Better than you think?

Updated: December 20, 2004, 11:03 AM ET
By Chad Ford | ESPN Insider

Your team doesn't have to be a championship contender to feel a swelling sense of pride this season. Just ask fans in Seattle and Cleveland. The steps made by each franchise are enormous, and with patience, the future could even be brighter.

Now that w're nearly a third of the way through the season, here are Insider's "educated" NBA predictions. None of these teams are likely to be playing in NBA Finals this year ... but the term "success" has multiple meanings.

The upside out West

Dallas Mavericks: Life sure has a way of coming back and biting you in the butt. The Mavs finally addressed long-term toughness and rebounding issues this summer only to regress in the one area that used to be their greatest strength – point guard play.

Chad Ford

ESPN Senior Writer