IUSportCom’s Max Gabovitch takes an in-depth look at the Southwest Division of the NBA
San Antonio Spurs
2011-2012 Regular Season Record: 50-16
Playoffs: No. 1 seed in Western Conference, lost Western Conference Finals (Utah 4-0, Los Angeles (Lakers) 4-0, Oklahoma City 2-4)
Key Additions: Marcus Denmon (Draft), Nando de Colo (2009 Draft Pick/FA)
Key Losses: None
2012-2013 Outlook: The San Antonio Spurs are possibly the best organization in the NBA, showing the rest of the league how to be extremely successful in a small market. They haven’t missed the playoffs since the 1996-1997 season and have won four championships since then. While their core is aging, they were able to secure the top seed in the Western Conference last year and reach the Conference Finals. How long can they keep winning with this group? I think that the biggest issue is going to be health. Tim Duncan is 36, Manu Ginobili is 35, and Tony Parker is 30, and they already have each dealt with some injury problems over the past few years. I think they all still have something left in the tank, but they have to stay on the court for the team to continue their success. San Antonio did almost nothing to their roster this offseason, but do have a few good younger players with Kawhi Leonard having a terrific rookie season last year and Danny Green looking like a nice contributor off of the bench. This is a tough team to project because of the injury concerns, but I’m going to say that the Spurs make the playoffs this season as a five or six seed.
2011-2012 Regular Season Record: 41-25
Playoffs: No. 4 seed in Western Conference, lost first round (Los Angeles (Clippers) 3-4)
Key Additions: Tony Wroten Jr. (Draft), Jerryd Bayless (FA), Wayne Ellington (Trade), D.J. Kennedy (Trade)
Key Losses: O.J. Mayo (FA), Dante Cunningham (Trade), Jeremy Pargo (Trade)
2012-2013 Outlook: The Grizzlies had a nice season last year, but lost their first round playoff series against the Clippers despite having home-court advantage. They didn’t do much this offseason, which raises some questions for me. While I think they are a good team, they aren’t a great team and I’m not sure why they didn’t make any moves to try to get there. They lost O.J. Mayo and retained the rest of their rotation players, but have to worry about the other Western Conference teams who improved this summer. They have a really solid starting lineup with Mike Conley Jr. and Tony Allen in the backcourt, and Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph, and Marc Gasol making up one of the best frontcourts in the league. However, the bench is really weak with the second string consisting of Wayne Ellington, Jerryd Bayless, Quincy Pondexter, Hamed Haddadi, and Marreese Speights. While Mayo may have been disappointing in four seasons with Memphis, he did provide some scoring off of the bench. It’ll be impossible for the Grizzlies to take the next step towards being a championship contender until they find a way to strengthen the bench significantly. With the Western Conference as tough as it is, I see the Grizzlies falling down to the six or seven seed this season, but they will still be a playoff team.
2011-2012 Regular Season Record: 36-30
Playoffs: No. 7 seed in Western Conference, lost first round (Oklahoma City 0-4)
Key Additions: Bernard James (Draft/Draft Day Trade), Jared Cunningham (Draft/Draft Day Trade), Jae Crowder (Draft/Draft Day Trade), O.J. Mayo (FA), Elton Brand (FA), Chris Kaman (FA), Darren Collison (Trade), Dahntay Jones (Trade), Tadija Dragicevic (Trade)
Key Losses: Jason Kidd (FA), Jason Terry (FA), Kelenna Azubuike (Trade), Ian Mahinmi (Trade), Lamar Odom (Trade), Shan Foster (Trade), Brendan Haywood (Amnesty)
2012-2013 Outlook: The Mavericks look significantly different then they did last season, and it’ll be interesting to see how the new pieces fit together. They will be starting three new additions this year – Darren Collison, O.J. Mayo, and Chris Kaman. Dirk Nowitzki is still the unquestioned leader of the team, but is struggling with an injury and will miss the first few weeks of the season after having arthroscopic surgery on his right knee. He’s missed a total of only 42 games over the last 13 seasons, but you have to question whether it is catching up with him now. They picked up a nice backup at power forward in Elton Brand after he was waived via the amnesty clause by Philly, and that should help the team not completely fall apart while Dirk is on the shelf. I think this is a decent team, but it’ll take some time for them to build chemistry with all of these new guys, and they’ll be fighting for the eighth seed at the end of the season.
2011-2012 Regular Season Record: 34-32
Playoffs: Missed playoffs (9th in Western Conference)
Key Additions: Jeremy Lamb (Draft), Royce White (Draft), Terrance Jones (Draft), Jeremy Lin (FA), Omer Asik (FA), Carlos Delfino (FA), Scott Machado (FA), Toney Douglas (Trade), Gary Forbes (Trade), Jon Brockman (Trade), Jon Diebler (Trade), Furkan Aldemir (Trade), Josh Harrellson (Trade), Shaun Livingston (Trade), JaJuan Johnson (Trade), Jerome Jordon (Trade), E’Twaun Moore (Trade), Sean Williams (Trade)
Key Losses: Goran Dragic (FA), Kyle Lowry (Trade), Marcus Camby (Trade), Courtney Lee (Trade), Samuel Dalembert (Trade), Chase Budinger (Trade), Luis Scola (Amnesty)
2012-2013 Outlook: This is no misprint. The Rockets actually acquired 18 players this offseason! While they all won’t make the final roster (teams can only have 15 players on regular season roster), it shows how active Houston was this offseason and how different they will look this season. They have just four players under contract from last season, led by leading scorer Kevin Martin. General manager Daryl Morey has been trying to get a superstar player and worked hard going after Dwight Howard, but came up short. They spent some money to get Jeremy Lin this offseason, but I don’t buy him being the superstar he was for a month in New York. He is a good point guard, but I can’t see him ever being an all-star caliber player. In addition to Lin, the Rockets spent a ton of money on Omer Asik, a terrific defender with ZERO offensive game. They also brought in three nice rookies through the draft and traded for lots of young talent. Jeremy Lamb is a solid shooter and I really like Royce White, but this team is really starting from scratch this season with an almost entirely new roster. I think Morey is still looking to get a superstar, and hopes that some of these young players develop enough to become valuable trade assets and bring a big name to Houston. This will be a rough season for the Rockets, and I see them finishing in the bottom three of the conference.
New Orleans Hornets
2011-2012 Regular Season Record: 21-45
Playoffs: Missed playoffs (15th in Western Conference)
Key Additions: Anthony Davis (Draft), Austin Rivers (Draft), Darius Miller (Draft), Roger Mason Jr. (FA), Ryan Anderson (Trade), Robin Lopez (Trade), Hakim Warrick (Trade), Edin Bavcic (Trade)
Key Losses: Chris Kaman (FA), Carl Landry (FA), Marco Belinelli (FA), Emeka Okafor (Trade), Trevor Ariza (Trade), Gustavo Ayon (Trade), Jarrett Jack (Trade), Darryl Watkins (Trade), Jerome Dyson (Trade)
2012-2013 Outlook: The Hornets had the best offseason in the league, with the possible exception of the Lakers. It started in May, when New Orleans got lucky in the lottery drawing, getting the first pick and the chance to draft Anthony Davis. They did just that in June, as well as add Austin Rivers with pick 10. They got Darius Miller in the second round; a good shooter and a high value pick that late in the draft. The Hornets also retained Eric Gordon, matching a maximum offer sheet he signed with the Phoenix Suns as a restricted free agent. Gordon only played in nine games last season due to knee issues, but looks like he could become an all-star if he stays healthy. The addition of Ryan Anderson gives them a three-point specialist and Robin Lopez is a nice pickup as well. They did lose some key guys in Chris Kaman, Carl Landry, Emeka Okafor, Trevor Ariza, Marco Belinelli, and Jarrett Jack, but they have all been replaced with younger guys who have the potential to be much better. The Hornets are a couple years away from getting back to the playoffs, but they couldn’t have asked for a better offseason to get them headed in the right direction.