Saturday, November 03, 2012

2012-13 NBA Preview: Southwest Division

Wins Produced Order of Finish
1. San Antonio 53-29
2. Dallas 53-29 50-32
3. Memphis 43-39
4. Houston 38-44
5. New Orleans 37-45

As boring as it is to say, the Spurs are once again the team to beat in the Southwest, as Tim Duncan looks like he has at least one more season of borderline All-Star level play in him and Kawhi Leonard looks like he may be able to help Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili shoulder more of the load than any other supporting member San Antonio's Big Three has ever played with.  Dallas will continue to chug along behind the coaching of Rick Carlisle and an underrated roster (if 2012 Diminishing Skills Most Improved Player Brandan Wright continues to hit 12 of every 13 shots, he's going to make me look like a genius) around a wounded Dirk Nowitzki (which is the reason I sliced 3 wins off their win total).  Memphis seems like a team in need of a change, but there's enough talent that a deep playoff run isn't out of the question (given the Grizzlies can make the playoffs in the first place).  Houston GM Daryl Morey finally got the superstar he had been seeking in James Harden, but all of the talent he shedded in stockpiling assets to chase a star has ironically left the Rockets in the exact same position they've found themselves in the past three seasons.  The difference this year, of course, is that the future looks brighter in Houston with super young role players in place to support Harden's ascension into the league's elite.  New Orleans had an up-and-down off-season.  They have a new owner, a franchise player in Anthony Davis, and some fine supporting pieces in Ryan Anderson and Greivas Vasquez.  Unfortunately, they also threw nearly $60 million over four years at Eric Gordon, who probably isn't worth that even when he isn't dealing with injury drama (which is almost never), and wasted the 10th pick in a reasonably deep draft on Austin Rivers.  Rivers didn't have a position in college; I don't know what Monty Williams is going to do with him in the NBA.

Wins Produced All-Southwest Team
PG Mike Conley, Memphis
SG James Harden, Houston
SF Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio
PF Ryan Anderson, New Orleans
C Anthony Davis, New Orleans

Eyeball Test All-Southwest Team
PG Tony Parker, San Antonio
SG Harden, Houston
SF Leonard, San Antonio
PF Tim Duncan, PF, San Antonio
C Davis, New Orleans

Harden would have made these teams even before his dazzling first two games in Houston, but they certainly do not hurt the argument that he is better than Manu Ginobili, Eric Gordon, and Tony Allen.  Anthony Davis looks like he's going to be a superstar from Day One, while Kawhi Leonard looks like he's going to build on his own stellar debut season.  I feel like Ryan Anderson may find life a little harder without Dwight Howard drawing so much attention inside, so I'll take the creaky but steady Tim Duncan in his place.  A healthy Zach Randolph has a case to be mentioned, as well.  Mike Conley has turned into a very solid point guard, but there is no doubt in my mind that Tony Parker is the class of the Southwest point guard crop.

Wins Produced Anti-Southwest Team
PG Jerryd Bayless, Memphis
SG Toney Douglas, Houston
SF Hakim Warrick, New Orleans
PF Patrick Patterson, Houston
C Chris Kaman, Dallas

Jerryd Bayless is a scoring point guard who can't really score and doesn't really play the point, and who also has one of the dumbest spellings of a first name I've ever seen.  Toney Douglas may be done after only four years in the league, as his shooting fell off a cliff last season and he finds himself in a bit of a logjam in Houston.  Hakim Warrick has never been able to harness the athleticism that keeps getting him shots in NBA starting lineups, while Patrick Patterson followed up a solid rookie season with an atrocious sophomore campaign last season.  In a division absolutely loaded at the power forward position, the Rockets need Patterson (or one of their 18 other young 4's) to step up.  Chris Kaman hasn't had an above-average season since 2007-08, and he hasn't played more than 56 games in four of the past five seasons.

Wins Produced Southwest MVP: Anthony Davis, New Orleans
Canaan's Southwest MVP: Tim Duncan, San Antonio

Davis definitely will be an impact player out of the gate, but it's hard for me to give him the nod over the wily vet in San Antonio.  James Harden may make himself heard here, as well.

Wins Produced Southwest LVP: Toney Douglas, Houston

It's amazing that during Douglas's rookie season, Knicks fans were convinced he was a crucial part of their future.

Southwest DPOY: Anthony Davis, New Orleans

Tim Duncan or Kawhi Leonard could make a case for themselves here, but Davis should be among the league leaders in blocks, and his ability to defend the rim while also jumping out to contest jumpers is unmatched.

Southwest Matador of the Year: Boris Diaw, San Antonio
Diaw is a the fattest sieve ever, but thankfully, the rest of the Spurs are there to clean up his mess.

Wins Produced Southwest ROY: Anthony Davis, New Orleans
Canaan's Southwest ROY: Davis, New Orleans

Davis is pretty much a lock for NBA ROY, and there really isn't much of a challenge within the Soutwest.

Wins Produced Southwest Rookie Bust: Austin Rivers, New Orleans
Rivers models his game after Kobe Bryant, but the problem with that is Bryant has nearly 5 inches and quite a few pounds of muscle on Doc's kid, as well as unbelievable athleticism (or at least he did early in his career).  Rivers is undersized, only an average athlete, and overconfident in his abilities.  This all points to a player who barely qualifies as a team's 7th option off the bench playing like he is the second coming of [insert  Hall-of-Fame scorer], which is a surefire recipe for a disaster of a player.  

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