With many players changing teams this offseason throughout the NBA, a lot of teams may have improved on paper. The San Antonio Spurs have done their share of player movement by adding Tiago Splitter, James Anderson, Gary Neal and re-signing Matt Bonner and Richard Jefferson. Also, it’s still possible the team might add a piece or two before their summer is done.
But what about the rest of the Southwest Division? Did those teams make moves which could spell trouble for the Spurs in the upcoming season? Let’s find out.
New Orleans Hornets
Roster wise this team is the same as last year. Their summer work has been so far highlighted by hiring former Spurs Monty Williams as their new coach and Dell Demps as their new GM. Despite Chris Paul’s trade request, it is highly unlikely that the Hornets will grant his wish with two more years left in his contract. Also if there should be a Paul trade, Emeka Okafor’s contract will be required as part of the trade which will not be an easy task to move.
How they stack up? Paul remains one of the best point guards in the NBA. Darren Collison and Marcus Thornton round out a deadly rotation of combo guards. However, with David West and Okafor upfront, this team needs more size in the middle.
This team has a nice young core in Rudy Gay, Marc Gasol, O.J. Mayo, and Mike Conley. They have a big front court combo with Zach Randolph and Hasheem Thabeet. The addition of defensive stopper Tony Allen was an “under-the-radar” type signing which could do wonders for this young team to add a seasoned veteran like Allen. Of course their draft picks of Xavier Henry and Greivis Vasquez might also help.
How they stack up? A young and athletic team that should be an exciting team to watch. If Gay and Mayo can continue to provide the offense with Gasol and Randolph operating inside the paint, this team might surprise a lot of people next season. Especially if Thabeet finally grasps how to play in the NBA.
A gritty veteran team that plays hard every game. Luis Scola, Trevor Ariza, Shane Battier and Aaron Brooks are solid players. Key for this team is how Yao Ming will play after coming back from injury last season. They also fortified their front court with the acquisition of Brad Miller and rookie Patrick Paterson.
How they stack up? With their main core intact, expect one thing from the Rockets — hard fought games. Their front court is a combination of hard working big men and imposing length. Stopping Houston’s inside game could be a problem for most teams.
This is a team loaded with offensive weapons. Dirk Nowitzki remains one of the best scorers in the league while Jason Kidd, Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood, Jason Terry and Shawn Marion are nice supporting casts. Getting Tyson Chandler from the Charlotte Bobcats gives them more length and athletic ability up front. Also their draft pick, Dominique Jones, who can create his own shot, will be a nice addition to the Mavericks. There are also rumors that Tim Thomas wants to get back with the team.
How they stack up? The Mavericks are loaded with talent. However, with all this firepower, defense will be key. They have a bunch of scorers, explosive bench and a real deep front-line which includes Haywood, Chandler, Ian Mahinmi and Alex Ajinca. If they can improve on their defense, with Nowitzki, Butler, Terry and Marion taking care of the offense, they could be a very tough team to beat.
What it means for the San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs will be in for some tough competition in the division this upcoming season. The Southwest Division remains one of the toughest division in the entire NBA and the divisional rivalry in the Southwest could be a fierce one in the upcoming season.
Ranking the South West
The Mavericks won the division last year and with their new lineup, they could do it again this coming season. The Rockets are a hard-working, solid veteran team, the Grizzlies could have a breakout season and the Hornets are facing a lot of on and off court distractions at the moment with Paul demanding a trade.
The Spurs still have Duncan, Ginobili and Parker and are their offseason player movements will help out in their push for a fifth NBA title.
Having said that, barring serious injuries from each of the teams, the Southwest Division could end up like this: Mavericks, Spurs, Rockets, Grizzlies and Hornets in that order.
But come playoff time, it might be a different story. Remember what happened during the first round of the playoffs last season? I am sure Mavericks fans don’t want to remember.
What do you guys think? Give us your take and send us your own rankings.