Friday, September 12, 2008

Southwest Division (W) - July 30, 2008

Dallas Mavericks

After what was considered a disappointing 7th Seed for the Mavericks, it is surprising that the Mavericks have not attempted to make any trades. The team did sign DeSagana Diop after trading him away to Dallas. Apparently the team now understands his importance after not having him around for the closing stretch of last season. The team used its Mid-Level Exception on Diop and with the 2nd highest payroll is basketball the Mavericks are in a position to ride on what they have. The team has invested approximately $70 Million on their starting roster leaving little room for expanding depth so with a single injury the Mavs can be in a real tight corner. The Mavericks have put themselves into a real difficult position. The team has put all of their marbles into the bag for this season, but unfortunately it doesn't look like the Mavs will go as far as they hope to. Their starting five is fairly impressive, but their lack of depth hinders them in comparison with the other elite Western Conference teams which are prepared for obstacles minor or major: if any of the Dallas starters is faced with an injury the team doesn't have the ability to compensate well and will find itself free falling. Another concern is the future; the team severely falls short of youth. Josh Howard is already 27 and is considered the now leaving Shan Foster, Brandon Bass and Jose Barea. Both Bass and Barea came out of their shells, a bit, but neither seems to be promising enough to be considered a liability. Shan Foster was a great wing man a Wake Forest, but again it is not sure what he will develop into. The team is too focused on today and will soon find out how tough it will be to return to supremacy. As for any trades, it seems that Nowitzki and Kidd are untouchable (Kidd also has little trade value since he is nearing the end of his career) leaving Howard and Terry as the only considerably appealing pieces, but Terry has a pretty big contract for narrow dimensional and Josh Howard is probably over priced since the Mavs refused to trade him for Artest. As bad as all this sounds the Mavericks will be given a brilliant opportunity next offseason when majority of their player including Jason Kidd become free agents. Next year has an impressive list of point guards that may become unrestricted free agents so the team can capitalize on them with several reasonable offers.

Houston Rockets

On the other hand the Rockets have learned the art of successful trade making. The team rid themselves of Bobby Jackson and Donte Green (as well as a pick) in exchange for Ron Artest. It is difficult to imagine what was going on between Bobby Jackson and Tracy McGrady when the camera weren't on (It is extremely difficult to put aside a grudge you have on somebody that you fought with, especially if you had little contact with the person prior to the altercation). With some seasoning Donte Green could be come one of the better players in the league and Sacramento will soon see what he is capable. Houston is a good destination for Artest considering the team was able to reconstruct the mentality of Bonzi Wells so Artest should be capable of following a similar character revival path. Now the team seems to be fairly healthy and if this can be maintained through and after the Olympics the Rockets have set themselves up for some serious contention. In addition to the three obvious studs, Rafer Alston is truly one of the most underrated players in the league - he is a great playmakers, he plays defense, and is very capable from behind the arc. Last season, Luis Scola came out as one of the better rookies and he played a critical role in the team's wining streak. The thing that is most impressive about the Rockets is their balance in every aspect. They have size and speed, an inside game and an outside, half-court and full-court ability, as well as youth and veteranship. More importantly the veterans on the team all have great character: McGrady always puts what he has out there, Yao is good a heart and the team has seen how hard he was work to get by injury difficulties, Dikembe Mutumbo is known for his role model attributes, and Shane Battier is the epitome of great character. By drafting promising upperclassmen later in the draft like Aaron Brooks, Steve Novak, and Carl Landry the team is not too far away from another wave of success. Versatility should assure success for this year and more years to come.

Memphis Grizzlies

It is unsure whether the Grizzlies are running an NBA franchise or a Day-Care center; however, either way they are doing a good job - yes, a good job. Come the first day of the season, the Grizzlies will have the lowest salary in the league and possibly on of the greatest collections of young talent the NBA has ever seen. Plus it must be realized that the team is up for sale and there is nothing a new owner wants then to have a team that he or she could direct in any direction he or she possess. I'd like to condemn all those who ridiculed the Grizzlies for the Gasol trade. Pau is one of the finer players and men in the league, the Grizzlies understood his desire to compete for a championship and were able to trade him for Javaris Crittenton, Marc Gasol, Kwame Brown (has not been retained) and two first round picks (one of which would be used in the acquisition of Darrell Arthur) - that is a great deal for Memphis. This season's starting line-up will probably consist of Mike Conley, O.J. Mayo, Rudy Gay, Hakim Warrick, and Darko Milcic. Outside of Darko that is an extremely impressive and potential filled line. As for Darko we saw him come out as a consistent rebounder and shot blocker last season. The reserve line-up would be Crittenton, Kyle Lowry, Antoine Walker, Darrell Arthur, and Marc Gasol. That is flat out impressive considering that they still have three first round picks these next two seasons pending how the Grizzlies finish. The Grizzlies should be in the running to sign any of the major free agents still available if there are no restrictions. If the team can sign a player Ben Gordon, without giving up any of their players then the team may even have some success this upcoming season. The only real suggestion for the team is to acquire a veteran or two to pose as role models for all the youth. Antoine Walker is the only player on the roster with over 10 years of experience; the young players need older players they can watch and learn how to carry themselves on and off the court. The only player that the Grizz can sign seems to be Ruben Patterson, unless they can workout a small trade. He won't change much of the team but he will provide another veteran in coherence with Antoine Walker. Processing youth without experience vets will be quite difficult. For now, good luck to the Memphis Grizzly Cubs and the organization which is prone a bright future.

New Orleans Hornets

When some first takes a look at the Hornets roster it seems unrealistic that the team finished 2nd in the Western Conference, but then you start to piece the players together and you realize that this is a well crafted team. The team has a PG that does everything that you can ask of a point guard: control the tempo, provide leadership on and off the court, run the offense, minimize turnovers, unselfishness, play tight defense, and to make the clutch shots. Paul received small notations about his deserving for MVP, but now that Kobe has earned his Paul should be right up there for considerations next year. Then Morris Peterson and Peja Stojakovic stepped up and each had great years shotting the ball proving to be reliable wing mans at the 2 and 3. Peja fits the 3 role real well since he is a bit oversized for the spot but remains lean enough to run the floor well. Stojakovic also had moments of unrealistic athleticism we haven't seen of him previously in his career. Then possibly the most underrated power forward in the league in David West. Yes he was an allstar last season, yet he still doesn't recieve the respect he deserves. He's one of the elite 4's in the league and in addition to his fine low post game, he has a solid elbow and mid-range shot, he puts a solid effort on defense with a block and a half per game, he only gives up two turnovers per game, and he can actually shot free throws (he was 7th in Free Throw % among forwards - Peja era numero uno). Finally Tyson Chandler is considered one of the biggest rebounding and blocking forces in the NBA taking away numerous opportunities for opponents. The team is built on the fundamentals of free throw shooting, rebounding, and defense so even on their worst nights, the Hornets will be in contention for a W. Then the bench was a decent mix of youth (Jannero Pargo, Julian Wright, Hilton Armstrong) and veterans (James Posey and Mike James). Rasual Butler had a down year after having a breakout season the prior year, but we should expect more of the Rasual of two years ago as we saw some flashes of him late last season. The Hornets are also at the NBA Salary Cap so with the soft circumstance the team could be in position to make a move if necessary. If the Hornets lose their free agents this season the team should look to acquire a single player with some experience at a low price. It is not a necessity but it is always helpful to have another veteran who can be counted on late in games. The Hornets shouldn't catch anybody by surprise as the head for another year of success.

San Antonio Spurs

Another year, another set of doubter, another off-season of hard-work, another year of trying to start Ginobili but Popovich realizing that he is better off the bench in time to win the 6th Man of the Year, another year of playoff contention. I really want to tell you that the Spurs are getting old, and that Duncan is starting face injuries which will eventually wear him away and that the other teams have figured out the Spurs and they are ready to end their success, but I cannot. The San Antonio is of the best run franchises in professional sports: through scouting and consistency the team has put together a final establishment on international and indigenous players. The fundamental offense has been a proven success through most of the years since the late nineties, allowing the team to assemble low cost players that work hard and continue to win. Guys like Tony Parker, Manu Ginobli, and Fabricio Oberto have been found out of now where and have become critical pieces for the Spurs.The most impressive fact about the Spurs is that they own their own D-League teams in the Austin Toros. The Toros are first in their division and are one of the better teams in the D-League. What surprises me the most about this is that the Spurs and Lakers are the only teams that own their own D-League teams - all the other professional teams share a D-League team with another professional team. If the two most consistent teams of this era are also the only two with exclusive affiliates shouldn't other teams attempt to follow? Team are able to install offense and defense schemes into players in a no-count league and then bring up these players who have already gone through the developmental stages and are ready for seasoning and success. It works in the MLB and NHL, so the system of minor league affiliates should work just as good if not better since basketball requires players to be familiar with their team's system. I don't know how it is going to get done, just expect the Spurs to be up their when the playoff come around.

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