The Southwest Division may not be as tough as it used to be, but there are still two teams that will be fighting for first place. Both the San Antonio Spurs and the Dallas Mavericks have always been the two teams that fight until the end and that’s how it’s going to be again this year. The Mavs have built up a team that could win them 50-55 games this year and the Spurs still have a team with Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili so the Spurs should easily win 50 plus games. That means each match up between the Mavs and Spurs this year will be critical like every other season has been for the past decade.
However, The Memphis Grizzlies may change all that. It all depends on how they play this year. It may sound weird to talk about the Grizzlies as a threat as they have not done much in their franchise history, but the Grizzlies are on the rise to become a threat to both the Mavericks and the Spurs. The Grizzlies still have Rudy Gay, Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph and believe me when I say that I would take those three in a heart beat if they were available for the taken. If Randolph can be a factor in the offensive end by scoring 18-19 points a game followed by Gay’s 19 points a game and Gasol’s 13-14 points then the Grizzlies will be just fine this coming season. They are going to have to win over fifty games since both the Mavs and Spurs will end up with 50 plus wins.
Memphis will have to work on the defensive end especially on the glass as they were ranked 16th in the league. They have the capability if Randolph can go back to his statistics when he averaged over 12 a game during the 2010-11 season compared to only 8 a game this past season.
Honestly I do not see the Grizzlies a trouble for either the Mavericks nor the Spurs, but the Grizzlies may be the team that could sneak in there in both of them do not take care of business during the season.
The Texas team down south, The Houston Rockets, will be a team that will be on the bottom of the standings, so they will not be any threat to take first place or even second or third for that matter. They have acquired Jeremy Lin, but they have not put any other pieces together to make them hard to beat. Yes Lin may have some games where he will be unstoppable, but the Rockets will be lucky to even win over 35 games this year. They are in a rebuilding process right now, so what do you expect. If they can get the right guy to play with Lin that could be the Rockets one two punch then the Rockets will be back in the mix in the Southwest, but they still have years to go before they get there.
There’s one team that I have being the surprise team in the Western Conference and that’s the New Orleans Hornets. They may not win the division or be second place, but they could be a team that reaches the post-season this year. It may sound crazy, but I do believe with the experience that Anthony Davis had in the Olympics may help him carry the Hornets further than what people expect. Austin Rivers may be another factor for the hornets along with Davis to help carry this team. They have Eric Gordon, Robin Lopez and Ryan Anderson which may not be big name players, but they should be some help for Davis and Austin to get the Hornets over 40 wins this year. I actually have them making the post-season as an eight seed, but that’s all they will be this year is an eight seed or lottery team. They will be fun to watch and the city of New Orleans will not have to wait too long before the Hornets get back to what they were when they had Chris Paul.
Now for the Mavs and the Spurs. The San Antonio Spurs still have their big three in Duncan, Manu and Parker, so the Spurs will always be a major threat in the West. By adding Stephen Jackson and Boris Diaw they have upgraded their roster to help keep the big three rested and healthy when post-season comes in April. Also they still have DeJuan Blair and Matt Bonner and lets not forget the person who has been coaching this team, Greg Popovich. The main key for the Spurs this year is for the big three to be healthy and rested throughout the season. If they do that then the Spurs will have no problem winning yet another Southwest Division title.
For the Mavericks it’s all about keeping Dirk Nowitzki healthy. Without Dirk this Mavs team is nothing. With the addition of O.J. Mayo, Chris Kaman and Elton Brand the Mavs have made themselves a whole lot better than they were during the lockout season. I know every Mavs fan is disappointed in not getting Deron Williams and now with Dwight Howard in Los Angeles the Mavs have pretty much zero chance in landing the big guy next off-season. However, with the team they have put together they do have a chance in taking first place in the division away from the Spurs. It’s not going to be an easy ride, but with Shawn Marion, Delonte West and Vince Carter along with the new guys and Dirk the Mavs should be just fine this year. If the Mavs are able to win the division and get one of the top four seeds and advance to at least the second round of the post-season then they may attract other free agents next off-season. Who knows maybe Dirk will find somebody this year who he could pass the torch to.
1. San Antonio Spurs 54-28
2. Dallas Mavericks 52-30
3. Memphis Grizzlies 45-37
4. New Orleans Hornet 44-38
5. Houston Rockets 28-54