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NBA Preview: Southwest Division

The Southwest division produced the deepest and most competitive division of the NBA last season. FOUR teams came out of this division to make the playoffs and of course, ONE came out of the pack as the best team in the NBA and NBA champions. So lets see if the depth is still there in our predictions, shall we?

1. San Antonio Spurs: The way that the Spurs finished the season, was a tape that every basketball coach in the world can show their players, young and old alike. The concept of “team basketball” which had thought to be a lost art, was put on display. Led by Head Coach Greg Popovich and the “Coach Pop Way” the Spurs cruised through the regular season to end with the best record in the NBA and while they had their trials in the playoffs, the original big 3 of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili got them through. Add the emergence of former SDSU superstar Kawhi Leonard (MVP Candidate) and the most solid bench in the NBA, the dynasty that is the Spurs lives on. They don’t seem to be skipping a beat either. The team is back, fully intact, one season healthier and all back for another run. Back up point guard Patty Mills has signed a long term deal and Boris Diaw has found that elusive fountain of youth and made himself a member of the Spurs family. Youth on the bench all around gives the stability to this dynasty before the NBA world.

NBA officials can complain all they want about Pop resting his key players, BUT in the end, the Spurs will be the cream of the crop in the NBA, taking the top spot in the playoffs once more. This drum will be beating for a couple more years.

2. Houston Rockets: Without question, the move for James Harden from the Oklahoma City Thunder has proven to be a very valuable one for the Rockets, even more visible as Harden struggled with injuries during a good portion of last season. The dynamic duo of Harden and Center Dwight Howard, and the NBA has a formidable force (if Howard can make more of his free throws). Add undervalued and unappreciated slasher forward Trevor Ariza with up and the always flying high guard Jason Terry and the Rockets have the pieces in place to contend once again.

Rockets are solid top-tier for this next post-season. What will do them in is two things, injuries to key players and not making their foul shots. But that will be felt more in the playoffs than in the regular season.

3. Memphis Grizzlies: This team has without question, the most undervalued player in ALL the NBA. Forward Zach Randolph may not play high over the rim like Lebron James, he may not have the flash and dash like Russell Westbrook nor the ability to be unconscious from three-point-land like Stephen Curry, but without question Randolph is the main cog that makes the Grizzlies successful and always in the playoff hunt. Him and Center Marc Gasol clog up that middle, imposing their wills on the offensive and defensive ends. With a young point guard named Mike Conley Jr. leading the offense and rejuvenated forwards Tayshaun “Fresh” Prince and free agent acquisition Vince Carter (who found his jump shot) and you have a much improved team from last season.

If Grizzlies stay healthy and smart with their veteran players (like the Spurs do), then the Grizzlies easily make the playoffs and contend for a top-tier slot, especially with the Thunder missing their key piece in Kevin Durant.

4. Dallas Mavericks: While the Mavericks gave the Spurs “fits” in the playoffs, the Mavericks came up just one key play short in defeating the soon to be champions. So what do they do to get over that hump? Well, make sure their franchise player stay put as Forward Dirk Nowitzki is signed long term. Then bring in some defense in the middle, a familiar face of the Mavericks championship team, Center Tyson Chandler (traded from the NY Knicks). Add some more offense by bring in a much unappreciated Chandler Parsons (from Houston Rockets) and a more experienced point guard in Jameer Nelson (from Orlando Magic) who can at times put up close to 30 points a game, and the Mavericks look to have found those missing pieces to contend with their ultimate nemesis, the Spurs.

The Mavericks only improved their roster and with improvement comes improved standings. Playoff team without question

5. New Orleans Pelicans: This is the wild card of the Western Conference this year. Kentucky forward Anthony Davis proved in the FIBA World Championships this off-season that he is READY to take that next leap into stardom in the NBA, potentially into superstardom. Davis (MVP Candidate) looks to have a young and hungry team around him. Center Omer Asik (brought over from the Rockets) looks to take some pressure off Davis in the middle and fellow forward Ryan Anderson looks to continue his sharp-shooting form from last season. Can Forward John Salmons find that consistent scoring touch they need? Can guard Jimmer Fredette find that lights out shooting touch he had when he was at BYU? Can Jrue Holliday lead this team and keep it afloat at the point guard position or will the son of Clippers coach Doc Rivers, AUSTIN pick up where his dad left off in the NBA?

As said before, this team is the wild card of the bunch. Anthony Davis is going to be a BEAST this year but can the other pieces around him be enough to make the playoffs. The numbers say no but something says to NOT count this team out. Beware the Pelicans.

And with that the Western Conference preview is over. BUT WAIT, what happens in the Eastern Conference? Does the new big 3 of the Cavs dominate? Can Miami prove that they can with WITHOUT Lebron James? Will Chicago have Derrick Rose for the entire season? Stay tuned for the Eastern Conference preview, COMING SOON.

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