Southwest Dvision Preview*
San Antonio Spurs
Over/Under 55 1/2 - OVER
I wrote about the Spurs for Sportsgrid (as well as the Nets and Kings, but I’m ignoring the Cavs-Wizards opening game for this, so I’m gonna just point you towards the Sports Grid preview and get back to watching the—real, in terms of time—opening game of the season).
Basically with Popovich, one full training camp for Kawhi Leonard, plus Timmy, Tony and Manu, this team is gonna be at, or near, the top of the Western Conference all regular season, and they’ll again be competing with the Thunder and Lakers to get to the Finals. I wouldn’t put it past them succeeding this time, either. Bonus points if you spot my Splitter joke in the tags.
Over/Under 48 1/2 - OVER
Marc Gasol is healthy and so is Zach Randolph. Let me repeat: the Gasol-Randolph front court engorgement is healthy! Huzzah! Rudy Gay, Mike Conley Jr, and Tony Allen round out a Memphis starting team that can hang with anyone in the league. Unfortunately, once you start going into the rest of the rotation, there’s a big drop-off.
You can sell me on Jerryd Bayless as Conley’s backup at point, and even Marreese (not a typo) Speights has some upside, but Wayne Ellington, Haddadi and Quincy Poindexter as the other second stringers is missing offense (notably lacking on the bench is OJ Mayo, who signed with Dallas). They really, really need shooters, but didn’t get any shooters. Conley and Gay are their lone 3-point threats and they habitually settle for long-range 2’s.
But that front court combo of Gasol and Randolph is the best in the league not including Marc’s older bro, so they’ll cover and then some. They might even host a playoff series.
New Orleans Hornets
Over/Under 27 1/2 - OVER
Perhaps Stern’s most masterful, not to mention unscrupulous, move was nixing the HOU/NOR/LAL deal that would have landed the Lakers Chris Paul. The Lakers rebounded aight—though Odom didn’t—and New Orleans certainly did when they landed the top pick in last summer’s draft. We don’t need to get into Houston, but grabbing and signing Harden long term, probably saved Morey his job.
The Hornets landed Anthony Davis, a game changer of a big man that moves like he’s 6 feet tall and makes the Hoop Speak and Hardwood Paroxysm crowd wax poetic about his defensive prowess. Ryan Andersen and Eric Gordon can score, if they’re healthy (not an insignificant issue with Gordon), Greivis Vasquez is the perfect pass-first point for Gordon to be teamed with. Al-Farouq-Aminu is…still on his rookie deal.
This team isn’t bad, and everything I’ve read and watched on Youtube, makes it seem like any team Davis is starting for can get over the 30 win hurdle. This is an easy one, if he stays healthy and plays up to his capability (not 100%, but close), and Gordon can get on the floor somewhat resembling his first couple years in Los Angeles.
Over/Under 30 1/2 - UNDER (without Harden) OVER (with him)
I took these snapshots of Bovada before Harden’s trade to Houston, so I’d take the over now, but before the trade, they were headed for a lottery pick.
Jeremy Lin teamed with Harden’s ball-handling could be excellent and those high screens Harden likes, will become easy assists for Lin. After their new backcourt, it’s gonna come down to the reserve Center from Chicago: Omer Asik. He’s the sabermetric wet dream, but you have to remember he only averaged 14.1 minutes last season behind Noah in Chicago. He’s a tenacious rebounder on the defensive glass, and seems to have figured out the footwork and foresight necessary to block from the weak side. Bloggers have loved him this preseason, but lets see how he fares against starting units as the man down low for Houston.
Other than that, I think they’ll struggle defensively if Asik gets in foul trouble. They’re significantly better with Harden, a huge upgrade over Kevin Martin and his funky jumper, but Patrick Patterson isn’t a real starter, and Royce White isn’t there yet. That being said, they’re so much better than I thought just a week ago. GREAT TRADE for this team.
Daryl Morey is a mensch, and he’s again got his team with the talent to hover around .500 this season after picking up the beard. And we all thought he had swung big this off-season and whiffed. Yeesh, Morey is a baller.
Over/Under 42 1/2 - OVER
I don’t think Dallas will be over 42 by a lot, but they’re gonna win at least one or two more than that number if Dirk can get back onto the court within 20 games. Their big pick-ups this off-season, if you can call them “big,” were Darren Collison, Chris Kaman and Elton Brand. Brand was a great sign from Philly, where he was one of their better defenders on last year’s surprising second round playoff team. Collison is a legitimate starter in this league, and before George Hill took his spot, he was a solid point for the playoff bound Pacers. Chris Kaman has an offensive game, but is murder on defense and always injured.
It all rests on Dirk. If he can get back to 100% before the all-star break—sorta like he did last year when he sat out a few games early—they’re gonna make the playoffs and finish near Houston and other lower seed playoff teams.
*All bets via Bovada