Tuesday , Oct , 28 , 2008 Christopher Sells

HoopsVibe Season Preview: Southwest Division


HoopsVibe Season Preview: Southwest DivisionWith the NBA season getting ready to start up, we thought we should take a brief glimpse at the league, division by division, just so you guys have an idea of what to expect this year. However, we will not stand by any of these predictions come season’s end. Unless we’ve actually managed to get them right.

For a few seasons now, the Southwest Division has been arguably the best in basketball. Last year, that argument went away, as four of the five teams made the playoffs and won more than 50 games. On the dawn of a new season, we could looking at more of the same.

San Antonio has long been the class of the division and of the conference. After winning a championship two years ago, last year’s team faltered in the postseason as the team’s detractors complained that they were becoming too old. That criticism seems to have followed them to this season. And to make matters worse, Manu Ginobili has an ankle injury that will keep out of the early part of the season. Make no mistake, though, the Spurs have showed that, when healthy, they are a force to be reckoned with. Having Tim Duncan is a pretty good thing, too.

North of that team is another with a few questions of  their own. The Dallas Mavericks look very different than they did a year ago at this time. They have a new coach, a new point guard, and, supposedly, a new outlook on how the game should be played. In theory, a team with Jason Kidd, Dirk Nowitzki and Josh Howard should be among the league’s best. However, Kidd is aging, Nowitzki has been called soft and Howard’s intelligence has been questioned. So Dallas could be really good this year (last year’s 51-win campaign was actually viewed as a down year), but if they have a fourth consecutive playoff embarrassment, it will mean nothing.

Memphis would love for its team to reach the playoffs. That won’t happen this year, but it isn’t out of reach for the future. Excepting Antoine Walker, most of the team is young and very talented and they should definitely be on your radar, even if they will struggle to win 30 games. Keep your eyes on Rudy Gay and O.J. Mayo, especially.

New Orleans discovered during last year’s playoffs that experience is definitely a factor when you’re trying to win a championship. As such, they went and signed James Posey, who has two rings in as many years, to give the team that X-factor come May and June. Still, the team will only go as far as Chris Paul takes them. Assuming his health and continued play, the Hornets could be just one player away from serious contention.

The popular pick (again) for the team that could be a new contender is the Houston Rockets.  There are plenty of things that can go wrong for the team. Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady could continue their propensities for injury. The bench could end up not giving the crucial support that it gave last year. Chemistry could be a problem. Ron Artest could act like Ron Artest. But it could also go very right. There is a load of talent on the roster and the parts have great interchangeability, which is a huge plus in the team’s motion offense. Rocket fans (I know because I’m one of them) would gladly trade last year’s 22 consecutive wins for an appearance in the  second round of the postseason. Then the championship talk can start.

PROJECTED ORDER OF FINISH:

1. New Orleans
2. Houston
3. San Antonio
4. Dallas
5. Memphis

What do you predict? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section.
[image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jjaani/]