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Will these changes help or hurt?

Will these changes help or hurt?Changing one component sometimes can alter the entire picture.

The Thunder's next four opponents all won more than 50 games last season. All four made at least one significant change.

In each case, except one, the new player is projected to help produce another high seed that takes his team deep into the playoffs.

Portland, tonight's opponent, added Andre Miller, an underrated point guard in Philadelphia.

It was assumed Miller would supplant Steve Blake as the starter. When that didn't happen, Miller said he never would have signed with the Trail Blazers if he had known he would be coming off the bench.

Miller has since softened his stance. And there's a chance he could crack the starting lineup at some point.

But it's a reminder team chemistry sometimes can be as much a factor as talent.

If Miller gives the Trail Blazers an improved floor general, Portland could continue its gradual climb to a team capable of winning an NBA championship.

But if Miller doesn't mesh well with a team that won 54 games, or there are internal issues, it can spoil a general manager's best intentions.

That's never more obvious than with the Lakers, who visit the Ford Center Tuesday night. The ultra talented but ultra controversial Ron Artest joins a Lakers team favored to win back-to-back titles.

If Kobe Bryant keeps Artest focused on the long-term goal, it gives the Lakers another option along with Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum.

But if Artest turns into a locker-room problem, a team that should coast to the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference might have been better off re-signing Trevor Ariza.

Speaking of Ariza, he's now playing for the Rockets, who host the Thunder Friday night in Houston. The Rockets will fall regardless of how Ariza plays simply because Yao Ming is out for the season and Tracy McGrady will be sidelined through at least November, possibly longer.

Ariza, though, is expected to replace a lot of what Artest provided last season with the Rockets. The key is how Ariza handles that responsibility after playing a lesser role with the Lakers.

The final team on the Thunder's week-long tour of 50-win teams is Orlando, which plays in the Ford Center next Sunday night. The Magic reached the NBA Finals but opted to let Hedu Turkgolu leave, replacing him with Vince Carter.

Orlando's core - Dwight Howard, Jameer Nelson and Rashard Lewis - remain the key players to the Magic trying to duplicate last year's playoff run.

Lewis, though, will miss the first 10 games due to a suspension for steroids. That places even more pressure on Carter to produce immediately.

Nearly every team goes through roster changes. How quickly players mesh with new teammates can determine what kind of start, possibly what kind of season, a team has after undergoing off-season changes.

Time to make a change

10 NBA off-season changes that could influence playoff races

→Lakers: Defending champions sign Ron Artest, allow Trevor Ariza to leave

→Celtics: Signing proven veteran Rasheed Wallace already paying dividends

→Spurs: Shooting for another title run by adding Richard Jefferson, Antonio McDyess

→Cavaliers: Much hype surrounding Shaq's arrival, but Cavs have much to prove

→Trail Blazers: Veteran Andre Miller gives Portland a veteran floor general

→Magic: They traded for Vince Carter and allowed Hedo Turkoglu to sign with Raptors

→Raptors: Signing Turkoglu could make Toronto a viable contender in the East

→Wizards: Much improved by adding Miller, Foye to Arenas/Jamison/Butler trio

→Mavericks: Shawn Marion joins a veteran team that is legitimately deeper

→Pistons: Villanueva, Gordon and Wilcox should keep Detroit in playoff chase

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Author: Fox Sports
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Added: November 4, 2009


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