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NBA Preview Part 4: Southwest Division

October 25, 2010

NBA previews continue with the Western Conference and the Southwest Division.  With the Western Conference I will be using actual Over/Unders released by Vegas instead of last year's win total.

Dallas Mavericks
Last Year: 55-27, lost in first round
Additions: Tyson Chandler, Dominique Jones
Subtractions: Erick Dampier
O/U: 49.5

Basically the same team except they are one year older, and that is a important year as the entire starting lineup and 6th man Jason Terry will be on the wrong side of 30.  Nowitzki was as good as ever last year, and Haywood and Chandler in the middle along with Nowitzki is one the biggest frontcourts in the West. Jason Kidd is 37 and Caron Butler's play fell dramatically last year, so they need to play young guard Rodrigue Beaubois more as he is a player that could emerge as a dependable scorer alongside Nowitzki and who could replace their old guards sooner rather than later.  They are still a middle of the road playoff team who could make it out of the first round, but they won't win the West.  With the general improvement of the West, I will go slightly under.
Prediction: 48-34, 6th place, first round exit

San Antonio Spurs
Last Year: 50-32, lost in semifinal
Additions: Tiago Splitter, James Anderson
Subtractions: none of note
O/U: 50.5

The triumvirate of Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili are looking to make one more run before father time catches up to them. Last year many things went wrong, as Duncan had his worst numbers as a professional averaging 17 and 10, Parker missed 26 games due to injury, and Richard Jefferson was completely underwhelming as a new addition.  But they were still able to scrap together a great ending to the season, giving them promise that they have enough left in the tank to challenge the Lakers before the window closes.  With the additions of George Hill and Dejuan Blair last season, and Tiago Splitter and James Anderson this season, they have infused enough young talent around their Big Three that beyond injuries or a total collapse in production from one of them, they will build upon the end of the last season and finish high up in the standings in the West.  But  is Duncan too far removed from his prime to for them win a title?
Prediction: 55-27, 3rd place, semifinals exit

Houston Rockets:
Last Year: 42-40
Additions: Yao Ming, Brad Miller, Courtney Lee, Patrick Patterson
Subtractions: Trevor Ariza, David Anderson
O/U: 48.5

The Rockets overachieved last season, as their two highest paid players last season, Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming, never stepped on the floor, and the rest of roster of support players led the Rockets to a winning record.  They received career years from Aaron Brooks, Luis Scola, Kyle Lowry, and Chuck Hayes.  They also did this with their best offseason acquisition last year Trevor Ariza mostly a disappointment and then traded during the season.  They addressed their weakness in the frontcourt with the addition of Brad Miller, Patrick Patterson, and obviously the return of Yao Ming from foot surgeries.  He will be limited in minutes and in games played, but his size and scoring ability inside was missed.  If Yao can contribute close to his production before the injuries, and Kevin Martin can stay healthy and regain his form from a few years ago, then they will improve their win total and make the playoffs, as we saw last year what the floor is for this team.  But the over is too rich for my blood, so I will go slightly under.
Prediction: 47-35, 7th place, first round exit

4)  Memphis Grizzlies
Last Year: 40-42
Additions: Tony Allen, Xavier Henry, Grevis Vasquez
Subtractions: Ronnie Brewer
O/U: 38.5

Good turnaround last season for the Grizz, as they took advantage of something that most teams do not have, interior scoring. Its rare for NBA teams to have a big man who can reliably score in the post but can also hit the outside jumper, and the Grizz are blessed with two such players.  Zach Randolph had a career year and Marc Gasol has established himself as somebody other than Pau Gasol's brother.  They are great scorers inside and out, but they also are great offensive rebounders, and they were the best offensive rebounding team in the league.  Their defense is their biggest obstacle to becoming a playoff team as they were bottom 5 in points allowed.  They need Hasheem Thabeet to bounce back from a disastrous rookie season, and they need newly signed Tony Allen to provide some defensive intensity and have it rub off on Rudy Gay and OJ Mayo.  Mike Conley is a below average point guard who doesn't distribute well, and they don't have much of a bench behind the starters.  I will pick the over, but they won't take the next to step.
Prediction: 40-42

New Orleans Hornets
Last Year: 37-45
Additions: Jerryd Bayless, Willie Green, Trevor Ariza, Aaron Gray
Subtractions: Morris Peterson, Darren Collison, James Posey
O/U: 41.5

Major changes in the offseason for the Hornets as they cleaned house after a disappointing 37-45 season.  They rebuilt the foundation by hiring a new GM and a new head coach, two guys I know nothing about but from what I read have excellent pedigrees.  There were wholesale changes on the roster again as only 6 players remain from last year's team and only Chris Paul, Peja, and David West remain from their playoff team two years ago.  Their best offseason move was to keep Chris Paul, as their are very few transcendent players like him and anything they would have received in a trade would have been pennies on the dollar and began a massive rebuilding project, something I'm not sure this franchise can survive in this economic climate. They have created some cap flexibility and will be well under the cap for next season, but they will need to be successful this season to prove to CP that they can win in the future, and that cap space can help provide leverage in signing an impact player next offseason.  As for this season, they have a solid starting five with Paul, rising guard Marcus Thorton, Ariza, West, and Emeka Okafor. But they lack toughness and defense in the interior and they have one of the worst benches in the league.  Ultimately if the starting five can stay healthy, they can possibly sneak in the playoffs.  Any injuries to West or CP though will prove devastating.  Important year for the Hornets.
Prediction: 44-38 9th place


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