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Predicting Wins For NBA’s Southwest Division
Posted By Jabari Davis On August 20, 2013 @ 12:31 pm In NBA | No Comments
The Southwest just may have endured the most combined changes of any division throughout the league over the offseason. From a new coach in Memphis to new players in each city, including several big-name players, the division appears to be stronger than it has been in several years.
We have a rookie head coach in Memphis, new star player in Houston, entirely new backcourt in Dallas, and a completely revamped starting lineup in New Orleans while San Antonio (additions/subtractions aside) look to be as steady as they always seem to be.
Over the past week, we’ve been predicting the win totals for each team by division, and here is how the Southwest could play out in 2013-14:
San Antonio Spurs
2012-13 Record: 58-24
Projected 2013-14 Record: 54-28
Should we even be surprised that San Antonio is one of only two teams within the division to return with the same starting lineup from 2012-13? Obviously, that was rhetorical, as if you’ve even been a “casual” NBA fan for the past couple decades then you know “consistent” is definitely the most apropos term to use when describing the Spurs.
They’ve seamlessly transitioned from a team led by David Robinson, to Tim Duncan, to Tony Parker as the main focus of the offense. As players like Kahwi Leonard and Danny Green continuing to develop, look for coach Popovich and his staff to incorporate them even more so than during last year’s Finals run.
The additions of shooting guard Marco Belinelli and Jeff Pendergraph as the primary free agent moves of the summer point to a team that believes it is poised to make yet another run primarily with their core from last season. Although Duncan was shockingly resurgent in his 16th year, Tony Parker was magnificent over the season and down the stretch in 2012. Each of them are expected to continue their efficient and excellent play, but the Spurs need Leonard to fully step into and embrace the role as a consistent third option. Even though Manu Ginobili surprised some by re-signing for another two years he can still be a strong contributor to a contending team, which the Spurs clearly remain. Attribute the prediction of less regular season wins to the improvement of other teams, but don’t be surprised to see these Spurs right there in the mix of contending teams yet again in 2013-14.
2012-13 Record: 56-26
Projected 2013-14 Record: 52-30
The Grizzlies have graduated well-beyond that rough-and-tumble group of scrappy, but unknown or less-heralded players that stunned the division-mate Spurs in the opening round of the playoffs a few years back, and are now in danger of seeing their window of opportunity slip their their fingers as currently constituted if they are not careful.
Last year, they attempted to solve the puzzle by means of addition-by-subtraction when they sent small forward Rudy Gay to the Raptors in a three-team deal that returned defensive-oriented small forward Tayshaun Prince, and a young power forward in Ed Davis. Conventional wisdom says they hoped moving Gay would open up additional offensive opportunities for their twin towers in Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, and place the ball firmly in the hands of their budding point guard Mike Conley. Unfortunately, for them, they seemed to miss Gay’s offensive arsenal against the Spurs once the Western Conference Finals came around.
Rookie head coach David Joerger has replaced Lionel Hollins, and as HOOPSWORLD’S Moke Hamilton displayed in his breakdown of the Western Conference offseason, the front office did a solid job of re-tooling for the upcoming season. The additions of shooting guard Mike Miller, center Kosta Koufos, center Fab Melo (acquired from Boston), and rookie shooting guard Jamaal Franklin should provide Memphis with additional flexibility and situational firepower they simply didn’t have last year. The Grizzlies have more than enough talent to remain competitive, but are hoping a new philosophy and direction under Joerger can be the answer in 2013-14.
2012-13 Record: 45-37
Projected 2013-14 Record: 51-31
GM Daryl Morey was finally able to get his man, as the Rockets landed center Dwight Howard just a few days after free agency started in early July. A move, Morey had likely been planning for the better part of two or three seasons, as he has been dealing and maneuvering seemingly non-stop in an effort to obtain superstar players over that time. The Rockets went from an upstart run-and-gun team led by James Harden and Chandler Parsons to that of one with eventual title aspirations overnight.
It will certainly be interesting to see how McHale decides to utilize Howard, as the Rockets actually ran an uptempo style similar to that of the one Howard once complained about under Lakers head coach Mike D’Antoni last season. Howard recently acknowledged he’d even be willing to power forward beside Omer Asik if it made for a better fit. Howard was very successful during a 28-12 stretch with Lakers center Pau Gasol down the stretch of the 2012-13 season, but time will tell if there will be such a natural connection with Asik. Harden, one of the league’s best guards, tends to be a bit of a ball-dominant player on offense and is accustomed to either playing the pick and roll or having the necessary space to probe and operate.
Adjustments and sacrifices will clearly have to be made, but Houston appears to have a very strong mix of players on paper. Whether Howard wants to accept it or not, his greatest impact should come on the defensive end. The additions shooting guard Francisco Garcia and small forward Omri Casspi should go a long way if offsetting the losses of Carlos Delfino and Aaron Brooks (waived), but this team will ultimately only go as far as Howard and Harden are able to carry them. If Parsons can take another step forward, just as he did during last season’s breakout performance, watch out for these Rockets come playoff time.
2012-13 Record: 41-41
Projected 2013-14 Record: 43-39
Count the Mavericks as one of the teams with the most offseason roster fluctuation. After striking out with the big-name free agents, the Mavericks replaced Chris Kaman, Elton Brand, Darren Collison, and O.J. Mayo with the likes of center Samuel Dalembert, power forward DeJuan Blair, shooting guard Monta Ellis, and point guard Jose Calderon.
Dirk Nowitzki, while clearly not the “MVP” player that he once was, was still very effective when healthy during stretches of last season. Now, he’s joined by an entirely new starting backcourt and a revamped supporting cast as he heads into his 16th year in the league. While a curious mix of players, the roster has undoubtedly improved on paper.
The question is, how will coach Carlisle get this new group to actually translate to consistent brand of winning basketball while on the court? They have the look of a team that is destined to be just good enough to compete, but not quite strong enough to get over the hump.
New Orleans Pelicans
2012-13 Record: 27-55
Projected 2013-14 Record: 34-48
The Pelicans are another team with 60 percent of their starting lineup being replaced by new players. Out go point guard Greivis Vasquez (Kings) and center Robin Lopez, as point guard Jrue Holiday and small forward Tyreke Evans join the mix. Unlike many rookies, Anthony Davis actually showed signs of growing stronger as the season progressed. As he and Austin Rivers head into their second season(s), the onus remains with each of them to take the next step forward.
While Davis experienced rookie success, Rivers heads into his sophomore campaign having endured a season of injuries as he struggled to adjust to the tempo and flow of the NBA game. Looking stronger and more confident than ever when he caught up to HOOPSWORLD during NBA Summer League (Las Vegas), Rivers is going to have his work cut out for him if he wants to take on a bigger role with a (finally) healthy Eric Gordon ahead of him.
Ryan Anderson, recently re-signed Al-Farouq Aminu, and Brian Roberts join newly-signed shooting guard Anthony Morrow to round out the players projected to be the team’s main contributors. This is a team headed in the right direction, and even thought they are not likely to make an actual playoff push, coach Monty Williams has the makings of a good, young team at his disposal. The future of the Pelicans could be as bright as it has ever been sooner than you may think.
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