October 26, 2012
By Israel Chandler
Always one of the more competitive divisions in the NBA, the Southwest Conference was riddled with the injury bug as several key players missed significant parts of time. Teams in the Southwest seem to be moving in different directions, as the Mavericks and Spurs are looking to compete now while the Rockets and Hornets are looking towards the future. The Grizzlies are in a good place, being able to do both, and will look to get over the hump into the West's elite. Can the Grizzlies do it? Can the Spurs sustain their early season pace again? Did the Mavericks retool enough? Continue reading to see the answers to these questions in Pro Basketball Draft's Southwest Division preview.
Owner: Mark Cuban
General Manager: Donnie Nelson
Head Coach: Rick Carlisle
Projected Roster: Rodrigue Beaubois, Elton Brand, Vince Carter, Darren Collison, Jae Crowder, Jared Cunningham, Bernard James, Dahntay Jones, Dominique Jones, Chris Kaman, Shawn Marion, O. J. Mayo, Dirk Nowitzki, Delonte West, and Brandan Wright
Projected Starters: Chris Kaman, Dirk Nowitzki, Darren Collison, O.J. Mayo, and Shawn Marion.
Additions: Elton Brand, Darren Collison, Jae Crowder, Jared Cunningham, Bernard James, Dahntay Jones, Chris Kaman, and O.J. Mayo
Losses: Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, Lamar Odom, Brendan Haywood, Ian Mahinmi, Brian Cardinal, Kelenna Azubuike, Sean Williams, and Jianlian Yi
Where they were: Last season was tough for the Mavericks. With high hopes from their owner Mark Cuban the Mavericks finished as the 7th seed in the Western Conference and 3rd in the division. With a short season and veteran core, Dallas got off to a slow start and there superstar Dirk Nowitzki struggled as well. Still managing to make it to the playoffs, Dallas played the Oklahoma City in the first round and was swept in 4 games.
Where they’re at: After losing a lot of key pieces from last year mainly in their backcourt, Dallas was looking to build in the free agency market. After rolling the dice and missing out on Deron Williams and Dwight Howard, Dallas had to go after the next best available players. With losing Terry and Kidd to free agency, Dallas was able to get Darren Collison and O.J. Mayo in return. Also Dallas was able to strengthen there frontcourt by adding Elton Brand and Chris Kaman to the roster. Including in their draft picks Dallas had a very busy off-season.
Where they’re going: With Dallas being an older team they are looking to win now. With the additions O.J. Mayo, Elton Brand, and Chris Kaman these 3 guys should be able to overcome the losses of Terry, Kidd and Odom. The division Dallas is in is a tough division. Looking into the season PBD doesn't see them winning the division but expects them to compete for the second spot in the division and make a playoff push. PBD expects them to be around the .500 mark just because the Western Conference is tough as always.
Owner: Leslie Alexander
General Manager: Daryl Morey
Head Coach: Kevin McHale
Projected Roster: Omer Asik, Carlos Delfino, Toney Douglas, Gary Forbes, JaJuan Johnson, Terrance Jones, Jeremy Lamb, Jeremy Lin, Shaun Livingston, Kevin Martin, Marcus Morris, Donatas Motiejunas, Chandler Parsons, Patrick Patterson, and Royce White
Projected Starters: Jeremy Lin, Kevin Martin, Chandler Parsons, Patrick Patterson, and Omer Asik
Additions: Omer Asik, Carlos Delfino, Toney Douglas, Gary Forbes, JaJuan Johnson, Terrance Jones, Jeremy Lamb, Jeremy Lin, Shaun Livingston, Donatas Motiejunas, and Royce White
Losses: Kyle Lowry, Chase Budinger, Samuel Dalembert, Goran Dragic, Courtney Lee, and Luis Scola
Where they were: Last season was up and down for the Rockets. The Rockets ended the season 34-32 and on the outside looking in with the playoffs. They finished 9th in the Western Conference and 4th in the division. They had a lot of veterans on their team but injuries cost them a couple games as well. Trying to make a push for the playoffs the Rockets made some major trades at the deadline and was still unable to get over the hump.
Where they’re at: This off-season was a major transformation for the Rockets. They unloaded a bunch of players this off-season. They lost at least 12 players to free agency this summer. This summer the Rockets built through the draft and decided to go young. The Rockets had 3 picks this picks this year in the draft and drafted some nice talent to compliment the pieces they already had. Also the Rockets went young by bringing in Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik, which were 2 free agents high on their board to obtain.
Where they’re going: The Rockets are building for the future. This season will be a learning process for most of the players. Half or most of the players on the team is under the age of 25. They will be a team that will compete this year but PBD doesn't think they will be in the running for the playoffs. PBD is predicting them to maybe finish the year under the .500 mark and to dump all of the veterans at the trade deadline and to continue to get younger through the draft.
Owner: Michael Heisley
General Manager: Chris Wallace
Head Coach: Lionel Hollins
Projected Roster: Tony Allen, Darrell Arthur, Jerryd Bayless, Mike Conley Jr., Ronald Dupree, Wayne Ellington, Marc Gasol, Rudy Gay, Hamed Haddadi, Ronald Murray, Quincy Pondexter, Zach Randolph, Josh Selby, Marresse Speights, Tony Wrotten
Starting Lineup: Mike Conley Jr., Tony Allen, Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph, and Marc Gasol
Additions: Wayne Ellington, Jerryd Bayless, Tony Wrotten, Ronald Dupree, and Kyle Weaver
Losses: Jeremy Pargo, Sam Young, O.J. Mayo, Dante Cunningham, Gilbert Arenas,
Where they were: Last season Memphis surprised a lot of teams. They finished the season 41-25 which was second in there division and was the 4th seed going into the playoffs. Rudy Gay led the team to a marvelous season. The Grizzlies got even stronger after Zach Randolph returned from injury late in the season and helped them secure a spot in the playoffs. Their season was ended after losing to the Los Angeles Clippers in seven games in the first round of the playoffs.
Where they’re at: This off-season the Grizzlies went into the draft and free agency looking to improve their backcourt. After losing O.J. Mayo to free agency, the Grizzlies went out and drafted Tony Wroten Jr. a 6’6” point guard out of Washington and brought in Wayne Ellington and Jerryd Bayless from free agency. Wroten Jr. should fill in the missing hole at the backup point guard position. The backup shooting guard position is up for grabs which will likely be determined by who has the best pre-season. By filling these voids the Grizzlies should be a much better team in the 2012-2013 season.
Where they’re going: This upcoming season should be interesting for the Memphis Grizzlies. With most of there core players still in tack they should make a push for the division title and make a deeper run in the playoffs. Also this upcoming year they have no major injuries coming into the season, so Zach Randolph and Rudy Gay should be able to get a feel on how one another plays. They struggled a little last season when both were in the game on who would take the big shot but now they should be able to feed off one another and have excellent seasons.
New Orleans Hornets
Owner: Tom Benson
General Manager: Dell Demps
Head Coach: Monty Williams
Projected Roster: Solomon Alabi, Al-Farouq Aminu, Ryan Anderson, Anthony Davis, Eric Gordon, Xavier Henry, Robin Lopez, Roger Mason Jr., Darius Miller, Austin Rivers, Brian Roberts, Jason Smith, Lance Thomas, Greivis Vasquez, and Hakim Warrick
Starting Lineup: Greivis Vasquez, Eric Gordon, Al-Farouq Aminu, Ryan Anderson, and Anthony Davis
Additions: Ryan Anderson, Anthony Davis, Solomon Alabi, Robin Lopez, Roger Mason Jr., Darius Miller, Austin Rivers, Brian Roberts, and Hakim Warrick
Losses: Trevor Ariza, Gustavo Ayon, Marco Belinelli, Jarrett Jack, Chris Kaman, Carl Landry, Emeka Okafor, and DaJuan Summers
Where they were: Last season was a disaster for the New Orleans Hornets. The Hornets finished the season 21-45 and that landed them in last place in the division and also Western Conference. The team got off to a bad start and could never recover from it. One of their key players, Eric Gordon was lost most of the season due to injuries. With him being out most of the season and only playing 9 games, hurt the Hornets because they had high hopes for Gordon coming into the season.
Where they’re at: This off-season the Hornets made some changes around the club house by dumping contracts or veterans and deciding to change the look of the whole team. The Hornets got rid of at least 4 of their starters from last years team by either trading them or losing them to free agency. In return the Hornets received the number one and ten pick and drafted Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers. These two will come in and fill holes they were left by the players that left the team. Also the team went out and got a great shooter in Ryan Anderson, more low post presence in Robin Lopez and Hakim Warrick, and perimeter shooters in Roger Mason and Darius Miller. This off-season was a youth movement and rebuilding process for the Hornets.
Where they’re going: With the Hornets in rebuilding mode it will take a couple years before they are contenders again. This team is young and going to be hungry every night for wins. PBD still sees them finishing last in the division just because of there youth and inexperience. The team will be led around Anthony Davis and Eric Gordon. They will go as far as Eric Gordon takes them who is coming back from injury and also the same person that voiced his opinion about being traded away in the off-season as well. With that being said this will be an interesting season from the New Orleans Hornets.
San Antonio Spurs
Owner: Peter Holt
General Manager: R.C. Buford
Head Coach: Gregg Popovich
Projected Roster: DeJuan Blair, Matt Bonner, Eddy Curry, Boris Diaw, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Danny Green, Stephen Jackson, Corey Joseph, Kawhi Leonard, Patrick Mills, Gary Neal, Tony Parker, Josh Powell, and Tiago Splitter
Starting Lineup: Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Kawhi Leonard, Boris Diaw, and Tim Duncan
Additions: Eddy Curry, Josh Powell
Losses: T.J. Ford
Where they were: Last season the Spurs jumped out to a great start. They raced out to the front of the division and also the Western Conference. They finished the regular season with a record of 50-16. The short season was good for the veteran core they have. They were led by Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, and Manu Ginobili the whole season. The team went as far as they were going to take them. They tried to make a push for the title by going and trading for Boris Diaw at the trade deadline. The Spurs were able to get by their first 2 opponents by sweeping the Jazz in the first round and L.A. Clippers in the second round. But their season was cut short when they came up against the Oklahoma City and lost the series 4-2.
Where they’re at: This off-season the San Antonio Spurs really didn’t do that much. They lost one player to retirement, T.J. Ford, and had one draft pick. The Spurs selected number 59 in the draft and took Marcus Denmon. With him being selected in the second round his contract is non-guaranteed and still have to make the roster. The main concern in the off-season for the Spurs was re-sign Danny Green and Tim Duncan and make sure there veterans on the team is healthy for the upcoming season.
Where they’re going: This upcoming season the San Antonio Spurs have one goal in mind: win a championship. With most of their players only having one or two good more years in the NBA their goal is to win now. They didn’t bring anyone in through free agency or draft because they believe they have a solid core already that can get them over the hump. If everyone stays healthy and play there role PBD sees San Antonio having a great season again. PBD believes they will win their division again and be in the hunt for the best overall record in the Western Conference. The question is, do they have enough to get past the Oklahoma City Thunder who knocked them out last year? This is the question that everyone wants the answer to and we will find out in the upcoming season.