Jeff from CelticsBlog.com is doing the grunt work to put together a comprehensive NBA preview from bloggers ’round the ‘sphere. The Atlantic Division Preview was first, and now the Southwest Division is out. Here are the highlights from the participating bloggers for each team:
The single biggest move made in the offseason was the dismissal of head coach Avery Johnson and the hiring of Rick Carlisle. The Mavs have the luxury (or curse) of having their core team signed for some time. This continuity will certainly help the team transition under a new coach, as they only need to adapt to him rather than a bunch of new faces.
The Artest trade will go down as one of the biggest steals in NBA history if you ask me, and since you did, that’s my stance. Even if Greene turns out to be a solid player, we got a top 30 player for a rookie, an old PG and a future very late round pick (I can only assume). That’s a steal as long as Ron Ron can play more like No Lay-ups and less like Crazy Pills. I believe he can.
[3 Shades of Blue]
Youthful exuberance and determination. This team could achieve quite a bit more than is expected of them simply because they don’t know any better. Top draft pick O.J. Mayo has been lauded for his drive to succeed and that attitude has visibly spread throughout the entire team. This collection of players doesn’t intend to lay down for anyone, no matter what the odds against them might appear to be. In that way, they remind me a lot of the youthful team that arrived in Memphis a mere 7 years ago.
New Orleans Hornets
[At The Hive]
Back up bigs. Behind Tyson Chandler, New Orleans literally has nobody. Third year player Hilton Armstrong was toeing the line between abysmal and I’ve-seen-high-schoolers-better-than-this-guy last season. Melvin Ely was pretty shabby himself. If an opponent can get Chandler in early foul trouble, the entire Hornets’ team will be thrown off kilter. It happened repeatedly last year, and there’s no reason to think anything has changed this season.
I say you can gauge excitement about a team by looking at how kids are reacting. Now, I fortunately happen to have firsthand evidence of this, since my “real” job involves kids. And I am telling you that kids in New Orleans LOVE Chris Paul. This crosses racial and socioeconomic boundaries. They worship him. Do not underestimate the impact of the whining, pleading, and begging of thousands of Chris Paul-enamored kids on parental willingness to spend the entertainment dollars on Hornets tickets. Especially because Chris Paul has been and continues to be clean cut, polite, and generally perfect from a marketing and PR perspective.
When I did some number crunching, I predicted 61 wins for the Hornets, and I’m tempted to stick with it, but like last year, when I got scared of predicting 50 wins after doing a similar number crunching, I’m going to drop it back 2 wins. In essence, the Hornets won 56 last year and have improved their team. Posey and Devin Brown are better than Pargo and a half-season of Bonzi Wells.
San Antonio Spurs
[48 Minutes of Hell]
The Spurs will continue to be one of the smartest teams in the league as well. Obviously the team’s intellectual prowess begins and ends with Popovich’s excellent coaching, but it extends throughout the entire squad. Tim Duncan is as cerebral a player you will find on the floor, and the upside of our much maligned “age” is that we are about as savvy a club as you will come across in the entire association. Prediction: 54-28