09-10 Southwestern Division Preview
After being the strongest division in the league for the last few years, the Southwestern Division is noticeably weaker now. But the top and the bottom look like they always have.
Here at HoopsVibe, we love the fact that our readers are educated and knowledgeable about basketball, even so much that they challenge many of the things said by our writers. With the NBA season starting this week and Chris Sells making predictions on the order of finish for each division, we don’t expect that to change now. Leave your own predictions in the comments section and you might just earn the right to win a prize at the end of the season. That prize will be a pat on the back. From yourself.
The team that was willing to take in Allen Iverson gets to watch him work his way back from a hamstring injury before he steps on the court. And when he does finally step on the court, it should presumably be from the bench. No one is under the impression that the AI addition will equal wins, but hopefully it will put some fans in the seats and give the rest of us around the country a reason to pay attention to a Grizzlies team that is going to struggle. If not for AI, tune in to see if OJ Mayo and Rudy Gay are the real deal. Or if you’re the negative type, like me, keep track of how much of a train wreck Zach Randolph will be and how often Hasheem Thabeet gets banged on.
San Antonio Spurs
Reload. That’s pretty much what the Spurs do when things don’t go as they should the year before. After making a first round exit from the Playoffs, Richard Jefferson, DeJuan Blair and Antonio McDyess all changed their places of residence to San Antonio. Those additions, along with the presumed healthy return of Manu Ginobili should mean that the Spurs resume their rightful place among the championship contenders of the West. Just don’t expect too much from them in the regular season. An aging Tim Duncan and a Tony Parker that shouldered the team’s burden last year should see decreased minutes until the games start mattering a little more.
Yao Ming is gone for the year. Ron Artest decided to be a Laker. Tracy McGrady won’t be back until later in the year and no one knows exactly how he’ll perform. But the Rockets have Trevor Ariza! And Pops Mensah-Bonsu! Expectations in Houston are clearly not what they used to be, but the team might be decent. Maybe. The question is whether players like Luis Scola and Aaron Brooks can carry a team for 82 games instead of the short amounts of time that they’ve done it in the past. There’s also the possibility that McGrady might fetch something useful around the trade deadline…
New Orleans Hornets
I don’t know Chris Paul personally, but I can’t imagine that he likes the direction the team is going. David West is still around, but the rest of the roster has gone south. Emeka Okafor is a power forward masquerading as a center, Peja Stojakovic is old, likewise James Posey. Julian Wright hasn’t proven that he can be relied upon. Luckily, Paul is the type of guy that makes everyone he plays with better. He’ll have to be a miracle worker for this team to go anywhere, not to mention the MVP.
Dirk Nowtizki isn’t getting any younger. If he’s going to get back to the Finals, he’ll need some help. This year, he might have it. Jason Kidd is back to run the team, Jason Terry will continue pretending to be a plane after big plays and Shawn Marion came over in free agency. Josh Howard is still injured, which isn’t really surprising to anyone. The team might even have a legitimate option down low, with Drew Gooden in to relegate Erick Dampier to the bench. I question what they’re going to do at shooting guard or whether Howard can adequately fill that position, but other than that, the Mavs are pretty solid. With a bounce of the ball here or there, this could be a good team.
Projected Order of Finish
1. San Antonio Spurs
2. Dallas Mavericks
3. New Orleans Hornets
4. Houston Rockets
5. Memphis Grizzlies