The competitors - (in no particular order):
They got valuable playoff experience last year, and a great young core.
Losing Maggette was a blow to them. Signing Roger Mason is okay, but the earth didn't shake on that acquisition. If Ginobili is healthy, the Spurs will still be in it.
There's talk of an Odom-Artest trade with the Kings; Losing Turiaf to the Warriors would be no big deal, especially if Bynum eventually comes back healthy. They do have a core now, though, and a taste of what it's like to be in the finals.
Always solid and well coached. Williams will only get better.
If Yao comes back strong, and McGrady doesn't get dealt, they'll be competitive.
I don't like their team to do anything but make the playoffs. No toughness to speak of, except for coach Rick Carlisle. Acquiring Diop along with a developing Brandon Bass gives them a better frontcourt by an inch, but Jason Kidd is aging and Dirk is overrated. They are stuck right now, probably close to being blown up.
Can Shaq stay healthy? Will Steve Nash start falling apart? With Terry Porter at the helm, I think the decline will be faster than anyone believes. Still good enough talent to compete for a slot.
Draft? What draft? Here's a team that should be blown up right now. 7th or 8th seed at best.
I think they could sneak in as 8th seed, it will be the jelling of their young talent that will determine their position. They will be one of most fun teams to watch in the West this year.
The also rans - (also in no particular order):
Davis bolts and effectively reduces the team to bottom feeder status, even with the addition of Maggette and possibly Turiaf.
They get Davis, but can't keep Brand. If they can free up Okafor from the Bobcats, that might help soften the blow. Still the gold standard in front office incompetence.
Young talent that will excite their new city, but probably PJ's last year. Calling Flip Saunders...
We'll be watching this team, won't we? Still not nearly enough talent to make noise in the West
They sign Wolves for a day Udrih to a fat contract, but even though I think Jason Thompson is a diamond in the rough, that pick was a strech. Petrie is losing his mojo.
Still bottom feeding, but making moves and getting aggressive. Resolving their point guard issues will help them concentrate on their core players this year, and determine whether Wittman can be their coach long term.
The one non-acquisition issue out there that will affect teams chances next season will be the players on the USA Olympic Basketball team. Usually one or two of those folks end up getting hurt or burned out by playing in that competition.
Next up: The East