The Southwest Division is one of the tougher divisions in the NBA and it is still led by the San Antonio Spurs, who may be getting older, but that is just a different word for experienced.
1-SAN ANTONIO SPURS — They didn’t go out and sign any flashy free agents, but that isn’t the Spurs way. However, they extended Tim Duncan’s contract and will continue to do what they always do – win and hope the experience pays off in the postseason. Stephen Jackson and Boris Diaw return to play defense and add some scoring when needed. Tony Parker’s continued development is needed for San Antonio to challenge the Thunder and the reloaded Lakers.
2-MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES — The Grizzlies’ strength is their frontcourt with Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. Not many teams in the league can boast a squad this talented. The backcourt is solid with Mike Conley Jr. and Tony Allen. Memphis added Jeryd Bayless, who averaged 11.4 points and 3.8 assists last season with the Toronto Raptors. He’s not a starter on a good team, but a solid backup. A lot better than Gilbert Arenas, last season’s backup at PG.
3-DALLAS MAVERICKS — The Mavs made some nice offseason moves after failing to land Dwight Howard and Deron Williams. Chris Kaman, Darren Collison, O.J. Mayo, and Elton Brand were decent moves, but they all have a certain amount of risk. Kaman has been injury prone the last two years, averaging just 39.5 games played. Oh, and he just turned 30. However, he’s a huge upgrade over Brendan Haywood. At 7 feet and around 270 pounds, he gives Dallas a legit presence in the paint and he could easily average 15 points and eight rebounds. Collison is an undersized point guard, but he brings youth, energy, and much-needed scoring in the starting lineup – something Jason Kidd (now with the Knicks) didn’t do last season. Mayo has a reputation for being a cancer in the locker room, but the Mavs are willing to take that risk after losing supersub Jason Terry to the Boston Celtics. Brand is on the downside of a very good career, but he gives Dallas a nice frontcourt option.
4-HOUSTON ROCKETS — The team pulled off a major blockbuster deal, sending Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, and several draft picks to Oklahoma City for James Harden. Acquiring Harden was a nice move after the Rockets struck out in their pursuit of Dwight Howard in the offseason, and let go of Luis Scola, Kyle Lowry, and Goran Dragic. It won’t help them much this season as the team is loaded with young players looking to make a name for themselves in the league, but I can see this team winning 28-32 games. Harden should lead the Rockets in scoring, somewhere close to 20 points per game.
5-NEW ORLEANS HORNETS — They are young and talented, but they will need a season to play together and pray for good health, something that eluded them last year. Anthony Davis is a solid player. He’s a slightly better offensive version of Marcus Camby, and not a player who can carry a team. Davis should be a good role player who will hustle, play defense, and rebound. I see him average 13-15 points. He will make up for any defensive shortcomings of Eric Gordon. Speaking of Gordon, he should provide the offense for the Hornets this year, but he has to stay healthy and remain on the court. Ryan Anderson was a nice pickup to play power forward, but he may not be the same player he was in Orlando because he benefited greatly from having Dwight Howard in the low post and saw a lot of open looks at the basket.
Darren Jacks is a regular contributor to OneManFastBreak.net. Send him an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org