciunas, DeMar DeRozan, Terrence Ross) continue to develop, this has the makings of a top-shelf team in the wide-open East.

5. Miami Heat

Player profiles | Team forecast
No LeBron, no problem? Actually, you can expect a fairly bumpy ride in South Florida next season as Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh try to right the ship in the King's absence.

6. Charlotte Hornets

Player profiles | Team forecast
Can Lance Stephenson thrive amid what was the NBA's most pass-happy team the past season? Either way, this defense gets you to the playoffs.

7. Atlanta Hawks

Player profiles | Team forecast
Although the Hawks mostly struck out in free agency with tons of cap space at hand, they reeled in former Thunder 3-and-D specialist Thabo Sefolosha to add much-needed depth. Feel free to pencil in another playoff trip for Paul Millsap and the Hawks.

8. Brooklyn Nets

Player profiles | Team forecast
The future is now for the Nets. That's not necessarily a reflection of how bright the present is as much as an indication of just how dark the horizon looks. They're capped out from now until eternity and have traded their first-round picks in 2016 and 2018, which spells trouble for an aging squad.

9. New York Knicks

Player profiles | Team forecast
Unless the Zen Master discovered new ways to transcend the human form during his time away, he'll need to familiarize himself with a foreign sensation: losing. Because these Knicks are seriously lacking in both talent and structure.

10. Indiana Pacers

Player profiles | Team forecast
SCHOENE is projecting only Orlando and Philadelphia to field worse offenses than the Pacers. If the nosedive the Pacers took late the past season is any indication, then it might be a good idea for Larry Bird to kick-start his initiatives for the 2015-16 season as soon as possible.

11. Detroit Pistons

Player profiles | Team forecast
There is no reason a team with this much length and athletic ability should flounder as the 25th-ranked defense, and new coach Stan Van Gundy has always been a top producer on that end. But the same trio of bigs returns, in the same spots, with the same problems. And there's little Van Gundy can do.

12. Orlando Magic

Player profiles | Team forecast
Second-year player Victor Oladipo can have a big hand in team improvement after a disappointing rookie season (13.6 PER), but this rebuilding plan, even with Channing Frye, doesn't appear to be getting off the ground anytime soon.

13. Boston Celtics

Player profiles | Team forecast
How much value can Boston get in return for Rajon Rondo by February's trade deadline? That's going to be a far more interesting saga than what the Celtics do on the court.

14. Milwaukee Bucks

Player profiles | Team forecast
If new coach Jason Kidd can leverage his club's athleticism, the Bucks will be fun to watch. And next summer, they should land yet another elite lottery prospect. It's still just potential, but even that's progress in Milwaukee.

15. Philadelphia 76ers

Player profiles | Team forecast
Philly's unspoken goal continues to be to win as few games as possible, and this season's squad is well-suited to epically tank.

Western Conference

1. San Antonio Spurs

Player profiles | Team forecast
What, you thought the San Antonio Spurs were done? That Tim Duncan and coach Gregg Popovich would just ride off into the sunset after winning their fifth title together? Nah, the old band is running it back for an encore.

2. Los Angeles Clippers

Player profiles | Team forecast
The Clips are a lot deeper and more complete than they've ever been. But the clocking is ticking. Chris Paul, statistically the greatest PG in NBA history, hasn't played close to a full season in three years and turns 30 in May, and DeAndre Jordan is entering the last year of his deal. A division title no longer cuts it for the Clippers.

3. Oklahoma City Thunder

Player profiles | Team forecast
It's still realistic the Thunder will get and stay healthy, emerge from the gantlet that is the West playoffs and end this season as champions. Any other scenario, though, and the narrative shifts toward Kevin Durant's 2016 free agency.

4. Golden State Warriors

Player profiles | Team forecast
With new head coach Steve Kerr at the helm, the Warriors hope to unlock their stunted offensive potential by cobbling together a "best of" playbook from Kerr's various coaching influences -- some triangle offense here, a little "7 seconds or less" there, a splash of Spurs continuity. They also now have more lineup flexibility as they chase the franchise's first division title in nearly 40 years.

5. Portland Trail Blazers

Player profiles | Team forecast
The consistency of the Blazers' starting five will be difficult to reproduce, so expect Portland to win something closer to 50 games than last season's 54. But with Houston losing key pieces -- Chandler Parsons, Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin -- and the Golden State Warriors passing on Kevin Love, the Blazers could be the class of the Western Conference's second tier.

6. Dallas Mavericks

Player profiles | Team forecast Looking for a long shot to win the West? How about the Mavs? They won 49 games last season and took the Spurs to seven games in the first round. And now they've added Chandler Parsons as a legit third offensive weapon to pair with Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis.

7. Houston Rockets

Player profiles | Team forecast
The Rockets won't enter the 2014-15 title conversation, but they're on the fringe and can push for an impact acquisition again next summer.

8. Memphis Grizzlies

Player profiles | Team forecast
The biggest challenge for the Grizzlies is the rest of their conference. Despite improving their wing rotation with the addition of Vince Carter and last season's trade for Courtney Lee, the Grizzlies are unlikely to crack the top three in the West.

9. Phoenix Suns

Player profiles | Team forecast
It will be interesting to see how second-year coach Jeff Hornacek handles two major issues: divvying up minutes -- and shots -- among a roster deep in perimeter talent, and overcoming the lack of size. For the Suns to surprise once again, they'll have to resort to "guerilla warfare" tactics, forcing teams to play down to their size and tempo.

10. New Orleans Pelicans

Player profiles | Team forecast The most important thing for the Pelicans -- the second-youngest team in the West -- is to start moving in the right direction. With a healthy Anthony Davis, they're on the way.

11. Denver Nuggets

Player profiles | Team forecast
The biggest issue for Denver is external -- the West is simply too deep. Not only do the Nuggets have to make up a 13-game gap in the standings between themselves and the eighth-seeded Dallas Mavericks, but they also need to hold off other lottery challengers who figure to improve.

12. Sacramento Kings

Player profiles | Team forecast
Drafting Nik Stauskas will add much-needed spacing, of which the Kings don't have enough, but his addition won't suffice. This roster still is bedeviled by too many shoot-first players -- the offense projects to be 19th in the league -- and poor defense.

13. Los Angeles Lakers

Player profiles | Team forecast Two years ago, the Lakers landed All-Star center Dwight Howard and seemed poised to extend their contention window by another decade. Now Lakers fans are praying the team's pingpong balls pop in the right direction next May. How the mighty have fallen.

14. Minnesota Timberwolves

Player profiles | Team forecast
Without Love, it's going to be difficult for the Timberwolves to match the past season's 40 wins, let alone improve enough to crack a loaded Western Conference playoff race. They have some pieces, but the NBA's longest playoff absence, now a decade long in Minnesota, is in no danger of ending.

15. Utah Jazz

Player profiles | Team forecast
Like 2013-14, this season is more about development than wins in Utah. If the young core -- PF Derrick Favors (13.3/8.7) and Gordon Hayward (one of only five NBA players to average 16/5/5) -- takes a step forward with more schematic assistance from new head coach Quin Snyder, and talented 19-year-old rookie Dante Exum is able to contribute right away, the Jazz have a reasonable chance of hitting 30 wins.