Houston Rockets guard Jeremy Lin looks to get to the...

Houston Rockets guard Jeremy Lin looks to get to the basket during a shoot-around before a Rockets' game against the Oklahoma City Thunder at State Farm Arena in Hidalgo, Texas. (Oct. 10, 2012) Credit: AP

EASTERN CONFERENCE

1. Heat repeat

Will LeBron James, Dwayne Wade & Co. make it back-to-back titles? Some argue Miami's supporting cast around their Big Three is better than last season's crop, particularly with the addition of Ray Allen. So with that in mind, the Heat should -- at worst -- make a third straight deep playoff run.

2. When will Rose bloom again?

Derrick Rose continues to rehab his torn anterior cruciate ligament and an exact timetable for his return is unclear. Some reports suggest the 2010-11 MVP could be back in February. If he regains his old form, the Bulls are a championship-caliber team. They'll be looking to avenge that first-round ouster at the hands of the Sixers in May.

3. Celtics Green With Envy

Seeing Ray Allen bolt for South Beach and knowing how close they came to playing in the NBA Finals last season should surely fire up the Celtics for another run. Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett are likely salivating to play the Heat, whether it's the regular season or postseason.

4. Brooklyn Buzz

For the Nets, it's been an unparalleled offseason, sparked by their move across the Hudson River, the re-signing of Deron Williams and trade for Joe Johnson. They've had a lot of glamour and glitz aided by the $1 billion Barclays Center and the likes of Jay-Z unveiling their new uniforms on the arena's opening night. But now it's time to see if they're among the Eastern Conference's upper echelon.

5. Can Melo and Amar'e ...

The question feels like it's as ancient as the chicken and the egg. Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire swear they can co-exist effectively on the court together, but it remains to be seen. Perhaps Stoudemire's summer working on post moves with Hakeem Olajuwon and Anthony's gold-medal Olympic experience will somehow mesh to help make it happen, once Stoudemire returns from a knee injury.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

1. L.A. story

Landing two of the biggest free agents in Steve Nash and Dwight Howard put Kobe Bryant and the Lakers in contention for another NBA title. Can Bryant match Michael Jordan and win his sixth championship?

2. Lin-sanity II

After Houston gave Jeremy Lin a three-year, $25.1 million contract that will pay him $14.9 million in Year 3, he will try to prove he was no one-month wonder with the Knicks. He struggled in the preseason.

3. Howard's end

His future whereabouts was the seemingly never-ending story last season until the Lakers acquired Dwight Howard. But he will be a free agent in July so where will he play next season will be a major topic again.

4. Paul's future

Chris Paul enjoys playing for L.A.'s other team and with Blake Griffin, but CP3 is in his contract year. The Clippers All-Star point guard spent the summer playing with Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler so expect some Paul-to-the-Knicks rumors.

5. Big D

Dirk Nowitzki will miss at least the first month after knee surgery and the Mavericks failed to get any top free agents. But they still hope to make a playoff push, and Mark Cuban has positioned himself to make runs at Howard and Paul in the summer.

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