Friday, December 23, 2011

2012 NBA Preview: Southwest Conference

On we move to the Western Conference, which has dominated play the last few seasons when it comes to Championships:

Southwest Conference

1st Place: Dallas Mavericks (#2 seed)

PG Jason Kidd
SG Jason Terry
SF Shawn Marrion
PF Dirk Nowitzki
C Brendan Heywood
6th: Lamar Odom

The reigning World Champs lost a huge piece of their puzzle in Tyson Chandler, but also brought in some very nice replacements. Lamar Odom should be a stud off the bench filling in at 3, 4 and 5. They also inked Vince Carter, who could play a similar role to Manu Ginobili's with San Antonio the last few years, but more importantly help them guard bigger 2 guards that give Terry trouble (a la Dwayne Wade). Nowitzki will again be MVP-like, I don't care if it's a short season and he's getting older. He and Kidd just seem to get more refined with age and I expect no different in 2k12. Also loving the re-birth of Shawn Marrion, who's become an impact forward again at age 31. They just need Heywood to revert back to his 2010 version and they'll be just fine!

2nd Place: San Antonio Spurs (#5 seed)

PG Tony Parker
SG Manu Ginobili
SF Richard Jefferson
PF Tim Duncan
C DeJuan Blair
6th: G Gary Neal

I just don't think the Spurs have the depth or youth to keep up in this fast-paced 2012 NBA season when 3-consecutive game nights will be frequent. Still love Parker at point and Ginobili can score with the best of 'em, but Duncan is aging big time and may need to take nights off or only play 20-25 minutes on back-to-back game days now. He won't be nearly as effective. They need Jefferson to step his game up, I think it could happen but he's looked so out of sorts with the Spurs for some reason because the dude can play he's right in his prime! They still have a winning team though, just the short season hurts them more than almost any other team with their biggest star being a guy who needs his rest and minutes limited already. Should hold off up-and-coming Grizz for #2 in Southwest, but they have to be ready for this fast-paced season to stay there.

2nd Place Tie: Memphis Grizzlies (#6 seed)

PG Mike Conley
SG Tony Allen
SF Rudy Gay
PF Zach Randolph
C Marc Gasol
6th G O.J. Mayo

The Grizz have a really, really talented bunch. I believe they'll finish right with San Antonio, who a lot of experts have as division favorites. I just like their starting five as they have a lot of guys who do a lot of different things for them and it showed last spring when they beat those top-seeded Spurs. It wouldn't surprise me the least to see them leapfrog the Spurs in the shortened season. There really isn't a hole anywhere in the lineup and they're all young players. Conley really arrived last season as an NBA top-10 point guard who had a big 2011 postseason and just turned 24. I think Rudy Gay is one of the most underrated players in the NBA cause he plays in Memphis, but he's a much better defending version with Carmelo Anthony's type of offensive skill. He's their MVP, but Randolph (20/12 in '11) and Gasol are nearly as important and don't get nearly enough credit! Gasol was a key restricted FA brought back and for good reason, one of the best young 7-footers in the game needs to get back to his 2009/10 form.

4th Place: Houston Rockets

PG Kyle Lowry
SG Kevin Martin
SF Chase Buddinger
PF Luis Scola
C Jordan Hill
6th: F Patrick Peterson

The Rockets have a team that can put up some points. Martin is one of the best scoring 2-guards in the league and Lowry and Buddinger are each above average scorers for their positions. Luis Scola is a very good defending power forward who's good for about 18 points and 7-8 boards per night, which is a solid output. PG Lowry is one of the more underrated PG's in the NBA today, as I see him averaging about 18 points and 8 assists this year based on how he finished up last season and surrounded by scoring players. Problem with Houston will be their defense and they have questions with their depth and at center where they'll miss Chuck Hayes more than people think. Still should be better than the Chris Paul-less Hornets though.

5th Place: New Orleans Hornets

PG Jarrett Jack
SG Eric Gordon
SF Trevor Ariza
PF Carl Landry
C Emeka Okafor
6th: F/C Chris Kaman

The Hornets sure are a lot better off after losing their superstar than the Cavaliers were a year back when James left town and left them with nothing but an undesirable place to go and play. The Hornets actually built for the future in the Paul trade and I feel they made out very well. I just think they should have made more of an effort to re-sign David West, who didn't find a home until just recently and seemed like he should have returned to the Hornets where he made his career. Landry is a capable fill-in and should provide about 15/7 per night, but not only will they lose some points and rebounds without West, they take a hit in the locker room. They'll be a fun team to watch this year though to see how they adjust to life without CP3 in a tough division and conference!

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