NBA Preview Part 5: Southwest Division

SOUTHWEST DIVISION

5th Place – New Orleans Hornets

Last season, the Hornets were a heavy favorite at one point to win the
Eastern Conference crown. A move to the much tougher from top to bottom
west, coupled with an injury to veteran Jamal Mashburn, have the Hornets
looking to the bottom of the Southwest standings this year.

A playoff berth as a 7 or 8 seed is a possibility, but the fortunes of the
Hornets rest on All-Star point guard Baron Davis. Davis, obviously seeing
the Hornets chances of an NBA title fading with the move to the West, has
demanded a trade. Davis’s fate will likely determine the success of the
Hornets this season. A solid trade could rejuvenate the club, while a
disgruntled, unproductive Davis could make the Hornets season turn ugly in
a hurry.

4th Place – Memphis Grizzlies

The biggest surprise of last season, under the guidance of Hubie Brown,
Grizz had a huge turnaround with a team with arguably no major superstar.
Look for Memphis to make the playoffs again this season, and don’t count
them out as a potential darkhorse to win the tough as nails Southwest
Division.

3rd Place – Dallas Mavericks

The Nash-Finley-Nowitzki foundation took a blow during the offseason with
Steve Nash’s departure to Phoenix. This was only the beginning of the Mavs
lineup housecleaing, shipping out Antoine and Antawn and becoming more
rounded with the acquisitions of Erick Dampier and Jason Terry to the
starting lineup.

The only question is how far can the Mavericks go with the abundance of
talent that they seem to have every year? A tough division doesn’t help
matters, but the Mave should easily slide in to the upper half of the
playoff bracket, likely somewhere around a 4 seed.

2nd Place – Houston Rockets

Getting better every season, Yao Ming got help in the form of All-Star
Tracy McGrady, who will be the new Shaq-Kobe duo of the NBA – without the
drama. The dynamic duo is surrounded by solid, yet unspectacular talent.
Juwan Howard and Jim Jackson are nice role players, but Houston will need
to have somebody step up at the Point Guard if they want to make a serious
run at a title this season.

1st Place – San Antonio Spurs

The Spurs signed everyone they needed to re-sign and are as strong as
ever. The Southwest Division is by far the toughest top-to-bottom division
in the league and for the Spurs to put any distance between themselves in
the rest, they’ll need consistent play from Tony Parker and Emmanuel
Ginobili. With Jason Kidd disgruntled in New Jersey, could the Spurs make
a deal to land their final piece to the puzzle with Kidd…or do they even
need him. With or without any big trades, as long as the Spurs stay
healthy they should easily slide into a high playoff spot.

Outlook
The deepest division in the league, the Southwest has five teams that all
could easily represent 5 of the best 7 or 8 teams in the entire Western
Conference. However, each and every team has some question marks from
preventing any of the teams to be a clear-cut winner to take the division.