As the 2014-15 NBA season approaches, NESN.com will be taking a preseason look at each of the league?s six divisions. Up next on the docket is the Southwest Division — or, in other words, the playing-for-second-behind-San Antonio division.
Teams are listed in predicted order of finish (last year?s result in parentheses).
1. San Antonio Spurs (first)
Key additions: PG Bryce Cotton (draft), SG Kyle Anderson (draft)
Key departures: None
The Spurs are, of course, the reigning NBA champions, and there’s really no reason to believe they can’t repeat. Sure, there will come a time when Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili finally begin playing like the upper-30-somethings that they are, but with Kawhi Leonard seemingly on the brink of superstardom and Gregg Popovich still running the show, now will not be that time. Look for San Antonio to again challenge the Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Clippers for the West’s top spot.
2. Dallas Mavericks (fourth)
Key additions: C Tyson Chandler (trade), SF Chandler Parsons (free agent), PG Jameer Nelson (free agent)
Key departures: SG Vince Carter, PG Jose Calderon, SF Shawn Marion, C DeJuan Blair, C Samuel Dalembert
The Southwest was the West’s most competitive division last season, with four of the five teams making the playoffs and just five points separating spots two through four. That makes predicting this year’s order of finish especially difficult, but we feel that the Mavs did the most to improve their roster over the offseason, trading for Chandler and bringing in Parsons (the ex-Houston Rocket) and Nelson in free agency. Add that to a lineup that already features Dirk Nowitzki and an improved Monta Ellis, and the good times should keep rolling in Big D.
3. Memphis Grizzlies (third)
Key additions: SG Vince Carter (free agent), PG Beno Udrih (free agent), Jordan Adams (draft), Jarnell Stokes (draft)
Key departures: SF Mike Miller, PG Jerryd Bayless
The West’s stingiest defense team brings back all of its major pieces, with Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol returning up front and Mike Conley and former Boston Celtic Tony Allen back in the backcourt. The Grizzlies also added two intriguing draft picks in Adams and Stokes, and it’ll be interesting to see how much the 37-year-old Carter has left in the tank after spending last season as a solid bench player in Dallas.
4. Houston Rockets (second)
Key additions: SG Trevor Ariza (trade), C Clint Capela (draft), SG Jason Terry (trade)
Key departures: C Omer Asik, PG Jeremy Lin, SF Chandler Parsons
The Rockets swung and missed on a number of big-time names over the offseason, missing out on the chance to sign free agents Chris Bosh and Carmelo Anthony and failing to swing a trade for Rajon Rondo. Simultaneously, the team lost Parsons, Lin and Asik while making Ariza their only notable acquisition. The presence of Dwight Howard and James Harden should be enough to get Houston in the playoffs, but we’re not overly confident about their chances in the still-stacked West.
5. New Orleans Hornets (fifth)
Key additions: C Omer Asik (trade), PG Jimmer Fredette (free agent), SF John Salmons (free agent), PG Russ Smith (trade; drafted by 76ers)
Key departures: C Jason Smith, PG Brian Roberts, SG Anthony Morrow, SF Al-Farouq Aminu
Fear the unibrow. Anthony Davis emerged as a budding superstar last season, and his play alone might be enough to lead the Pelicans to the Eastern Conference. Unfortunately for New Orleans, it plays in the West, so advancing past Game 82 will be a much taller task. The Pelicans should be improved this season, though, with the addition of Asik, who theoretically should join with Davis to form a lockdown defensive tandem. Health will be paramount, though: of New Orleans’ top six scorers last season, only one played in more than 70 games.
Up next: Southeast Division on Monday, Oct. 6
Photo via Soobum Im/USA TODAY Sports Images