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NBA: 2016-17 Southwest Division preview

New Orleans Pelicans

When will this team realize they have a top 5 player in the NBA on their roster in Anthony Davis? The moves this team makes to surround Davis should make his head spin. The fact that Tyreke Evans is his 2nd best player entering this coming season is saying a lot that they want to waive the white towel before the season starts. Trading for Jrue Holiday on draft night in 2013 prevented the unlimited athleticism, length and shot blocking of a front court with Davis and Nerlens Noel is highway robbery. Instead, this team is stuck with Omer Asik who is rotting from the core with each passing season. Drafting Buddy Hield to replace Ryan Anderson’s outside shooting looks like a quick fix. Where Jamal Murray is just as good of a shooter and has more potential than Hield. What is wrong with a Holiday and Murray backcourt?.

The subtractions of Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson were smart to let injury riddled Gordon leave town and not give Anderson the big contract he was asking for. Signing Soloman Hill from Indiana was a nice affordable move. Hill is an above average 3 pt shooter and can play good enough perimeter defense at the stretch 4 when Davis plays center minutes. New Orleans will miss Holiday so much they got desperate and signed Lance Stephenson who is running out of chances to even be on an NBA roster. This team just isn’t constructed well and will suffer because of that and sport a 24-58 record and a last place finish in the division. Start the Anthony Davis will leave town if they don’t get better talk.

Dallas Mavericks

Will owner Marc Cuban ever learn you can’t build a team in free agency? The only reason why Dallas signed Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut because Golden State built a super team and never looked back. Bogut is a nice center when healthy who can rebound and protect the paint at an above average rate. Barnes is a very athletic uber talented two-way player who needs to work on his outside shooting a tiny bit. His strength is his ball handling ability for his height and using his athleticism to get to the rim with ease. This season will have growing pains for Barnes being the highest paid player and the expectations that come with that.

Even head coach Rick Carlisie will have a hard time figuring out this offense with a bunch of mis match pieces that doesn’t fit. Thanks to Cuban this team doesn’t have the assets most teams want to trade for to get younger and more intriguing. It’s not like you’re going to turn on SportsCenter to see Minnesota trade Ricky Rubio and a pick for Deron Williams and Charlie Villanueva this world doesn’t exist. Instead, he built a team with not enough depth, who is old, and has hardly an inside presence on offense.  This season will not end well to nobody’s surprise with a record of 31-51 and a 4th place finish in the division.

Houston Rockets

Coming off of a .500 record and a likely 1st round exit at the hands of the Warriors. The Houston Rockets are ready to put the Dwight Howard era behind them and go full bore all offense and no defense. Don’t be shocked if this team gives up 109 pts a game this coming season. When you see a team sign Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson you know they can careless about defense. Pair that with James Harden who is world famous for not knowing how to guard a YMCA player and you have a team who will have to win games 120-116 on an almost nightly basis.

Houston is so stacked with outside shooting that head coach Mike D’Antoni will have visions of sugar plums dancing in his head all season. Is it too much to say that Houston will possibly average 17-19 3’s a game?. With all kidding aside about Harden’s defensive woes he is either the top pick in fantasy this season or the #2 pick behind Russell Westbrook. Harden plays unlimited minutes and is a triple-double threat each time he steps on the court. His usage rate is at such heights that he can’t help himself by turning the ball over so much that he makes Westbrook look like Chris Paul. With a coach that has potential for an offensive season that can rival what the Warriors did last season this team will be 43-39 3rd in the division and duke it out for the 8 seed in the playoffs

Memphis Grizzles

Filled with an offseason where ownership made it rain truckloads of cash Memphis has big expectations and rightfully so. They handed out the most expensive contract in the league outside of Lebron James to Mike Conley for 5yr 156 million. Pair that with the contract to sign Chandler Parsons and this team will be a playoffs or bust team. The key for Memphis is the health of Marc Gasol; the do it all center suffered a foot injury that kept him out most of the season and the Olympics. If Gasol is back, this team can rival the Spurs for the division, but if he isn’t 100%, then this team will struggle to make the playoffs.

What Memphis will struggle with is going up against younger faster teams like Minnesota and Denver. Memphis has some athletes but their best players are either slightly older and a little slow but the defense in the paint will make up for that. Gone are the days you can put Zach Randolph in the starting lineup. Randolph is too slow on the defensive end to keep up with all these stretch 4’s that are spread around the league that he can’t keep up with. It’s time to see what JaMychal Green has on a full-time basis and have Brandon Wright back him up. Randolph can get more minutes when you face teams like Detroit, Indiana, Sacramento, Brooklyn teams that don’t have uber athletes at that position and play more half court. First year head coach David Fizdale inherited a team in win now mode and for prediction purposes Gasol will be back to his normal self for Memphis to sport a 50-32 record 2nd place in the division and 6th seed in the west.

San Antonio Spurs

Ending an era is always hard to see go. With Tim Duncan retired this team will be different without his leadership and presence in the locker room. Head coach Gregg Popovich just lost a small part of himself with Duncan retiring. The Spurs will pick up where they left off last season with a free flowing offense that has perfect rhythm taking timely shots from 3 and hitting cutters getting to the basket for layups. Pair that with the best 18-20 foot shot for a power forward in the league with LaMarcus Aldridge and you have an offense that can flow while taking a nap and not having to make an adjustment.

The Spurs have the 2nd best 2-way player in the league behind Lebron James in Kawhi Leonard. Armed with a very nice 3 pt shot, has huge hands to disrupt passing lanes, and above average athletic ability Leonard is a walking MVP candidate every season. Leonard is such a rare player who can guard the likes of Kevin Durant, Lebron James and Paul George and score close to 20 points a game. This is so rare even Popovich would maybe want to stick around longer than expected. The only problem with this team is the talent is too top heavy to have the record this team is accustomed to year in and year out. Next offseason will be the first you will see differences in the direction this team will want to go. No longer the Spurs will chase veterans instead you will see GM RC Buford sign younger players that fit what Popovich wants alongside Leonard and Aldridge long term. In Ginobili’s last season and close to Parker’s last season expect this team to have a 57-25 record take the division and the 2nd seed in the west.

Robert D. Cobb
Founder, Publisher and CEO of INSCMagazine. Works have appeared and featured in places such as Forbes, Huffington Post, ESPN and NBC Sports to name a few. Follow me on Twitter at @RobCobb_INSC, email me at robert.cobb@theinscribermag.com