PHOENIX SUNS Last season-54-28, 3rd.

Coach-Cotton Fitzsimmons (3rd season).New faces-G Negele Knight (31st), F Cedric Ceballos (48th), F Ed Nealy (free agent).

Strengths-The Suns are loaded, with at least one solid performer at every position ... Kevin Johnson (22.5 ppg, 11.4 apg) may be the best all-around point guard in the game and Jeff Hornacek (17.6) and Dan Majerle (11.1) complete a solid, well-rounded guard rotation ... Up front, Tom Chambers (27.2) and Eddie Johnson (16.9) can be devastating.

Weaknesses-After Kevin Johnson, the Suns lacked someone to step in and run the offense without disrupting it. They hope Knight will alleviate that, but know they can't go too far without their leader.

Outlook-The Suns can run and they can bang. As long as Kevin Johnson stays healthy, they'll win the Pacific and perhaps a lot more than that.


Last season-59-23, 2nd.

Coach-Rick Adelman (3rd season).

New faces-Danny Ainge (from Sacramento for G Byron Irvin, a No. 1 and a No. 2), F-C Alaa Abdelnaby (25th).

Strengths-The starting five of G Clyde Drexler (23.3 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 5.9 apg), G Terry Porter (17.6, 9.1 apg), C Kevin Duckworth (16.2, 6.2 rpg), F Jerome Kersey (16.0, 8.4) and F Buck Williams (13.6, 9.8) is one of the league's best ... G Danny Ainge (17.9 ppg) will provide much-needed firepower and injury insurance.

Weaknesses-Despite the three-point success, Portland's outside shooting was suspect at times, largely because of a lack of patience when forced to play a half-court game.

Outlook-The addition of Ainge will allow Drexler and Porter more breathers and spell fresher legs for the fourth quarter. That can't be anything but bad news for foes in the top-heavy Pacific Division.


Last season-63-19, 1st.

Coach-Mike Dunleavy (1st season).

New faces-F Sam Perkins (free agent), G Terry Teagle (from Golden State for a No. 1), C Elden Campbell (27th).

Strengths-Even without a true center, the Lakers posted the NBA's best record last season. G Magic Johnson (22.3 ppg, 11.5 apg, 6.6 rpg, 132 steals, 106 three-pointers) claimed his second straight MVP Award teamed with F James Worthy (21.1) to form a dominant 1-2 punch ... A.C. Green and Vlade Divac will need to push up their levels of play one more notch though, in order to contend with the improving Suns and Blazers.

Weaknesses-Michael Cooper, a defensive stalwart and member of all five championship teams in the '80s, will be missed, even if Teagle scores more ... So will Pat Riley, whose 102 career playoff coaching victories are the all-time most. Dunleavy has big shoes to fill.

Outlook-Any team with Magic Johnson can't be counted out. SEATTLE SUPERSONICS

Last season-41-41, 4th.

Coach-K.C. Jones (1st season).

New faces-G Gary Payton (2nd).

Strengths-Offense is not a problem, with G Dale Ellis (23.5 ppg) F Xavier McDaniel (21.3, 6.5 rpg) and F Derrick McKey (15.7, 6.1) sharing the load ... F-C Michael Cage (9.7, 10.0) filled his role well, crashing the boards.

Weaknesses-The Sonics had plenty of scorers but no one to distribute the ball effectively last season. They think Payton will be the answer.

Outlook-Jones' impressive coaching record will be tested by this bunch, who might surprise themselves. LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS

Last season-30-52, 6th.

Coach-Mike Schuler (1st season).

New faces-G Bo Kimble (8th), F Loy Vaught (13th).

Strengths-The odds are in their favor. LA had just finished a 5-3 road trip when G Ron Harper (22.8 ppg, 2.3 steals) wrecked his knee. Three games later, G Gary Grant (13.1) broke his ankle. The year before, they lost F Danny Manning (16.3) to knee surgery ... Manning should be improved this season and combines with Charles Smith (21.2), Ken Norman (16.6) and C Benoit Benjamin (13.5) to form a potentially dominant frontcourt.

Weaknesses-The loss of Harper was critical because he provided the veteran leadership this stable of young stars seemed to grow with. Benjamin, the only other vet, doesn't seem up to the task.

Outlook-The Clippers will make more gains this season, maybe even threaten to make the playoffs, but probably need a full year together. GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS

Last season-37-45, 5th.

Coach-Don Nelson (3rd season).

New faces-F Tyrone Hill (11th), C Les Jepsen (28th), G Kevin Pritchard (34th).

Strengths-F Chris Mullin (25.1) is one of the league's premier point forwards, G Mitch Richmond (22.1) is an explosive scorer and G Tim Hardaway (14.7, 8.7 apg) is an emerging star at the point ... G Sarunas Marciulionis (12.1, .519) had strong debut ... F Rod Higgins (11.1, 5.2) is a shooter, too, and F Tom Tolbert (5.2 rpg) works hard, but both are better suited for reserve roles.

Weaknesses-The defense (119.4 ppg allowed) and rebounding (opponents grabbed more than 56 percent of those available) were atrocious. Mullin led with 5.9 rebounding average.

Outlook-The Warriors will have no problem scoring, but won't be stopping too many teams at the other end. They figure to be in the running for a big prize - in the lottery.


Last season-23-59, 7th.

Coach-Dick Motta (2nd season, 1st full).

New faces-F Lionel Simmons (7th), G Travis Mays (14th), C Duane Causwell (18th), F Anthony Bonner (23th), Bobby Hansen and Eric Leckner (from Utah), Bill Wennington (from Dallas), Rory Sparrow (from Miami).

Strengths-It's hard to argue with a massive overhaul and infusion of youth for a team that managed to win 28 percent of its games. Holdover F Wayman Tisdale (22.3 ppg) is a star and F Antoine Carr (12.3) should manage better numbers with a cast.

Weaknesses-The candidates at center are Wennington (4.5, 3.3), Leckner (4.3, 2.5), Causwell and Ralph Sampson (4.2, 3.2), in that order. 'Nuff said?

Outlook-Very bleak. The new cast will take time to mesh.

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