2010-11 NBA Preview: Southwest Division

Dallas Mavericks (55-27 last season)

Dallas needs the Mavericks to play well since their beloved Cowboys have been garbage.

Projected Starting Five:

Point Guard: Jason Kidd

Shooting Guard: Caron Butler

Small Forward: Shawn Marion

Power Forward: Dirk Nowitzki

Center: Brendan Haywood

Key Reserves:

Guard: Roddy Beaubois

Guard: Jason Terry

Center: Tyson Chandler

The Dallas Mavericks are going to be strong again and the addition of Tyson Chandler to back up Brendan Haywood should help on the defensive end.  Chandler has lost a step in his game, but he still has the skills to be a great reserve big man.  The shooting guard and small forward spot will also be interesting to watch.  Caron Butler and Shawn Marion cannot carry their positions alone.  They will need Jason Terry, Roddy Beaubois and rookie Dominique Jones to figure into the mix and log solid minutes.  Beaubois could even be the eventual replacement to Jason Kidd.  Roddy has an explosive first step, three-point range and has the ability to finish at the hoop.  This team still hinges on Dirk Nowitzki’s success and will prove to be a top team in the West.

Houston Rockets (42-40 last season)

Yao is healthy and ready to take Houston far in the playoffs.

Projected Starting Five:

Point Guard: Aaron Brooks

Shooting Guard: Kevin Martin

Small Forward: Shane Battier

Power Forward: Luis Scola

Center: Yao Ming

Key Reserves:

Guard: Courtney Lee

Forward: Chase Budinger

Center: Brad Miller

Yao Ming is back!  This is great news for Rockets’ fans.  Yao has also been playing like his old self in preseason.  With a healthy Yao all season, I have big expectations for this team.  Their leader on defense is back and a huge low post presence will be reinstated in Houston.  Granted, the number of minutes he will play will be low, but he is the key to the Rockets reemergence.  Trevor Ariza is gone and Chase Budinger will be the one to benefit the most from this loss.  Budinger has everything you would want in a small forward.  He can jump, shoot, defend and pass.  Look for a great second season for the man from Arizona.  Kevin Martin will also be poised for another 20+ point season.  I think the Rockets have the best chance to knock off the Lakers if they can make it to the Western Conference Finals.

San Antonio Spurs (50-32 last season)

Take your pick on who gets injured first.

Projected Starting Five:

Point Guard: Tony Parker

Shooting Guard: Manu Ginobili

Small Forward: Richard Jefferson

Power Forward: Tim Duncan

Center: Antonio McDyess

Key Reserves:

Guard: George Hill

Forward: DeJuan Blair

Forward-Center: Tiago Splitter

For the first time in years, Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili are entering the season fit and healthy.  I believe this big three still has some game in them left to be played, but time is running out.  Two-time Spanish League MVP, Tiago Splitter, was brought in to back up Duncan and should provide great defense and rebounding.  If Splitter can provide, Duncan can hopefully be fresh for the playoffs, and this is what head coach Greg Popovich wants.  Richard Jefferson also needs to bury a disappointing last season and be ready to produce for the Spurs on both ends of the floor.  I think this will be a good team, but the greatness of the Spurs has run out.

Memphis Grizzlies (40-42 last season)

Gay will be looking to propel the Grizzlies to greatness.

Projected Starting Five:

Point Guard: Mike Conley

Shooting Guard: O.J. Mayo

Small Forward: Rudy Gay

Power Forward: Zach Randolph

Center: Marc Gasol

Key Reserves:

Guard: Tony Allen

Guard: Xavier Henry

Center: Hasheem Thabeet

Rudy Gay is slowly turning into a big time superstar.  By playing with Team USA this summer, Gay will be taking that next step to becoming great and the rest of the Grizzlies must follow suit.  With Gay, O.J. Mayo and Zach Randolph, Memphis has no trouble putting the ball into the hoop, but defense is their major issue.  Centers Marc Gasol and Hasheem Thabeet need to be the catalysts for defensive presence.  Mike Conley also needs to excel his game.  Now entering his fourth season, Conley needs to improve from being just a mediocre point guard for the Grizzlies to be playoff contenders.  This team is very young and has the potential to have a 2009-10 Oklahoma City type season.

New Orleans Hornets (37-45 last season)

CP3's eyes are on the prize, but does he have the team to do it?

Projected Starting Five:

Point Guard: Chris Paul

Shooting Guard: Marco Belinelli

Small Forward: Trevor Ariza

Power Forward: David West

Center: Emeka Okafor

Key Reserves:

Guard: Jerryd Bayless

Guard: Marcus Thornton

Forward: Peja Stojakovic

I feel the Southwest Division is very competitive and even though the Hornets will be an improvement from last season, they will still finish last.  Chris Paul is back to being healthy and he has two new exciting swingmen: Trevor Ariza and Jerryd Bayless.  With Paul at the helm, the Hornets are definitely going to push the tempo to take advantage in the open floor.  Ariza thrives off of this style of play, and Bayless could prove to be a great back up for Paul.  Bayless will also get time at the shooting guard position to play with Paul.  Emeka Okafor and David West need to improve the defense which had an open-door policy to the rim last season.  All-in-all, I just don’t see it happening for the Hornets this year.

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