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NBA teams on the rise and fall this year

Dirk Nowitzki will be sidelined by a knee injury at the start of the season for the Mavericks.

Tony Gutierrez/AP

Dirk Nowitzki will be sidelined by a knee injury at the start of the season for the Mavericks.

Which teams could be in for a change in fortune this season?

TEAMS ON THE RISE

1. Denver Nuggets: If you are looking for a sleeper in the West, try the Rocky Mountains. The Nuggets may not have an All-Star but they are loaded with Ty Lawson, Danilo Gallinari, Andre Iguodala, Kenneth Faried, and Wilson Chandler. The Nuggets are young, athletic and will reach their potential with underrated coach George Karl.

2. Brooklyn Nets: The Nets have finally become relevant in the NBA after years of playing second fiddle to the Knicks. They re-signed Williams and Gerald Wallace and added Joe Johnson and C.J. Watson to become a playoff contender. The question is whether they can mesh for a 2012-13 run.

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3. Milwaukee Bucks: This may be the last call for Scott Skiles but the Bucks may save his job. by making some noise in the Central Division. Trading Andrew Bogut got them Monta Ellis and Ekpe Udoh to go with Brandon Jennings and Ersan Ilyasova.

TEAMS ON THE DECLINE

1. Dallas Mavericks: Mark Cuban saved a satchel of money for Deron Williams and Dwight Howard but got neither. So the Mavericks are relying an aging Dirk Nowitzki, 34, Vince Carter, 35, and Marion, 34. With Nowitzki already out with knee problems, Dallas will be free falling.

2. Orlando Magic: How can the Magic not fall precipitously without Dwight Howard and most of the crew that went to the ’09 Finals. Orlando is starting over with a bunch of not-so-great rookies and youngsters. It will seem eerily like the post-Shaq years in the Magic Kingdom.

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3. San Antonio Spurs: Really, how long can the Spurs compete with the trio of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker? They will try it one more time, at least. The Spurs looked old against the Thunder last season and they basically have the same team. So what changes now?

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