Blog Entry

kmvennes comprehensive Southwest Division Preview

Posted on: October 1, 2010 12:04 am
Hey, who wants to read 3,800+ words about the Southwest Division? You? Great!

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Southwest Division Preview

The Southwest is easily the most interesting conference in the NBA heading into the 2010-2011 season. With the Mavs retooling for another run at the West crown, the Spurs looking to defy father time yet again, this time with a new center addition, the Rockets fighting for a playoff run with the return of Yao, the Hornets looking for a healthy and happy CP3 to lead them and looking to see if Ariza is the answer, and the Grizzlies hoping to build off their talented starting 5 and find any semblance of bench play, it's not a stretch to consider the entire division a playoff contender. Clearly, all 5 won't make the playoffs, as few as 2 might, but all 5 won at least 37 games last year, and it's not a stretch to see all 5 winning at least 35 again this year. Do I think that? Read on and see (and listen, because I used music, because I love each and every one of you, and care only about your entertainment)

1.) Dallas Mavericks

Youtube Song for their 2010-2011 season:

No Leaf Clover - Metallica

Offseason moves:

NBA Draft: Dominique Jones

Free Agents - in: F Dirk Nowitzki, C Brendan Haywood, F Tim Thomas (now retired), C Ian Mahinmi, F Steve Novak,

Trades - in: C Tyson Chandler, C Alexis Ajinca

Trades - out: C Erick Dampier, F Eduardo Najera, F Matt Carroll

Training Camp Roster:

G Rodrigue Beaubois, G Jose Barea, G Dee Brown, G Caron Butler, F Brian Cardinal, G Adam Haluska, G Jason Kidd, F Shawn Marion, G DeShawn Stevenson, G Jason Terry, F Dirk Nowitzki, C Brendan Haywood, C Tyson Chandler, C Alexis Ajinca, C Ian Mahinmi, F Steve Novak, G Dominique Jones


Then it comes to be that the soothing light at the end of your tunnel is just a freight train coming your way...

No team over the last 10 years has epitomized the concept of the No Leaf Clover nearly as well as the Mavericks. One of only 4 teams in NBA history to win at least 50 games for 10 straight years, but the only one to never get the title. The 2006 Finals, one of the darkest moments in NBA history, has served over time to prove to be the calling card of this Mavericks team. Even when they win the title, they lose it, it's taken away from them, either by a oh-so-slightly better team, the refs, a choke job, you name it.

The Mavs are re-tooled for another season, and look as strong on paper as ever before. The center tandem of Chandler and Haywood is incredibly strong for today's NBA, Dirk Nowitzki is still clearly a top 10 player in the league, Jason Kidd showed last year he has a lot to contribute, deadline acquisition Caron Butler is a quality piece that will benefit from having a full training camp with Dallas, Shawn Marion will be hard pressed not to contribute more in year 2 with Dallas then he did in year 1, Jason Terry is still one of the elite 6th men in this league, and Rodrigue Beaubois is one of the most exciting young players in this league, although his advanced stats indicate he may be very overrated by the NBA community. If nothing else, he offers a trade piece for the Mavs, who are free spenders, bold (sometimes reckless) dealers, and fully committed to trying to get that elusive title. Owner Mark Cuban is impossible to hate, he will do what he can to win, no matter the cost, and coach Rich Carlisle is very underrated, an offensive guru with a solid regular season track record, and some playoff success as well. Even the draft pick, Dominique Jones, has the ability to be a solid contributor, although he faces a logjam at the guard spots to find minutes.

There is very little to not like about this Mavericks team. With so much size, they are easily the toughest matchup for the Lakers in the Western Conference. With so much talent, you are silly if you have them below 2nd in the West as far as seeding goes. Nobody else compares to this team, people who are pushing OKC or Utah or anyone else to compete with the Mavs in the regular season are grasping at invisible straws. And they will clearly win the Southwest, there is no other choice. With a proven core, the most proven additions, youth, size, and amazing depth, this is a team built for regular season excellence.

The only question is can they win the 59-61 games necessary to actually go into the playoffs as the #1 seed in the West. Given the chance for a learning curve at the start of the year, the age of some of the starters, and the fact that No Leaf Clover is still in the Mavs back pocket, I don't think so. I see 57 wins and a clear #2 seed for Dallas this year, a solid regular season, as usual, after all, the Mavs problem was never a lack of luck during the regular season...

Prediction: 1st in the Southwest, 2nd in the West, 57-25 record.

2) San Antonio Spurs

Youtube Song for their 2010-2011 season:

Slipknot - Dead Memories

Offseason moves:

NBA Draft: James Anderson, Ryan Richards, C Tiago Splitter (2007 Draft pick)

Free Agents - in: G Gary Neal, F Richard Jefferson

Free Agents - out: G Keith Bogans, G Roger Mason, Jr., C Ian Mahinmi

Training Camp Roster:

F/C DeJuan Blair, F Matt Bonner, F/C Tim Duncan, G Alonzo Gee, G Manu Ginobili, G George Hill, G Curtis Jerrells, F Antonio McDyess, G Tony Parker, G Garrett Temple, F Richard Jefferson, G Gary Neal, G James Anderson, F Ryan Richards, C Tiago Splitter


The other me is gone, now I don't know where I belong...

The powers in the NBA from the mid-00's have all taken a step back over the last few years. The Detroit Pistons put together a strong run from 2003 until the 2008 playoffs with their old core, made the Iverson move for one last chance at glory, and now have slowly sold the sold of their former glory and rebuilt. The Lakers of today where forged out of the struggles of the mid-late 00's, not the glory of the early-mid 00's. The Cavs, a perennial contender (in media theory) since the mid-late 00's, are finally no more. Only the San Antonio Spurs are still trying to turn back the clock, ignoring the call of father time, and think that the band has one more grand reunion in them.

Parker, Manu, and Duncan have been the core trio of the Spurs last two titles, the last one coming with a Duncan that was 30 and a Manu that was 29. That was 4 years ago. The Spurs haven’t won a Western Semifinals game since 2008, yet continue to keep the core alive. A tweak here and a tweak there, a overhyped draft pick and a free agent signing or two, and everyone thinks the Spurs are right back in the elite of the NBA.

Well, it will never be 2007 again. James Anderson is sure to get a lot of hype, and Tiago Splitter is going to be pimped as the answer for the Spurs, just like Richard Jefferson was last year (how'd that work out?). Much will be made of Tony Parker going into a contract year, of DeJuan Blair having yet another year of seasoning, and of everything Spurs you can think of. But nothing is going to turn this team into an NBA contender, and it will take most every break for this team to contend for just the Southwest crown.

So, why do I have them second? As old as the Spurs are, I'm officially out of the business of predicting Duncan and Manu's demise. All Manu did at 32 last year was put up his SIXTH straight season of a PER over 22. For those unaware, a PER of 22 means you are one of the best players in the NBA. In fact, Manu's PER last year was TENTH. Manu, in short, is as good as you incorrectly think Derrick Rose actually is. That's damn good. As for Duncan, he's never put up a PER under 22. He is a pure machine, last year his PER of 24.7 was FIFTH in the NBA.

Those two are amazing. One day, they will start to decline, it has to happen. Until I see it, I know those two are good enough in today's NBA, with a slightly weaker West this year, to win 50. The help is overrated, the front office is overrated, the postseason chances will always be overrated, but with a core two players this underrated, I'm writing them in for 50 wins and the ability to give someone hell in the first round. They may not be the NBA contenders they once were. The other Spurs is gone, and they don't know where they belong, like the song says. But worse then that, they actually are just a bit too good to blow up. There's no hope like false hope, and if your top two players are that damn good, you'll always have that false hope to keep you fighting an unwinnable fight. They won't contend again with this core, the other Spurs are gone, but dismiss them during the regular season at your own peril.

Prediction: 2nd in the Southwest, 5th in the West, 50-32 record.

3) Memphis Grizzlies

Youtube Song for their 2010-2011 season:

Judas Priest – Breaking the Law

Offseason Moves:

NBA Draft: Xavier Henry, Greivis Vasquez

Free Agents - in: F Rudy Gay, G Tony Allen, G Acie Law

Free Agents - out: G Ronnie Brewer

Training Camp Roster:

F Darrell Arthur, F DeMarre Carroll, G Mike Conley, C Marc Gasol, F Hamed Haddadi, F Luke Jackson, G Tre Kelley, G O.J. Mayo, F Zach Randolph, C Hasheem Thabeet, F Kenny Thomas, F Damien Wilkins, F Sam Young, F Rudy Gay, G Tony Allen, G Acie Law, G Xavier Henry, G Greivis Vasquez


Feel as though nobody cares if I live or die, so I might as well begin to put some action in my life.

A surprise 40 win team last year, this is a make or break season for the Grizzlies. Let's be honest, this is one of the 3 most talented starting 5's in the Western Conference from 2009, back in full. Their major downfall last year was the bench, coupled with an inability to shoot 3's.

Enter Xavier Henry (finally signed!), a versatile 6-6 wingman with range, who could easily be the answers to the team's biggest flaws. On a team that featured a starting 5 that played the most minutes together last season, one 2-3 hybrid with 3 point range can go a long way for this team. Xavier Henry could be the piece that turns a 40 win team into a playoff contender, and with the help of proven veteran Tony Allen and fellow first rounder Greivis Vasquez, and who knows, maybe a few minutes of last year's pick, Hasheem Thabeet, the Grizzlies may just have a bench that isn't horrid, and if that is so, this team could make the next step forward.

There are other reasons to predict success for the Griz. Their best player, Zach Randolph, is coming off his first All-Star nod, after blowing up for just under 21 and 12 last season. Entering a contract year with an eye on Pau Gasol money, he is very likely to produce. Speaking of contract years, Marc Gasol will enter restricted free agency next season, so a solid season from the key defender on Memphis could net him a lucrative offer from another team, ensuring that Memphis has to pony up the catch to keep him on board. And Mike Conley, the weakest link in the starting 5 by far, is also at the end of his deal and heading to his restricted free agency season. It's now or never for Conley, and with pressure from both defensive stopper Tony Allen and the always fan-favorite Greivis Vasquez, he must produce.

Oh, by the way, the other two starters on Memphis? Those would be Rudy Gay and O.J. Mayo, two possible All-Stars. Rudy Gay just finished being a big part of the US Team's FIBA gold, and him and Mayo are two excellent players who cause other coaches fits. This team has serious talent, it has a year of success to build on, and one thing many people forget is that this is a team that started 1-8 last year, due in part to the distraction that was Allen Iverson. If the Grizzlies can avoid a poor start this year sans Iverson, and show some improvement from the youth, they can contend for a playoff spot. And if the contract players go out there and earn that next deal, this is a team that could grab a playoff spot with games to spare.

Do not sleep on the Grizz. I'm going to put them down for 45 wins, and hell, I'm giving them the 8 seed. Nobody may care about this team, not even the city of Memphis for the most part, but they are going to be an action-packed squad this year, and with the players they got, success is fully within their grasp.

Prediction: 3rd in the Southwest, 8th in the West, 45-37 record

4) Houston Rockets

Youtube Song for their 2010-2011 season:

Lamb of God – Laid to Rest

Offseason Moves:

NBA Draft: Patrick Patterson

Free Agents - in: C Brad Miller, F/C Luis Scola, G Kyle Lowry

Trades - in: G Courtney Lee

Trades - out: C David Andersen, G/F Trevor Ariza

Training Camp Roster:

G Antonio Anderson, F Shane Battier, G Aaron Brooks, F Chase Budinger, C Jordan Eglseder, G Mike Harris, F Jordan Hill, F Alexander Johnson, G Kevin Martin, C Brad Miller, G Ishmael Smith, C-f Patrick Sullivan, F Jermaine Taylor, C Yao Ming, F Chuck Hayes, F Jared Jeffries, F/C Luis Scola, G Kyle Lowry


You're better off empty and blank, than left with a single pathetic trace of this. Smother another failure, lay this to rest.

Most people will be disgusted to see the Rockets down here at 4th in the Southwest, outside Justin, who's issues with this preview are about to show up with the next team. Most people are paste-eating morons, however, so I’m not worried about it. The common conception about the Rockets is this is a team that is going to take another step forward, after playing inspired ball last season, despite a serious lack of size, and with Yao's 24 minutes at most return expected, people think you can write the Rockets into the playoffs with permanent ink.


Let's be perfectly honest about the Rockets. About 2/3rds of this team last year had a career year in counting stats, and not just by a little bit. Aaron Brooks won the Most Improved Player award, but really, it could ahve went to any number of Rockets. Luis Scola saw his production move up to over 16 ppg, although it was fully due to an increase in shots, not an increase in production. Chuck Hayes brought overrated defense and a strong presence on the glass to the Rockets, Kyle Lowry had a career year, and Kevin Martin came over to provide much needed scoring for the Rockets.

But what do Scola, Martin, Brooks, Lowry, Hayes, and the rest of the Rockets have in common? None of them could crack a PER of 17.5. Quite frankly, the team is by and large composed of a bunch of average players. Kevin Martin is an incredible shooter, but offers little else, Aaron Brooks is Monta Ellis lite (not a good thing), Scola has upside, but has yet to put together a truly great year.

The Rockets did have one superstar last year, the ever underrated Carl Landry. Carl Landry put up a PER over 21 for the Rockets, doing a bit of everything, and helping their second unit keep the Rockets in games. Sadly for Rockets fans, the Rockets, they of the amazing front office, got swindled by the Kings, and gave Landry away for the one-dimensional Kevin Martin.

The Rockets have a bit of hope, with a few stockpiled assets from trades and some youth that has some solid credibility within the league. And Rick Adelman is a proven coach (Did you know: Adelman has over 900 career wins as a coach?) who will get the most out of this ragtag bunch. But with the only additions to this team a bit of Yao Ming and Courtney Lee, who is more of a trade chip then a rotation player on a team that has Brooks and Martin, and a roster that is quite frankly, chock full of average, I don't see the Rockets doing much. I'll show Adelman respect and give the Rockets a chance to make a solid trade this season, and give them 40 wins. But I do think your expectations of the Rockets this year are a good test of your basketball IQ. If you like this roster coming into this year, you're either a media sheep or not a huge fan of knowing who's an actual talent in this league. Thankfully, I'm neither, and I welcome the Rockets to try to prove my opinion on the team wrong, but I fancy my chances of seeing the Rockets done with their season by the start of the playoffs. Smother another failure, Houston, lay this season to rest.

Prediction: 4th in the Southwest, no playoffs, 40-42 record

5) New Orleans Hornets

Youtube Song for their 2010-2011 season:

Dio – Rainbow in the Dark

Offseason Moves:

NBA Draft: Cole Aldrich

Free Agents: G Mustafa Shakur, G Jannero Pargo, F Pops Mensah-Bonsu

Trades - in: F Quincy Pondexter, G/F Trevor Ariza, G Marco Belinelli, G Willie Green, F-C Jason

Trades - out: F Morris Peterson, Cole Aldrich, G Darren Collison, F James Posey, F Julian Wright, F Darius Songaila, F Craig Brackins

Training Camp Roster:

F Joe Alexander, C Aaron Gray, C Emeka Okafor, G Chris Paul, G Marcus Thornton, F David West, F Peja Stojakovic, F Quincy Pondexter, G-F Trevor Ariza, G Marco Belinelli, G Willie Green, F-C Jason Smith, G Mustafa Shakur, G Jannero Pargo, F Pops Mensah-Bonsu, G D.J. Strawberry, C Darryl Watkins


There's no sign of the morning coming, there's no sight of the day. You've been left on your own, like a rainbow in the dark

Chris Paul, a first team All-NBA level player, is the very essence of a Rainbow in the Dark. A magical creature stuck in a world of black. But let’s try to start on a happy note. Here are some good things about the Hornets.

Chris Paul is the best PG in the NBA, without question. David West is a former All-Star and a productive player, and Emeka Okafor is better then you think he is. Pops Mensah-Bonsu was fun to watch in college and likes dunking. Marcus Thornton is a youngster with a lot of upside.

I'm literally out of nice things to say about the Hornets. And I had to go to Mensah-Bonsu to get to 5 things positive. This could be even worse then I thought.

Under first year coach Monty Williams, this team is, to put in nicely, a team looking for an identity. Chris Paul is the star of the show, but everything around him is either unproven or slowly regressing. Or, in some cases, the players around him are quickly regressing. It is just too large a stretch to see Thornton making the leap, to see Ariza fitting into his 3rd team in 3 years with seamless precision, to see West not continue to regress in both points and rebounds, or at best hold steady to his 2009-2010 numbers, or to expect more from Okafor then a near 10-10 season.

This team won 37 games last year, without Paul, but with the solid play of Darren Collison, who was a drop off, but not the giant drop off you would have thought him to be. The Hornets made 2 million trades, most of them easy to argue more about saving money then improving talent. Of the 18 players on the training camp roster, 12 were not around last year. 24 members of the front office are also new, out of the 28 total.

I have no idea what this team's plan is, other then to be fiscally viable at a time they want to sell the team, and that's not exactly a recipe that translates into any wins. David West himself has said this Hornets team is trying to "get into the top 10 in the West". That's not a positive outlook on this season from the second best player on the roster. Marco Belinelli was brought in to bring some offense, odd considering Marcus Thornton is of the same mold, Trevor Ariza is in town to play D and be a playmaker, odd considering Chris Paul is the best playmaker in the NBA, and Willie Green was brought in to be hurt, odd considering the Hornets have no trouble being injured on their own.

This team’s entire hope of competing for a .500 record this year is pinned on two things, Chris Paul's health and Peja's expiring contract. The former is anyone's guess, but it's hard to see the latter being used to make the team a contender. Every move so far from the Hornets has been salary adverse more so then basketball proactive. Will the Hornets use Peja to get the missing piece to the puzzle? Or will they use him to rid themselves of the albatross that is Emeka Okafor's huge contract? Or will they just let it expire and take the savings, freeing themselves from a future in the luxury tax? For a team that's for sale and the expected big money buyer hurt by the gulf spill, there is far too much uncertainty about anything good happening for the Hornets on any front this season. The season is an enigma, but the cons far outweigh the pros, and as a member of the most competitive division in the NBA from top to bottom, the team not totally focused on winning now stands little chance of doing any winning now. Another last place finish for the Hornets seems likely, as the young kids find their way in the NBA, the team takes time to gel together, and Paul and West probably have not had their last moments in the news bashing the direction of the franchise, and the rainbow seems more likely to leave before the darkness does.

Prediction: 5th in the Southwest, no playoffs, 34-48 record

Since: Mar 14, 2008
Posted on: October 1, 2010 1:13 am

kmvennes comprehensive Southwest Division Preview

ktopp commenting on a basketball blog would be like if I commented on your blog of log rolling and plaid patterened winter fashions. A fish out of water.

Since: Nov 16, 2006
Posted on: October 1, 2010 12:45 am

kmvennes comprehensive Southwest Division Preview

Zzzzzzz.....huh? What? Sorry, I fell asleep after you said "Hey, Who wants to..."

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