1. The small-ball Mavericks will lose in the first round, triggering the ouster of general manager and coach Don Nelson. Team owner Mark Cuban will replace Nelson in the front office with Kiki Vandeweghe, who was an assistant coach for Dallas in 2000-01 before taking over as the Nuggets' G.M.
2. Early-round exits will prompt the Kings, Hornets and Rockets to put their respective superstars—Chris Webber, Baron Davis and Steve Francis—on the trading block, making this another big off-season for player movement. ( Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady may be available too.)
3. Like Mike Bibby and Tony Parker for the past two years, the Pistons' Chauncey Billups will emerge as the pivotal point guard of this postseason. Billups is adored by NBA coaches and G.M.'s; fans will come to share that sentiment as they watch him run Larry Brown's offense, manhandle his opponents and win games with his clutch shooting.
4. Experience will be decisive when the Lakers beat the Pistons in Game 7 of the Finals. Over the summer Kobe Bryant will depart L.A. as a free agent—but Rasheed Wallace will resign with Detroit, making the Pistons the early favorite for 2004-05.