Here are the three teams I expect to be the most improved next season, and the three I fear will take the biggest step backward.

Most improved

1. New York Knicks

Predicting the Knicks successfully will lure James is like boasting Tiger Woods would win the Masters. It seems like a safe call. Tiger came close -- and it says here the Knicks will do the same. Landing Chris Bosh and Joe Johnson could double their win total.

2. Chicago Bulls

I'll be shocked if the Bulls don't wind up with James or Dwyane Wade. Either would vault the club to second or third best in the East. Both? Suffice it to say, Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen would lose that two-on-two.


Yao Ming will return to a much different -- and improved -- Rockets team. (Getty Images) 3. Houston Rockets
Look at what the Rockets gained when Yao Ming got hurt. They developed a perimeter-oriented attack that should complement their big guy wonderfully. And they added another lottery pick to a very deep roster. They'll open 2010-11 as Texas' best.

Biggest step backward

1. Cleveland Cavaliers

Put yourself in James' shoes. If you lead the Cavaliers to a championship, you'll feel justified moving to the next challenge. And if you don't, then it's logical to conclude it just cannot happen in Cleveland. Either way, it's bad news for the Cavs.

2. Miami Heat

Talk about your all-or-nothing offseasons. Etch this in stone: The Heat will either win or lose 15 more games next season. That'll depend upon whether Wade can recruit a co-star to Miami, or whether he's forced to go elsewhere to find his companion. The latter is far more likely.

3. Phoenix Suns

Steve Nash had Shaquille O'Neal. Then Amar'e Stoudemire. And next year ... Channing Frye? The Suns might not miss Shaq, but they're bound to find out there's no replacing Stoudemire.
CBS Sports

Well... The Raptors weren't in the cross hairs. Interestingly enough, the Suns were. I look at both teams as being in similar situations... Maybe he placed the Suns in here because they're falling from a greater height?