Tuesday, October 26, 2010
NBA Preview: Southwest Division
If you were to say the Southwest Division was the "Senior Circuit" of the Western Conference, you wouldn't be too far off as the San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Mavericks are the two oldest teams in the league, and New Orleans Hornets are not too far off at fifth oldest. (based on average player age). So does that mean the youngest team (Memphis Grizzlies) should run all over the vets? WRONG. Despite their ages, the vets in the division know how to win, and this should be one of the most competitive division races in the NBA as anyone can come out on top. Just don't be too upset if this preview is as bland as Tim Duncan's post game. Bland, yet effective! (we will be keeping with the theme of worst to best, including odds they will win the title)
5. Memphis Grizzlies 75 to 1
Someone has to be in last place. Too bad it looks like it's going to be Memphis. The Grizzlies return virtually the same roster from 2009-2010 that won 40 games, with the addition of defensive specialist Tony Allen from Boston (yawn). They did manage to retain restricted free agent Rudy Gay by throwing entirely too much money to him so don't be shocked if he doesn't always play up to that max contract. The Griz do have some solid pieces with Gay, O.J. Mayo, a revitalized Zack Randolph (who somehow scores without ever jumping) and the 'other' Gasol (Marc) but they neglected to address their biggest hole, back up point guard. Mike Conley is decent at best but Acie Law isn't. The Grizzlies will be hard pressed to duplicate last year's win total.
4. New Orleans Hornets 75 to 1
Remember all that rumbling that Chris Paul wasn't happy in NO and wanted to be traded? Don't be fooled into thinking he's happy just because they traded for Trevor Ariza's terrible shot selection. True, they got more athletic on the wing with Ariza but they also got weaker in the back court by dealing Darren Collison to the Pacers. Peja Stojakovic is old and not the threat he once was. David West is getting older. Adding Italian shooter Marco Belinelli and PG Jeryd Bayless looks good on paper but not exactly blockbuster moves. So did the Hornets really do enough to keep CP3 happy? I say no, but the Hornets can still make things interesting.
3. Houston Rockets 35 to 1
The Rockets managed to stay over .500, despite missing their biggest piece Yao Ming (pun intended). They relied heavily on the shoulders of Aaron Brooks who raised a lot of eyebrows by averaging close to 20 ppg. That was no fluke as the little fella can really play. The Rockets traded Ariza and return Kevin Martin who is always good for 20 a night and some tough defenders in Shane Battier and Louis Scola. Yao is slated to only play around 24 minutes a night, but that should be good for 15-18 ppg and close to 10 boards. The x-factor here may be Scola's post game. He was absolutely unstoppable on the block in the World Games this summer so look for him to be more assertive, especially when Yao hits the bench.
2. San Antonio Spurs 25 to 1
Every year we expect the Spurs to be on the decline and they get off to a slow start and every year they come on late in the season and end up making a run in the playoffs, although last year's run ended by being swept by the Suns. They bring back the same boring starting five as last season but are adding a little youth to the bench by drafting swing man James Anderson for Oklahoma St. The Spurs can expect to get nice production from other youngsters George Hill (who may be their point guard of the future) and PF DeJuan Blair. Blair is said to be in great shape this season and collects rebounds like a man possessed. Expect close to 50 wins, low scores and another playoff appearance. Business as usual.
1. Dallas Mavericks 20 to 1
Dirk Nowitzki golden locks and company are back and looking to attempt a return to the Finals, and have loaded up with post players to be able to throw at the Lakers this season. Why else would you sign Tyson Chandler and keep Brendan Haywood, as well as acquire Alexis Ajinca from Charlotte (yes, that's a man's name). But we can't forget the Mavs are the league's oldest team (Jason Kidd is pushing 38) and not very athletic outside of Shawn Marion, and he's not what he used to be. One thing to watch: Caron Butler is in a contract year, so that means big numbers and inspired play all season from him. I still say slot them down for 53-55 wins and a second round exit to either the Thunder or Lakers, whichever one finishes 2nd in the West.