(Reuters) - Five teams to watch for during the 2012-13 National Basketball Association (NBA) season that begins on October 30.
Offseason acquisitions of Dwight Howard, a six-time All-Star and three-time defensive player of the year, and former two-time Most Valuable Player (MVP) Steve Nash make the Lakers an instant contender for a record-tying 17th NBA championship following two consecutive early playoff exits since winning the title in 2010.
Heightened expectations surround a Nets team about to make its Brooklyn debut after 35 years in New Jersey. The arrival of six-time All-Star guard Joe Johnson, along with other big-name signings, creates a formidable starting lineup for a franchise seeking its first playoff berth since 2007.
Finished with the NBA’s best record last season but staying on top will hinge largely on whether former league MVP Derrick Rose, who tore an anterior cruciate ligament during a playoff game in April, will be able to return to the lineup in time to salvage what otherwise could be a challenging season.
Last season’s runner-up to the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals return with much of the roster intact, notably potent scorers Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, who should ensure the young team stays in the running for top spot in a challenging Western Conference.
Reigning league MVP LeBron James silenced critics by winning his maiden NBA title last season but will now have to prove his Heat are for real and not a one-season wonder. The offseason additions of Ray Lewis, the NBA’s all-time leading three-point scorer, and Rashard Lewis bolsters Miami’s long distance threat.
Compiled by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Julian Linden