Thursday , Nov , 01 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

Season Preview: Southwest Division

The entirety of an NBA season – the standard 82 plus the rigors of the postseason – isn’t something that’s easily predicted. But I figure before they start playing the games that matter, I should share my thoughts with you on who will land where in the standings. I’ll break it down division by division, giving my own outlook on things.

            Even though I’ll use the word often, don’t consider these ‘predictions’, because honestly the idea of ‘predicting’ anything is ridiculous. These are just my own opinions on each division. Feel free to agree, disagree, comment, and challenge.

            Today I’ll be taking a look at the Southwest division.

            1 – Dallas Mavericks

            This is another pick that has to come with a disclaimer. Consider Dallas stamped with the words REGULAR SEASON ONLY in big bold letters. As we’ve come to learn, what happens with Dallas in the playoffs is entirely separate from whatever regular season success they may have.

            That being said, last season’s playoff debacle against Golden State will definitely fuel Dallas to tear it up during the regular season. Granted, a piling up a bunch of regular season wins doesn’t really prove anything, but don’t tell the Mavs that, Avery Johnson only has so many cards he can pull before his team’s mental weakness finally causes them to stumble, usually somewhere in the first or second round of the playoffs.

            I do expect Dallas to have a fine season for the first 82, and likely win the division title, but as for anything past that, well, there’s another Southwest team they won’t quite be able to get past.

         2 – San Antonio Spurs

            This pick should come with a disclaimer also, one that reads FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DON’T BLOW IT THIS TIME. Because as we’ve come to learn with San Antonio, sometimes winning ways don’t always last.

            The Spurs have had some difficulties, to say the least, when it comes to repeating, and in all honesty that is a big reason why I have them behind the Mavs, at least for regular season purposes anyway. That’s basically the Spurs, no matter how well oiled and perfect the main media folks try to build them up to be, truth is the Spurs tend to go through at least one or two significant lulls or slumps during the regular season. They still end up with 55+ wins each season, but that will more than likely leave them a game or two shy of Dallas in the standings.

            The important thing is for the Spurs to finish the regular season on a roll and hit the playoffs hot. If they do that, the only team that’s going to legitimately be able to stop them is Phoenix, but that’s another division. Expect the Spurs to have a predictably good regular season, then start rolling going into the postseason to try for their first repeat.

            3 – Houston Rockets

             This division maps itself out nicely, with Houston coming in third, after the two powerhouses.

            If things had gone just a bit differently in last season’s first round, Houston might be running with a different rep right now. Personally, I had the Rockets winning game seven of their series against Utah, but they came up just short. Thankfully Houston followed up their disappointing loss with the execution of a novel concept – get better.

            In the offseason the Rockets ripped the Spurs off blind – I mean, they traded San Antonio – for the rights to Luis Scola, Manu Ginobili’s running mate on Argentina’s national team. Scola is a good rebounder, and has great tenacity and hustle; he should start and do well at the four next to Yao. The Rockets also brought in Rick Adelman as their head coach, who should do a lot to improve this team, especially offensively.

            I can’t say the Rockets will over throw any of the powers in the West, but they are one of the teams with the potential and the mindset to try. Good luck on that one…

            4 – New Orleans Hornets

            The Hornets had a nice, albeit surprising, season in ’06-’07. I think nearly everyone keeping an eye on the league was rooting for them to make the playoffs. Aside of the emotion that comes with anything that has the name ‘New Orleans’ on it, people really took to this team and young Chris Paul.

             Speaking of Chris Paul, let me take this opportunity to remind you readers that CP3 is straight up ill. As much potential as he has, and as bright as his future may be, Chris Paul is a top five point guard in this league, right now. And he’s going to take New Orleans places, namely to the playoffs, if not this year than next year.

            David West is also a damn good player, if anyone out there is ready to stop ignoring his 18 and 8 numbers, which will likely jump close to 20 and 10 numbers this season. The Hornets are more than Chris Paul, and a better team than you think, and if they’re not in the playoffs this season, they’ll be even closer than they were last season.

            5 – Memphis Grizzlies

            I appreciate the addition of Mike Conley, who will hopefully make an immediate impact. At least there’s some attempt at improvement. But let’s face it, this squad is not a good basketball team.

            A healthy Pao Gasol will make them significantly better than last season, but Gasol may be looking to jump off the sinking ship before mid-season. What’s really perplexing is that this team recorded 49 wins just a couple of seasons ago. Certainly not having Gasol early last season is a big reason why they got off to a slow start, but there has to be more to why they never recovered.

            I don’t think this team is quite as bad as their record from last season may suggest, but I also can’t predict any kind of huge improvement for them this season.