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2013 NBA Southwest Division Preview 

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Tomorrows the big night. Another championship banner will be raised in Miami as the season kicks off. This is the final division to be covered here and boy is it loaded. All five teams in this division could make a run into the playoffs and two of them could find themselves playing well into June. Let’s take a look at how this division will play out...

5. Mavericks +1600

It’s a shame the Mavs are in this division. I like what they did in the offseason in an attempt to lengthen the Dirk-era in Dallas by another couple of years. They cleared a bunch of cap space in hopes of landing Dwight Howard and when that fell through they went out and signed a whole bunch of guys. They brought in Monta Ellis, Wayne Ellington, Sam Dalembert, Jose Calderon, Devin Harris, DeJuan Blair, resigned Brandon Wright and drafted Shane Larkin. I really like most of those pieces. Ellington can knock down shots from the outside which will help space the floor. Calderon may have been the most underrated point guard in the NBA the last few seasons. Dalembert, Blair and Wright will provide some size down low although Mark Cuban is still looking for a dominant big and while I don’t believe Monta Ellis can be the second best player on a contender they needed another scoring option and that they got. Ellis can create his own shot and with Calderon distributing the rock he should get more open looks than ever before. But we don’t know how well he can play without the ball or how great of a teammate he is when he isn’t the top dog. I feel like we are going to get one final great Dirk season but the supporting cast and divisional schedule will be their undoing. They could make a playoff run, but they are going to be constantly trying to fight their way out of the cellar of this division. There will be no easy wins in this division this year. Especially when you are guarding the likes of Anthony Davis, Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol, Tim Duncan and Dwight Howard with the smorgasbord of bigs they have.

4. Pelicans +2500

The Pelicans are another team that made some big changes in the offseason, more than just the change of their team name. They were able to swing two big trades landing Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans. Holiday will replace Greivis Vasquez who had himself a nice season last year but Jrue is quite the upgrade. The addition of Tyreke helps their depth and bench scoring. They signed Al-Farouq Aminu who looks like he will be their starting small forward which will allow Tyreke to come off the bench and eat up the other teams bench players. Their bigs are rather attractive as well. Anthony Davis should really burst onto the scene this year and turn himself into a stud. But they also still have Ryan Anderson off the bench to provide some extra scoring and he is a guy that can spread the floor and knock down threes. They also signed Greg Stiemsma, who is a more than capable of playing good defense at his position and provides some great energy. They also got what may end up being the steal of the draft in former Jayhawk, Jeff Withey. This guy is going to have himself a nice long career defending the rim. This seven footer averaged nearly four rejections a year in his final collegiate season. The Pelicans have a lot of options and a lot of rotations that could be fun to watch. They could play Davis and Ryan Anderson at the 4-5 at the same time and work a little inside-out game. They could play Davis and Withey together and force the other team to knock down outside jumpers. They could also trade Ryan Anderson for some Eric Gordon insurance because let’s be honest, the success of this team will largely be determined by his health. If he is at 100% they can hang with anyone. If he’s hurt again, which he probably will be then they are a bit thin to jump into 3rd place in this division. Make no mistake though, this team is not that far off. They might start out slow as they adjust to playing with one another, but they will come on strong at some point. There will be a stretch of the season where you won’t want to see New Orleans on the upcoming schedule. They could wind up being the team that nobody wants to play in the playoffs.

3. Grizzlies +400

We know who they are. They are one of the two best defensive teams in the league and have the single best 4-5 duo. Their issues are thanks to an extreme lack of outside shooting. We knew that last year and now this offseason their answer to that was… Mike Miller. Ya, he can stroke it but that’s your move Memphis? You only made the conference finals last year because Russell Westbrook got injured. If they want to make another run they are going to have to make a trade and bring in someone to play that three position better than Quincy Pondexter or an old Tayshaun Prince. They are on the edge of going one of two ways. If they can swing a deal they could be a legit title contender, if they don’t they could crash and burn and end up blowing this team up. I could see them finishing literally anywhere in this division. It wouldn’t shock me if they won the division and it wouldn’t shock me to see them finish dead last. So third sounds about right until we see how well ZBo took care of himself in the offseason.

2. Spurs +140

This will likely be the last season where one of the Spurs “big three” is the best player on this team. Tony Parker should be passing the torch to young Kawhi Leonard after this season. He is going to have to have a monster season to repeat the Spurs past success. He seems up for that task. He can do most anything that’s asked of him. He can guard any position and is more than capable of handling the scoring load. He will need to develop a better outside game, but he is still only 22 years old and won’t turn 23 until after the season is over. If Tony Parker is healthy he is going to garner a lot of MVP consideration but they are going to need Kawhi to be their second best player as they rest Duncan and Ginobili throughout the season. I think he has it in him this season. There is no way they finish worse than third but at +140 they may be a nice value play if the Dwight Howard experiment doesn’t work out in Houston.

1. Rockets +130

This team is loaded. Harden is obviously the top dog here and Dwight Howard knew that before he chose to come here. He is the best two guard in the game and is good enough to carry this team by himself if he needed to. But he won’t have to because of the other guys Daryl Morey has added to this roster. They will need either Jeremy Lin or Patrick Beverley to escalate their game at the point to maximize their output on offense but James Harden likes to have the ball in his hands regardless so realistically they just need those guys to be average. On the wing they have one of the most underrated players in the league in Chandler Parsons. This kid can do it all. He can play defense, he can run the offense, and he can flat out stroke it. With Dwight Howard on the low block Parsons is going to get a ton of open looks at the corner three. Did you realize he averaged nearly 16 points a night last year? This kid is good and he is simply put, a professional. Whatever this team needs him to do he will do it to the best of his ability. Their offense won’t run like it did last year and there won’t be as many plays run for him but he will find ways to leave his stamp on each game. As good as they are on paper at the moment we are still waiting for the other shoe to drop with an Asik trade. He won’t be on this team after the trade deadline and they may be able to parlay him into a nice power forward to stand next to Dwight. Who by the way may have his best year to date. He has no choice but to play his ass off. He has killed two teams already with his bullshit attitude. Now playing with Harden will lift a lot of pressure off his shoulders. He won’t have to worry about scoring down the stretch or getting fouled and being forced to hit big free throws. He will be able to do his thing and fly under the radar a bit more than ever before. This could very well be the best team in the league as well as the  next NBA champion.


Monday, October 28, 2013

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