NBA Preview/Offseason Grades – Southwest Division
San Antonio Spurs
Who’s in: Nando de Colo
Draft: Marcus Denmon
Who’s Out: Nobody
Summary: Another season in San Antonio another year of Tony Parker, Many Ginobili and Tim Duncan making the playoffs. This routine has become all too familiar for NBA fans. The Spurs have only missed the Playoffs five times in their 45 year history and just once since 1989.
After being up 2-0 against Oklahoma in last season’s Western Conference Finals the Spurs fell apart and lost four straight, appearing to pass the torch to the up and coming Thunder, who decided to pass it back when trading James Harden.
Unlike myself the Spurs brass didn’t panic by making moves this offseason and chose to bank on their veterans finding a way to improve organically in order to make another run at a title before the Duncan era is officially over.
Boris Diaw, Stephen Jackson and Patty Mills all joined the Spurs late last season so it isn’t that far-fetched to suggest that a full training camp under coach Greg Popovich could be the catalyst for the Spurs making that extra step. Then again with the moves the Clippers and the Lakers have made It’s hard to see San Antonio advancing beyond the second round of the Playoffs.
Offseason Grade: C
Projected Win Total: 51-55
Who’s in: Jerryd Bayless, Wayne Ellington
Draft: Tony Wroten Jr
Who’s Out: O.J Mayo, Dante Cunningham, Jeremy Pargo
Summary: From over achieving and knocking out the Western conferences top seeded Spurs two years ago, to underachieving and being eliminated by the Clippers a year later despite home court advantage. The Grizzlies haven’t made any significant moves this offseason so expect them to make some playoff noise yet again. Former lottery pick Jerryd Bayless has failed to live up to the hype since coming out of college and will fill the void left by former lottery pick OJ Mayo, who has failed to live up to the hype surrounding him coming out of college. There’s a nice pattern here. Re-signing Marreese Speights and Darrell Arthur will sure up the depth behind an already loaded front court.
Although erratic I like the pick of Tony Wroten but he’ll take time. Wayne Ellington comes in from Minnesota and brings with him a reputation as a dead eye jump shooter from outside. After sitting through three years of Ellington as a Timberwolves fan I can confirm that his reputation might be a little off. Ellington’s 32% three-point and 40% overall shooting backs that up. The important thing is that Ellington looks great doing so.
Offseason Grade: B-
Projected Win Total: 45-49
Who’s in: O.J Mayo, Chris Kaman, Darren Collison, Elton Brand, Dahntay Jones.
Draft: Jared Cunningham, Bernard James, Jae Crowder.
Who’s Out: Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, Lamar Odom, Brendan Haywood, Kelenna Azubuike, Ian Mahinmi.
Summary: The Mavs went from “holy crap, we’re screwed!” to “Hey, we can win 50 games!” back to “holy crap, we’re screwed” in the space of about 9 days. When Kidd, Terry and Haywood all fled what at the time looked like a sinking ship coming off a 4-0 broom mission courtesy of the Thunder, the Mavericks surely contemplated a rebuild. With free agency winding up Dallas managed to salvage their upcoming season with a series of savvy signings and trades to field an arguably more talented roster than they had last season.
The new look Dallas squad brought in four new starters to pair with Dirk Nowitzki and unless they fail to overcome the chemistry hurdle appeared to be a virtual lock to reach the Playoffs for a thirteenth straight season. Then Dirk’s knee went on a bender and is now permanently bloated.
Like years past the Mavs are short on star power but big on above average role players which will once again see Dirk Nowitzki carrying the majority of the load offensively. Dirk is coming off his least productive season since his second year in the league which is well over a decade ago. At 34 years of age and 14 years of NBA mileage on the clock was this the first sign of the German declining, or simply a product of a lockout plagued short season? Either way both the Mavs and Dirk will enter next seasons campaign with a buffet of question marks and injury concerns.
Most people have thrown the Mavs under the bus this offseason based on the names they failed to acquire. There’s no Deron Williams, there’s no Dwight Howard and there’s no second banana to pair with Nowitzki. Still, this is a roster mixed with unheralded youth and veteran talent
Offseason Grade: B-
Projected Win Total: 41-45
Who’s in: James Harden, Jeremy Lin, Omer Asik, Jon Brockman, Toney Douglas, Gary Forbes, JaJuan Johnson, Carlos Delfino, Scott Machado
Draft: Royce White, Terrence Jones
Who’s Out: Kyle Lowry, Goran Dragic, Marcus Camby, Chase Budinger, Samuel Dalembert, Luis Scola, Courtney Lee
Summary: “If anybody can figure out what the hell happened in Houston over the last 3 months feel free to email me immediately. Yes, I understand that GM Daryl Morey was trying to position himself to make a run at Dwight Howard or basically anybody with “star” status but such a scenario generally requires you to have equal value to send back.
An expiring Kevin Martin and a couple of “they might be good?” middle of the pack first round draft picks doesn’t qualify as an elite package.”
This is why I wrote a week ago and boy was I off the mark. Turns out Morey knew exactly what he was doing and that crappy package can land you a star.
That star was James Harden.
Houston appeared to have spent their offseason culling their eight best players for the rights to pay someone who averages 3.1 points per game $25 million dollars and sign a marketing phenom before the last second Harden trade broke. If you’ve been here before you’ll be largely aware of my gushing antics when it comes to James Harden. If you haven’t, you can cut off a piece right here. Long story short; I love this trade and I love James Harden.
When you look at this roster It’s as if Daryl Morey was trying to pull a reverse Don Nelson by acquiring 457 power forwards. From a business perspective I like the Lin signing as evidenced here and if pissing off the Chicago Bulls is your thing than I guess the Asik signing warrants the hefty price tag.
Pteromerhanophobia is a really long word and up until fourteen hours ago I didn’t know what it meant. Rockets rookie Royce White has it though and it means he can’t travel on planes. Instead, White will travel via bus where possible. Terrence Jones and White were all quality additions on draft day but they don’t appear to be more than solid starters at best. This Houston team will struggle to mesh all the new pieces together at the best of times. Regardless, I give them points for ticking that first rebuilding box; Acquiring a star.
Offseason Grade: C+
Projected Win Total: 30-34
New Orleans Hornets
Who’s in: Ryan Anderson, Robin Lopez, Hakim Warrick, Roger Mason Jr.
Draft: Anthony Davis, Austin Rivers, Darius Miller.
Who’s Out: Emeka Okafor, Trevor Ariza, Gustavo Ayon, Chris Kaman, Jarrett Jack, Marco Bellinelli, Jermone Dyson, Carl Landry, Darryl Watkins, Jerome Dyson.
Summary: New Orleans won the NBA draft lottery and thus secured Kentucky franchise big man Anthony Davis, and with it an A+ offseason grade regardless of whatever else they did.
In what is rare ground in NBA circles General Manager Dell Demps went against the grain and made numerous logical moves in the form of signing Orlando sharp shooting big Ryan Anderson and bringing back shooting guard Eric Gordon.
Anderon lead the league in three-point attempts last season and attempted 87 more three-pointers than he did two-point field goals. The good news? Anderson is deadly from deep and hits the long ball at a 40% clip.
As for Gordon, he’s one of the few productive two-guards in a league where the position is almost extinct. Over the last two seasons when playing more than 30+ minutes (36 games) Gordon averaged over 22 points per game on 46% shooting. When you factor in that Gordon is only 23 years of age it all translates into justification for a max contract in the NBA.
This upcoming season is by all means a rebuilding year for the Hornets and a chance to assess exactly what they have. New Orleans will enter next season with enough cap room to offer a max contract to a free agent this ball club couldn’t be in a more positive position.
From league ownership and what looked like NBA purgatory, to acquiring a Franchise player and one of the most exciting situations in the league. New Orleans were able to achieve the unthinkable in the span of two weeks. I love the NBA!
Offseason Grade: A
Projected Win Total: 29-33
You can follow Scott on Twitter: @Scottybarby