Top Storylines: Southwest Division
Dallas Mavericks – Out Sharked
*Photo via USA Today
The Mavs roster has more question marks coming into the season than a Dr. Seuss book. For that reason, let me be the first to say that I hope Rick Carlisle enjoyed his time in Dallas. Owner Mark Cuban has failed to put together a championship caliber team, again, around aging star Dirk Nowitzki. Let’s take a look at Cuban’s offseason shenanigans.
Deron Williams – Apparently the Rajon Rondo experiment didn’t go badly enough for Cuban, so he brought in Deron Williams.
Wesley Matthews – Cuban, who is supposed to be a stellar businessman, overpaid for an on the mend player. This contract has regret written all over it.
DeAndre Jordan – I’m not really sure we can blame this solely on Cuban, but do you think Jordan backs out on a stable franchise like the Spurs? Probably not.
However, it won’t be Cuban that pays for his blunders, it will be Carlisle. I think Carlisle will make it through the season, but will be fired after the Mavs miss the playoffs. – Ryan Ray
Houston Rockets – She Used to Call Me on My Cell Phone.
*Photo via USA Today
James Harden and Khloe Kardashian hooked up this year. Just two months ago the couple was delighted to wake up west L.A. for Harden’s 26th birthday, and now they’re caput. Khloe dumped the beard in order to give her marriage to Lamar Odom one more shot. How will Harden handle this? Does he play in daze? Does the gossip media get to him? Will last year’s players MVP be able to keep his personal life from affecting him on the court? If history repeats itself, Harden will be out of the league soon. Both Odom and Rashad McCants found themselves out of the league after getting involved with the Kardashians. That’s extreme. This won’t happen to Harden. But he’s an All-Star who should be in MVP talks again this year, if he can tune out all the noise. One could already judge him for jumping into the Kardashian vortex willingly, but he’s 26. He gets a pass. He’s healthy, on a great team, and has a newly signed Ty Lawson to help him in the backcourt. Still, it’s worth monitoring this storyline to see if Harden’s mentally mature enough to stay focused on the game. – Derek Steiner
Memphis Grizzlies – Who Brings Grit? Who Brings Grind?
*Photo via Getty Images
Who will be their starting five? Randolph, Conley, and Gasol are locks, but Coach Dave Joerger is still experimenting with the best fit for his shooting guard/small forward combo. Last season, a Courtney Lee/Tony Allen pair helped Memphis jump out to a 24-9 record, but a mid-season trade for Jeff Green added a whole new wrinkle into coach Dave Joerger’s rotation. Suddenly, Joerger found himself the length and athleticism that Memphis had lacked. With Jeff Green starting alongside C-Lee, for another 33 games, the Grizzlies managed a 22-11 record – a minimal difference. Then there’s a Green/Allen combo – though only starting 3 games together, they won all of them. Definitely a possibility, but it hurts to leave a rare sharpshooter out of the lineup considering teams pack the paint against Marc and Z-Bo. So what’s the optimal lineup for this squad? Jeff Green’s been inconsistent, especially defensively, but he’s the best athlete of the three and has legit playmaking abilities. With Courtney Lee and Tony Allen, you partner up a terrific shooter with an all NBA First Team defensive stopper. Best of both worlds, but you lose size and risk Tony Allen being forced to take outside shots. Coach Joerger is going to have to make his decision on taste and on the kind of style he wants his team to play. Perhaps Joerger will elect to pick his starters based on that night’s particular match ups. – Derek Steiner
New Orleans Pelicans – Bit by the Bug.
*Photo via AP
New coach Alvin Gentry and budding superstar Anthony Davis are rightfully getting many of the headlines for the Pelicans, but not everything is looking up in NOLA. The Pelicans have already been hit hard by injuries before the start of the regular season. Last season the Pelicans managed to sneak into the playoffs despite a plethora of injuries, but they may not get as lucky this year. The Thunder, Spurs, Grizzlies, Rockets, Clippers, and Warriors are near locks in the playoffs, leaving just two spots in the West for the Pelicans to claim. This leaves little room for error, and the Pelicans can ill afford injuries to key players. Centers Omer Asik (calf) and Alexis Ajinca (hamstring) are both unavailable. Asik may be ready to go for the opener, but Ajinca will likely miss at least the first couple of weeks of the season. Injury plagued guard Eric Gordon did manage to suit up towards the end of the preseason, but he was dealing with a back injury. When healthy Gordon is a great talent, but at this point of his career it seems to be inevitable that he will get injured at some point of the season.
Key role players Quincy Pondexter and Norris Cole are also dealing with physical impairments. Pondexter is returning from offseason surgery on his right knee and Norris Cole could be out most of the month of November with an ankle sprain he suffered during the preseason. Cole’s injury is especially troubling since starting point guard Jrue Holiday has been reported to be on a 15 minute limit restriction for the remainder of the calendar year. The most significant injury to the Pelicans is that of Tyreke Evans, the team’s most important player outside of Davis. Evans had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee and is expected to miss 6-8 weeks. In the Eastern Conference a healthy Anthony Davis might be enough to reach the postseason, but in the West he may not be enough. Many fans and experts alike are picking the Pelicans as sleepers in the west, but injuries appear to be already derailing their chances. – Russell Schmidt
San Antonio Spurs – The Dominance Continues.
*Photo via Getty Images
I almost feel like skipping this NBA season. I don’t need ‘Back to the Future’ to predict who is going to win the 2016 NBA title. It’s the Spurs. I could wax poetically about why the Spurs are going to win, but deep inside you already know why. So, to all the fans of teams not called the Spurs out there, I suggest you take up watching hockey, or something. Before I forget, congratulations to the Big Fundamental for tying MJ with six rings. – Ryan Ray