The San Antonio Spurs ran away with the Southwest Division this year, ending with a 9-game lead over second place Memphis. Even more impressive when you consider it was a shorter season and against the division, they were 12-4.
And while this is not a 2012-13 NBA preview of the division seeing how so much can change between now and the start of the new season, let’s face it, the teams in the division are only going to get stronger next season. So that leads to the question, will the Spurs face a tougher division next season?
Starting at the bottom, the New Orleans Hornets have the first pick in the draft. My keen NBA analyst instincts tell me they might pick Anthony Davis. While I do think Davis has the potential to be a franchise player, someone the Hornets can build around, he’s got a lot to learn about being an NBA player. He’ll definitely be good, but he won’t dig the Hornets out of the depths of the lottery in his first season. New Orleans may be a problem for the Spurs down the road, but probably not next year.
The Houston Rockets always manage to fly under the radar. If you told me they finished two games over .500, I probably wouldn’t believe you, but they did. They actually accounted for two of the Spurs’ division losses because they’re capable of playing well at home. They have some talent but can’t ever seem to get over the hump to be a really good team. With a few solid personnel moves in the offseason, they could come back a lot stronger next season, but for now they’re kind of a question mark.
The Dallas Mavericks had an underwhelming season that wasn’t really a surprise to anyone. They got rid of a lot of their talent in hopes of creating a dynasty further down the road. Well, we’re at that point in the road, and no sign of the big acquisitions Mark Cuban was alluding to. They’ve publicly said they want Deron Williams and Dwight Howard, but circumstances have made that look like a slim chance. If they can get either, or both, of those players, they might be able to return to championship form, but if not, this aging team may fall further down the standings.
The Memphis Grizzlies were a thorn in the side of the Spurs last year, knocking them out of the playoffs, but this season they were no problem. The Spurs swept the 4-game season series from the Grizz, and didn’t have to see them in the playoffs. Memphis remains one of those scary teams that no one really wants to play because you don’t know what you’re going to see. They’re capable of beating anyone and losing to anyone. Their biggest offseason move could be dealing Rudy Gay, but just like the Rockets, it’s a toss up at this point. The Grizzlies have a lot of improving to do if they really want to be a contender, but they definitely have the capability.
The biggest problem for the Spurs next year might be the Spurs. They only continue to get older and I don’t see the team changing a lot in the offseason. There will be questions about another season for Tim Duncan. He showed in this year’s playoffs that he still has access to his fountain of youth, but at his age the drop off could happen quicker than you think. I’d like to say I still see the Spurs at the top of the Southwest, but it’s a little early to tell.