The Lauren Jackson factor looms large over the WNBL, even if Australia's superstar basketballer will miss this weekend's opening round.
Jackson won't suit up for Canberra in Sydney on Saturday, as her Seattle team was only eliminated from the WNBA playoffs on Wednesday Australian time.
Reigning premiers Dandenong will start their title defence on Friday against Bulleen without Jackson's Opals teammate Jenna O'Hea, whose LA side is still involved in the WNBA finals.
Dandenong, Canberra, Adelaide and Bulleen appear to be the frontline contenders for the semi-finals, which have been reduced to four places following the withdrawal of the AIS, leaving the competition with nine teams.
Seven-times champions Canberra, who missed out on the finals for the first time in eight seasons, will automatically become a leading contender once Jackson arrives.
"When you put her in a team like Canberra and you've got some veterans and you've also got some young really enthusiastic and energetic players, I think it's going to be a really great mix," Canberra stalwart Carly Wilson said.
Dandenong have retained the key players of their championship-winning squad, which won nine consecutive games to take the title after a 7-8 start.
"One of our main goals is to try and be at our best from the beginning rather than wait till after Christmas," Rangers' guard Kathleen MacLeod said.
"I feel like Adelaide will be tough, they've got quite a few of the same players again.
"Then obviously Canberra with Lauren. Bulleen will be good as well."
Adelaide will be out to atone for crashing out in straight games in the finals after winning the minor premiership.
"It did leave a very bad taste in a lot of our mouths," Adelaide guard Amy Lewis said.
"The girls that are coming back this year will be hoping to learn from the mistakes that we did make and hopefully do a better job this season, to be more consistent in the finals."
The Lightning lost Abby Bishop but Laura Hodges (nee Summerton) has joined a star-studded roster spearheaded by current league MVP and Opals front court stalwart Suzy Batkovic.
Bulleen have lost centre Liz Cambage to a Chinese club and point guard Sam Richards has left.
The Boomers still look strong after recruiting former Opals Hollie Florence (nee Grima) and Emma McDonald (nee Randall) and rising star Tess Madgen.
Townsville, last season's surprise packet, will strive for successive finals campaigns.
Logan and Bendigo, who both just missed out on the 2011-12 finals have lost key players.
Bendigo did win the WNBL pre-season tournament and have recruited Renae Camino and retained long serving Opals point guard Kristi Harrower.
Sydney picked up proficient perimeter shooter Sarah Graham from Logan, but could struggle after their main scorers Belinda Snell and Amy Denson headed to Europe.
Perennial stragglers West Coast could cause some upsets after strengthening their offence by recruiting Bendigo sharpshooter Deanna Smith.