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NBA Season Preview: Southwest Division

With the NBA season starting in just one day (!!!!), My Mind on Sports will bring you the last of the season preview roundtables today. We’ll be featuring the Southwest division this morning. This division consists of the Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs, Memphis Grizzlies, Dallas Mavericks and the Houston Rockets. We’ll be releasing the Northwest division later this evening. Enjoy. 

1. Will Monta Ellis be an efficient player under Rick Carlisle?

Michael Sykes: Not really? I’m not sure. Monta Ellis has never really been an efficient player. However, Rick Carlisle has worked wonders before. He revived Jason Terry’s career three seasons ago and he also got O.J Mayo paid this offseason. I think that in Carlisle’s system, on both ends, Monta has a chance to do some good.

Eddie McDonald: I don’t think the coach matters when it comes to Monta Ellis. Rick Carlisle is a good coach, but he isn’t a coach like Greg Popovich who will demand that efficiency. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

Samar Gaines: I guess it depends on what you consider efficient. Will he be in the top 15-20 in TS%? Probably not. But he will be a lot better than he has been in recent years.

Chuckie Maggio: He’s going to have to be. Rick Carlisle is a no-nonsense coach who won’t tolerate turnovers and forced shots. Ellis will be a smarter, more efficient player in Dallas than he was in Milwaukee.

2. What impact will Dwight Howard have on the Rockets and the Western Conference in its entirety?

MS: The Rockets will be one of the top seeds in the conference. They’re likely going to push for homecourt advantage, and that could be huge when facing teams like Memphis, the Los Angeles Clippers and Oklahoma City who have great home floors. The Rockets defense has a chance to improve with Howard protecting the rim, so if you couple that with their offense they should be really good.

EM: Dwight Howard will have quite the impact on the Rockets this season. He will provide a big man who will easily average a double-double. He will make this team a four of five seed in the Western Conference. This team is still missing a piece to the championship puzzle. It will be interesting to see him and James Harden play together.

SG: If we are getting healthy Dwight from 3 seasons ago, before his back problems, the Rockets are getting a top 3-5 player in the league to go along with everything they already have. If it’s that Dwight the Rockets could very well be the best team in the NBA next season. If it’s Dwight from last season this is one of the 3-4 best teams in the West.

CM: Dwight changes the game out West. He finally gets to be “the man” in Houston, with a team that has the guard play to be a champion. The Rockets go from 8th seed to a top-4 seed in the Western Conference, and Howard is a definite All-Star if the fans will embrace him again after his few years as a “villain.”

3. Will the Memphis Grizzlies still be a high seed even with their coaching change?

MS: I’m not sure. Dave Joerger seems to have a similar coaching philosophy when it comes to the defensive end. But the reports on him say that he wants to be more of an open court team. With the way that the Grizzlies are currently constructed, they won’t have a very productive offense if they do try to get into the open court more. But I guess it can’t be that much more of a downgrade.

EM: I think the Memphis Grizzlies will maintain a higher seed in the Western Conference even with new coaching. The talent is still there and the team knows how to win. The coaching philosophies will be altered, but this team is capable of being good again.

SG: I feel like the Grizzlies will be a better team next season–I’m not a fan of Lionel Hollins. But I also think they may end up out of the top 5 in the Western Conference seeding. Even with the new coach this is still a team with a major problem when it comes to outside shooting.

CM:  Yes. While they shouldn’t have let Lionel Hollins go, they still have all the pieces to potentially make another run out West.

4. Do you think that the New Orleans Pelicans pieces will all fit together?

MS: I don’t think so. They have entirely too many spacing issues and I still don’t know if Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson can play together. Davis isn’t sound enough on the defensive end at guarding post play. He’s a great help defender, but you would be able to attach Davis and Anderson both if you have a great post presence. With Eric Gordon and Anderson being their only floor spacers, I think they struggle to find a rhythm early.

EM: The Pelicans don’t seem like they will fit well together. They gave too much money to Tyreke Evans and Jrue Holiday. Both of these players are too similar and need the ball too much. Add Anthony Davis into the equation and he will need his touches too.

SG: I’m not sure it’s going to matter all that much because they have one of the best players in the division right now. I think Anthony Davis is ready to become a top 15 player this upcoming season. He’s going to be good enough to at least make them competitive. As far as playoffs are concerned, a lot of that depends on if Gordon can stay healthy and if they get the Holiday we saw before the all-star break and not after.

CM: Give it a few years. The Pelicans may not be a playoff team this year, but with Jrue Holiday, Al-Faroq Aminu and Anthony Davis leading the way, with Tyreke Evans as their sixth man right now, they could be a very strong seed in years to come.

5. How much of a chance do the Spurs have to make it back to the Finals?

MS: They have a great chance to make it back. The West has gotten much weaker since last season. The Denver Nuggets have lost their best player, Russell Westbrook is coming off of a meniscus tear and the Memphis Grizzlies have made a shift at their most prominent coaching position. Their top competition is going to be the Rockets and the Thunder–both teams that they can beat if they meet in the Western Conference Finals.

EM: I give the Spurs a great chance of returning to the finals. Pop is still the coach and the team still has its core intact from last year. This is a team that has been written off more times than I can count, but that hasn’t changed a thing with them. Also, this team will want to avenge last year’s finals where they blew Game 6 and went on to lose.

SG: Even though they are a year older I still have faith in this Spurs team–especially since I’m not so sure about the Thunder. But it’s gotten even tougher out West with improvements from the Rockets, Clippers, and Warriors.

CM: The Spurs making it back is a very strong possibility. Danny Green needs to show that the shooting performance in the Finals was not a fluke, Manu needs to shake off a very bad playoffs, and Duncan needs to keep pushing back Father Time.

6. Who wins this division?

MS: I’m going with the San Antonio Spurs. I have the Thunder in the Finals, but a slow start without Westbrook will cost them an opportunity to get the number one seed. It’ll be a close race, but the Spurs will win it.

EM: I think the Spurs win this division. They are one of the best, if not the best teams in the West. Tim Duncan, who I believe will play at least two more seasons before calling it quits, will make sure he sees his team continue to be the class of the division and conference.

SG: I’m going to go with the San Antonio Spurs.

CM: Rockets, because Gregg Popovich doesn’t care about the regular season as long as the Spurs are contending for a good playoff seed.

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