Preview 09: Evaluating the Southwest Division

It’s time to size up the competition in the Southwest Division.  The Spurs, Mavericks and Rockets retooled in the off-season and even the Grizzlies….who am I kidding, the Grizzlies didn’t improve and as for the New Orleans Hornets, questions remain.  The division is still a three-way race between the teams from Texas but which team improved enough to capture the division crown?

Michael De Leon took an in-depth look at the Spurs tomorrow, so let’s take a closer look at the other teams in the division.

Dallas Mavericks:  This is a team that NBA analysts and fans might be overlooking.  In the offseason they added Shawn Marion, Drew Gooden, Tim Thomas, and resigned Jason Kidd, though some think the resigning of an old point guard for a long contract might have not been the right decision.  Add these solid veterans to a crew of Jason Terry, Dirk Nowitzki and Josh Howard and you have one solid team.

The addition of Marion will provide another scoring option and someone who can actually play some perimeter defense.  Adding Gooden will give the Mavs another big man to contend with Gasol and Duncan while Tim Thomas will provide some outside scoring.

But questions remain.  Can they commit to defense?  Will Howard not be a distraction as in past seasons?  Will Kidd’s age catch up to him especially with younger, quicker guards in the West like Parker and Paul?  Will Dirk have more women issues?

Houston Rockets: The Rockets’ issues sound like a broken record. Health, health, health.  Health of McGrady and Ming.  Yao will miss the entire 2009-2010 NBA season and McGrady will miss half of the Rockets season.  Though both are ahead of their recovery schedule.  Let’s not forget, the Rockets lost Ron Artest to the Lakers.

So what’s left?  They still have Battier, Brooks, and Scola to step up with their stars out. Last year, the Rockets proved they can sustain a winning attitude when they took the eventual NBA Champion Lakers to seven games in the playoffs.

They added Trevor Ariza and Kyle Lowry which will help this young team but there is a question as to who will be center with Ming out.  Mutombo’s career is over, Landry is undersized but proven he can play and may have a breakout season and they signed an unproven big man, David Andersen.  Also rookie Chase Budinger has shown flashes in the 2009 preseason that he might be a steal in the second round for the Rockets

This team will have to stay above water until the return of T-Mac.

Memphis Grizzlies:  With a young, talented nucleus of Mayo, Conley, Gay, and Thabeet, this team needed to add stable, proven veteran leadership.  So who did Memphis add to fill this leadership role?  None other than Zach Randolph and Allen Iverson!  Nice job Grizzlies management.  Just what the doctor ordered for this young team.

This team will be an exciting to watch.  Let’s not forget they still have Marc Gasol and Darell Authur which means all these young players will get plenty of time on the floor which will do wonders for their development.  However the Grizz won’t be a factor at all in the division let alone the Western Conference.

New Orleans Hornets:  Last season they came within one game of a 50 win season but still couldn’t duplicate the success they had in 2008.  Part of their problem last year was Tyson Chandler.  After being traded to the Thunder, the trade was called off after his physical and was sent back to the Hornets.  In the offseason they managed to trade Chandler for Emeka Okafor.  Okafor is younger and is more durable than Chandler.  Also Okafor and David West will be a nice front court for the Hornets.

Chris Paul will remain one of the top point guards in the NBA and David West will be providing a low post threat for the Hornets but who else will step it up for this team? Expect all eyes to be on Mo Pete to help.  Devin Brown and James Posey will need to contribute as well.  Rookie Darren Collison backing up Paul may seem a lot for the rook but with Paul teaching Collison the NBA ropes and should have a smooth transition into the NBA.

Questions — will Peja remain healthy to be a factor? With Chandler gone, will Okafor be able to get to the rim off screens with Paul?  Can Paul carry the team for an entire season?

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