dwight howard &steve nash*Dwight Howard left the sunny confines of Orlando for the sunny confines of Los Angeles.

Anthony Davis’ unibrow went from Kentucky to the Crescent City.

The Nets left the swamps of Jersey for the hipster / Jay-Z paradise of Brooklyn. David Stern finally announced he was stepping down – in two years.

It was an eventful off-season, but now, it’s time for the actual games to begin. So, here’s our picks for the upcoming NBA regular season:

In the east, Miami will romp to the Southeast title and the number-one overall seed, thanks to another MVP season for LeBron James. The additions of rookie Jared Sullinger and veteran bench guard Jason Terry and the comeback of versatile Jeff Green are enough to propel the veterans in Boston to an Atlantic title and the second spot. Indiana, with a deep and diverse roster, will finish third and capture the Central, and the underrated Atlanta team will take fourth. Expect Hawks forward Josh Smith to have a monster walk year. Derrick Rose might be out for a long, long time, but Chicago is talented enough and coached well enough to hang around and capture the fifth seed. It’s Carmelo Anthony’s New York team now, and as long as Jason Kidd has anything in the tank the Knicks should finish sixth. Andrew Bynum should be healthy just long enough to bring Philadelphia the seventh seed. Count on the excitement of landing in Brooklyn – and the power of Jay-Z – to be enough to bring the Nets to the final Eastern playoff spot.

In the west, Dwight Howard + Steve Nash + Kobe will equal a first overall finish for Los Angeles, followed closely by Durant, Harden and Westbrook in Oklahoma City. Count on the old reliables in San Antonio to win another Southwest crown, followed by George Karl’s Denver team – which could be the surprise of the league, if JaVale McGee has his head screwed on right. The other Los Angeles team, those up-and-coming Clippers, have enough talent to go higher than the #5 seed – but they also have one of the league’s worst coaches in Vinny Del Negro. Memphis, as long as boards monster Zach Randolph is healthy, should finish in the six spot. As for seven and eight? Let’s give them to a couple of newcomers – the completely revamped Houston team and the talent-laden Golden State Warriors.
Who’s the MVP of the league? Give that one to LeBron, again, followed closely by Rajon Rondo, Kobe, Kevin Durant and Josh Smith. The Rookie of the Year? Anthony Davis in New Orleans, hands down.

As for the two teams that will play for the title? Well … let’s go out of left field a little and say those old legs and young guns on Boston will upset Miami in the Eastern Conference Finals to set up another showdown with Los Angeles for the title, with the Howard-Nash-Gasol-Kobe core smashing the Celtics to win another championship.