Here are some notes on each team in the NBA’s Southwest division heading into the 2010 season:
Dallas Mavericks: This could be the best division in basketball from top to bottom, as I could see any of these five teams making a run at the postseason in 2010-11. However, I expect Dallas to win the division with relative ease. Dirk Nowitzki is still in his prime, even if in the latter years of it, and they’ve got a talented group around him. Jason Kidd is not the player he used to be, but he can still run a team very well. Caron Butler is a solid second scoring option for this team and Brandan Haywood is a quality big man in the middle. Jason Terry is a fantastic scorer off the bench and Shawn Marion is still a solid player. The wild card on this team in youngster Roddy Beaubois, one of the bright, young talents in this league. The Frenchman will miss the start of the season with an injury, but is expected to play a big role, perhaps even as the starting two guard, once he returns. Keep an eye on this young man.
San Antonio Spurs: The Spurs made a great move this offseason, bringing in Brazilian center Tiago Splitter over from Europe. Though he’ll miss the start of the season with an injury, he should give Tim Duncan some much-needed rest once he returns to the floor. I think Duncan still has one really good year left in him and the Spurs are going to try to make the most out of it this season, which looks like it will be Tony Parker’s last with the team. George Hill is the point guard of the future and will see the floor often this season, as will forward DeJuan Blair, who has been named to the opening night starting lineup. The Spurs are doing a decent job of getting younger while still contending with their vets.
Houston Rockets: The Rockets might not sell a ton of NBA tickets with the names on their roster, but they’re an incredibly deep team that is very well coached. Kevin Martin is as underrated as they come and should be a go-to option for this team offensively. Luis Scola is another underrated player that shined in Yao Ming’s absence last season. Yao is back, but will be eased back into the lineup in what could be his last season in the NBA. With talented guards like Aaron Brooks and Courtney Lee, as well as solid forwards like Shane Battier and Chase Budinger, I expect this team to be a playoff team.
New Orleans Hornets: The Hornets will be back in the playoff hunt this season as long as Chris Paul stays healthy. I actually really like the balance of their starting lineup. They’ve got who I still think is the best point guard in the league in Chris Paul running the show, a sharpshooter at the two in Marco Belinelli, a versatile swingman than can defend and run the floor at the three in Trevor Ariza, a legitimate post threat in David West at the four and a defensive-minded enforcer at center in Emeka Okafor. They’ve got a shallow bench, though, which could be the difference in making and missing the postseason.
Memphis Grizzlies: The Grizzlies are my pick to finish last in the division, but I don’t think it’s impossible for them to reach the playoffs. With O.J. Mayo, Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph, the Grizzlies have three legitimate scoring threats. Marc Gasol had a breakout season in 2009-10 and should continue to improve down low. The weak point of this team is at point guard, where Mike Conley still hasn’t convinced the organization that he’s the answer. That and a suspect bench will probably be their downfall.