Southwest Division Preview

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SAN ANTONIO SPURS

Offseason Summary – The Spurs lost a slowing Bruce Bowen, Fabricio Oberto, Drew Gooden, and Kurt Thomas and gained Richard Jefferson, Antonio McDyess, Dejaun Blair, Theo Ratliff and, for all intents and purposes, Manu Ginobili, who is reportedly close to 100% for the first time since the Olympics. Nice Summer. Even Grinchy Greg Popavich sounds pretty happy with the way the summer has gone.

Probable Starters

PG Tony Parker
SG Michael Finley
SF Richard Jefferson
PF Antonio McDyess
C Tim Duncan

Key Reserves

SG Manu Ginobili
PG George Hill
PF DeJuan Blair
C Theo Ratliff
S/F Roger Mason, Jr.

This team is DEEP and talented, has a nice mix of vets and youth, three top level players at their positions and a great coach. They always play terrific defense. Manu, Timmy, Tony, and Hill have all had great moments in the clutch. The Spurs had a down season for them last year. Expect a major bounce back. They were starting Matt Bonner for a while last year. He may not crack their top 10 next year. They are dangerous and steady. I would not be surprised to see another 60 win season and WC Finals appearance. I’m not sure they’ve got the size to beat LA, but they might pull it off anyway. Contender.

DALLAS MAVERICKS

Offseason Summary – Nelson the Younger swung and missed on Marcin Gortat and lost Brandon Bass in the attempt. They traded Jerry Stackhouse for Greg Buckner and then released Buckner to open us space for trade of Antoine Wright and Devon George to Toronto for Shawn Marion, Nathan Jawai, and Kris Humphries. They also picked up Tim Thomas, Quinton Ross, and Rodrigue Beaubois, a Guatemalan PG by way of France. A pretty good shake-up, even for a Cuban team.

Probable Starters

PG Jason Kidd
SG Jason Terry
SF Josh Howard
PF Shawn Marion
C Dirk Nowitzki

Key Reserves

C Erick Dampier
PG Jose Barrera
PF Tim Thomas
SG Quinton Ross
PF Drew Gooden

Rick Carlisle probably won’t start those players. He’ll probably start Kidd, Howard, Marion, Dirk, and Damp and keep Terry as a 6th man. But I to think that the lineup they expect to win them games is the one above. This team is built for speed, for shooting, and a blitzing defense. Dirk will do his best Bob McAdoo perimeter center routine, and Kidd will push the tempo once again. Carlisle is a phenomenal coach, and this is a veteran squad. One injury to the often injured Spurs, and Mavs may be able to win the division.

NEW ORLEANS HORNETS

Offseason Summary – The big splash was trading Turf Toe Tyson Chandler for Emeka Okafur, an interesting move in that it gives a genuine low post game to complement David West’s high post game, but will the less athletic Okafur have the same pick and roll chemistry with Chris Paul? The team also lost RasuAl Butler, Antonio Daniels, and Melvin Ely. They picked up Ike Diogu & Darius Songaila and drafted PG Darren Collison out of UCLA. It looks like the team is trying to stay competitive while keeping costs low.

Probable Starters

PG Chris Paul
SG Devin Brown
SF Peja Stojakovic
PF David West
C Emeka Okafur

Key Reserves

SF James Posey
SF Julian Wright
C Hilton Armstrong
PG Bobby Brown
PF Darius Songaila

I really want to get behind this team. Chris Paul is an absolute magician. I’ve always pulled for Emeka Okafur. David West has built himself into a terrific player. Byron Scott has been a successful coach and wears really nice suits. Something doesn’t sit right though. Wright is their most explosive athlete, but the coach hasn’t trusted him. Okafur and West are both short for their positions. Devin Brown is talented by unproven as a starter. It just looks like they are treading water unless Wright makes a big jump or Emeka fits in a surprising way. I hope they have a great season, but I think they’ll be behind the Spurs and Mavs in the division and may have a tough time fending off the third point of the Texas triangle.

HOUSTON ROCKETS

Offseason Summary – The Rockets found out that Yao Ming wouldn’t have to retire due to 7′ 6″ foot syndrome but will definitely be out for the duration of this season. They let Ron Artest go to LA and took Trevor Ariza out of free agency to replace him. The signed rookie Center David Andersen from Australia. They traded for forward Chase Budinger and guard Jermaine Taylor. Word is that the artist formerly known as All-NBA first team member Tracy McGrady is working himself back into prime condition, but reports are that he isn’t there quite yet.

Probable Starters

PG Aaron Brooks
SG Tracy McGrady
SF Trevor Ariza
PF Luis Scola
C Chuck Hayes

PF Carl Landry
G/F Shane Battier
PG Kyle Lowry

The Rockets won’t fall off as much as another team losing its starting center and best player might. Rick Adelman is a very good coach, and the team has tremendous devotion to playing great team defense. If McGrady does return to his pre-injury form, they’ll be a dangerous squad, but otherwise their firepower will be very limited, and Aaron Brooks will be their only real playmaking element. They have tough bigs, but they lack length on their front line. They may wind up being better than the Hornets, but I can’t see them passing San Antonio or Dallas this season.

MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES

Offseason Summary – AAAAAAAllen IIIIIIIIIverson! The Griz signed AI out of free agency along with guards Mike Taylor and Marcus Williams and traded for Zach Randolph and Stephen Hunger. They lost Hakim Warrick, Quinton Ross, and Darius Miles. They selected Hasheem Thabeet with the second overall pick in the draft. I can’t wait to see how all the gunners on this team meld together.

Probable Starters

PG Allen Iverson
SG O.J. Mayo
SF Rudy Gay
PF Zach Randolph
C Marc Gasol

Key Reserves

PG Mike Conley
PF Darrell Arthur
C Stephen Hunter
PG Marcus Williams

This team actually looks pretty talented. They have guards who can get into the paint, wings who can score, bigs who can work the post and control the boards, one or two guys on the team have played defense once in a while… what could go wrong? Unfortunately they have very little depth and they don’t have the shooters they need to space the floor for their post scorers and slashers. I’d be very surprised to see this team come in anywhere but last in the division, but I can’t wait to see them play.

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