The Spurs are head and shoulders above the rest of the teams in this division, with the Grizzlies and Mavericks snapping at their heels. The Rockets and Hornets will be lucky to get 30 wins though. Here’s a more detailed preview of the five teams in the Southwest Division:
Silent rivers run deep. I really should have used that quote with the Boston Celtics, seeing as they actually have a coach named Rivers and are equally prominent on the silent part, comprising of classy veterans. The San Antonio Spurs may be the classiest organization in the league, building and sustaining a dynasty for more than a decade and doing it quietly. The quiet part is not really in their hands too much as they are not a big market team, and since their mega superstar is as emotionally expressive as a Trappist monk. The Spurs get the business done and as long as the tandem of Duncan, Popovic, Parker and Ginobili is supported by their able organization, this team will continue to be among the top three in the conference.
Last postseason, the Spurs went up against their mirror opposites in the LA Clippers. A team with the most maligned owner, clueless coach, and a history of bad luck so ill, it would make Bad Luck Brian look like a leprechaun. The main distinction would be in the playing styles of the two teams; Clippers relied on superhuman Blake Griffin and an unreal talented superstar in Chris Paul. They used a lot of flash and athleticism to grind past the Grizzlies and were high on confidence. It was pitted as the battle of the old school style vs flash and athleticism.
The Spurs proceeded to flummox the Clippers with surgical precision in four games. And this is pretty much the same team coming into this season. While Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili are on the wrong side of thirties, Tony Parker can look to increase his offensive production while draining impossibly angled floaters in the paint and lighting it up from the outside. This old team finished at the top of the Western Conference last two years and will likely be in the top three this year too.
A lot of teams flit through identity crisis at different times through a season. The Grizzlies have a very strong identity. They went through a curious phase when Tony Allen seemingly usurped OJ Mayo’s minutes. After all, Mayo was projected as one of the best up and coming shooting guards in the league, and Allen was a scrapper. Tensions arose and this season, Mayo’s contract wasn’t renewed and now the bears are poised to assume their Grit and Grind identity with clarity. They have added Jerryd Bayless and Wayne Ellington to strengthen the perimeter. Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol make for one of the best front courts in the league. Look for the Grizzlies to make the playoffs around the fifth seed.
How quickly the mighty fall. Reminds me of the time I hit a game winning shot. I was over the moon and celebrated all day and night, drinking my liver to drowning point the same night. I was tippy for all the next week’s games where I missed all my game winners because I was missing my balance. Just trying to make an analogy involving drunken decisions. I can’t think of justifying blowing up your core after winning a championship with any other reason besides inebriation.
Mark Cuban justified it at the time by saying that it frees up cap space for the future. And he has had his team add Elton Brand, Darren Collision, and OJ Mayo to fill in the gaping void. Kaman and Brand bring in big bodies to partner with Dirk on the inside and Collision and Mayo can light up for 20 on any given night. Look for the Mavericks to contend for the lower half of the playoff spot in the West if Dirk Nowitzki’s knee holds up well.
In a league where tanking is done with open, blunt and shameless honesty, the Houston Rockets, under the influence of Billy Bean like GM Daryl Morey, keep playing the odds the right way. They are as competitive as they can be every season and are always good to beat any team in the league if the chips fall their way. But they are just good enough to compete, not good enough to get past the big boys.
They have added Jeremy Lin, Omer Asik and Carlos Delfino to make up for Kyle Lowrey, Luis Scola and Marcus Camby. But the jettisoning of the roster was mainly to land Dwight Howard, which didn’t happen. This is one season where the Rockets seem to be much below the high standards they set for themselves and will struggle to sneak into the postseason.
New Orleans Hornets
The Unibrow must be cursing his luck for not getting to play with Chris Paul, having come a season too late to this team. Anthony Davis is projected to be a superstar and with Eric Gordon, can form a inside-outside pairing for the Hornets in the coming years. With the addition of Ryan Anderson and drafting of Austin Rivers, this team is set for the long haul but in the immediate future, the bee doesn’t have a killer sting here. The postseason is a very long shot for the New Orleans Hornets. They will be lucky to scrape 30 wins this season. At least they have the future to look forward to.