NBA Preview: Southwest Division
Additions: Domonique Jones, Tyson Chandler
Losses: Erick Dampier
After acquiring Caron Butler at the trade deadline last season, the Mavericks were considered a threat to knock off the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference playoffs. They finished the season with a record of 55-27, which was good for the two seed in the postseason, but their in-state rival, the San Antonio Spurs, knocked them out in the first round.
They re-signed their star Dirk Nowitzki to a max contract and brought back Caron Butler, Jason Kidd, Shawn Marion, and Jason Terry. They also added big man Tyson Chandler.
The defensive effort of the Mavs, coupled with the disappearance of Butler in the playoffs last season, is a major question mark for Dallas. Nowitzki should realize the window is rapidly closing and motivate his team to finish first in the division.
Prediction: First Place in Southwest (57-25)
San Antonio Spurs
Additions: James Anderson, Tiago Splitter
Losses: Roger Mason, Keith Bogans
The Spurs have been the most consistent team of the past decade, but they are on the decline. They finished second in the division but seventh in the Western Conference last season. They knocked off Dallas in a first-round upset but then got swept by the Phoenix Suns.
This team has the veteran talent to win tough games, but it is in the process of overturning its roster. Tony Parker is on his way out of town, and Manu Ginobili is on his last legs. With all this, there is still a lot to look forward to this season for the Spurs.
George Hill has shown he can be a future star in the NBA, and DeJuan Blair has been a pleasant surprise since falling to the second round on draft day. Look for Hill and Blair to play big roles this season and the Spurs to make yet another playoff run behind their rock, Tim Duncan.
Prediction: Second Place in Southwest (51-31)
Additions: Xavier Henry, Tony Allen, Greivis Vasquez
Losses: Ronnie Brewer
The Grizzlies surprised many early last season with a good start, but midseason trouble caused them to miss the playoffs. They made a 16-win improvement last season from the previous year and finished just below .500, at 40-42.
The Grizzlies have loads of young talent with Rudy Gay, sharpshooter O.J. Mayo, and rookie Xavier Henry. Throw in Marc Gasol, who is one of the most underappreciated big men in the league, with Zach Randolph, and this team can be dangerous on the blocks.
Look for the Grizzlies to improve once again and make the playoffs this season.
Prediction: Third Place in Southwest (50-32)
New Orleans Hornets
Additions: Jerryd Bayless, Trevor Ariza
Losses: Darren Collison, Morris Peterson, James Posey
The Hornets are an interesting team this season. Two years ago, the same nucleus of Chris Paul and David West led the Hornets into the playoffs. Last season, they dropped off considerably and finished the season with a record of 37-45, mainly due to injury problems for Paul.
With the arrival of Trevor Ariza and Jerryd Bayless, the Hornets have added weapons to surround CP3. Paul is the best point guard in the league and is the type of player who will make everyone around him better.
Paul expressed his concerns with the franchise this offseason, at one point asking for a trade. But with Paul back and healthy, the Hornets can make a serious run at the playoffs this season.
Prediction: Fourth Place in Southwest Division (42-40)
Additions: Brad Miller, Courtney Lee, Patrick Patterson
Losses: Trevor Ariza
The status of Yao Ming will be the determining factor of the season for the Rockets. Last season, Yao went down for the season with an injury, and the team missed the playoffs.
During the offseason, the Rockets made nice moves that went virtually unnoticed by the rest of the league. They picked up a productive guard in Courtney Lee and got some Yao insurance by adding Brad Miller.
Even with the additions, the Rockets will go nowhere this season without their big man. Since Yao will only play limited minutes this season, the Rockets have no shot at the playoffs.
Prediction: Fifth Place in Southwest Division (38-44)