(2016-17) Delay of Game Previews • “The Southwest”

Chandler Parsons to MEM will have a great impact on the Southwest in 2017. (USA TODAY Sports)
Chandler Parsons to MEM will have a great impact on the Southwest in 2017. (USA TODAY Sports)

Sizing up the Southwest Division…

New Orleans Pelicans

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans-Media Day

2015-2016 Season Result: 30-52 • 12th, Western Conference (5th, Southwest Division) • Missed Postseason

Current Head Coach: Alvin Gentry

Projected Starting Lineup

Draft Picks

  • #6 Overall: Buddy Hield

Notable Offseason Additions

  • Solomon Hill
  • E’Twaun Moore
  • Terrence Jones
  • Cheick Diallo (rookie, Kansas • via LAC)

Notable Offseason Subtractions

  • Ryan Anderson
  • Eric Gordon
  • Tony Douglas
  • Luke Babbitt
  • James Ennis
  • Kendrick Perkins

The Big Picture

The New Orleans Pelicans…could be one of the worst teams in the NBA this season – that’s the harsh reality of trying to establish yourself in the league’s toughest division.

Anthony Davis is a franchise player, we already know this. But aside from him, New Orleans is in limbo – they lost a few pieces (Eric Gordon, Ryan Anderson) from a beat-up squad that only managed 30 wins in ’15-16.

One reason for optimism is NOP’s gunslingin’ rook, Buddy Hield. Though Hield will start the year off the bench (E’Twaun Moore gets the nod at SG), his outside shooting is a welcome addition, could develop a 1-2 punch w/ Davis if shots start to fall.

Overall, there isn’t a ton to look forward to in 2016-17. New Orleans will probably return to the lottery but you never know when you have a superstar like AD.

Best-case: 8th seed • Worst-Case: Bottom 5 

Ahh, you gotta love the West!

Undisputed X-Factor: E’Twaun Moore • Coach Gentry awarded E’Twaun Moore the starting two spot (over Hield) in training camp – a breakout player in 2015-16 (shot over 40% from deep), Moore’s stats will see another increase as he settles into a two-way role.

Season Prediction: 5th, Southwest Division • Will Miss Playoffs

Dallas Mavericks


2015-2016 Season Result: 42-40 • 6th, Eastern Conference (2nd, Southwest Division) • Lost to OKC in Quarterfinals

Current Head Coach: Rick Carlisle

Projected Starting Lineup

Draft Picks

  • #46 Overall: C A.J. Hammons

Notable Offseason Additions

  • Andrew Bogut
  • Quincy Acy
  • Harrison Barnes
  • Seth Curry

Notable Offseason Subtractions

  • Chandler Parsons
  • David Lee
  • JaVale McGee
  • Zaza Pachulia

The Big Picture

The Dallas Mavericks…are in the same position they were a year ago?

Another ‘swing & a miss’ offseason will do that to ya! This summer saw Dallas scoop up Harrison Barnes, Seth Curry & Andrew Bogut (among others), while losing Chandler Parsons (MEM) & Zaza Pachulia (GS).

Barnes, Rick Carlisle’s newest ‘project’, & Bogut bring more championship experience to DAL’s starting five, essentially replacing Parsons & Pachulia. Most of us saw the Barnes signing as a ‘panic move’ (hard to argue against it…) but it was done in an attempt to get younger, more athletic.

In Barnes, bouncy forward Dwight Powell & second-year-swingman Justin Anderson, the Mavs finally have young athletes who will make a big difference in the rotation – be proud, they’re finally (kinda) using draft picks!

Barnes is a young vet (at only 23) w/ an Olympic Gold medal & NBA Championship. There’s opportunity for him to star in DAL – is he a legit second-third option for Dirk?

Speaking of Dirk, he’s still DAL’s undisputed franchise player – no big deal in his 19th year though, right? Dirk’s Top DOG status hasn’t wavered – can other vets (Deron Williams, Wes Matthews) turn in healthy, consistent seasons?

Dallas is stuck right between lottery team & contender, the same spot they were a year ago.

Until a second star emerges, not much will change.

Undisputed X-Factor: Dwight Powell • When looking at DAL’s front court options, Powell is clearly the top reserve – he works hard on the glass, has a nice-looking jumper & is a pure athtlete – JJ Barea frequently feeds PnR lobs to Powell.

A shift towards playing more uptempo has boosted his stock. When Dallas goes small to create running opportunities, Powell will be heavily featured.

Look for 10-12 points & 6 rebounds/game.

Season Prediction: 4th, Southwest Division • Will Miss Playoffs

Houston Rockets

2016-2017 Houston Rockets Media Day

2015-2016 Season Result: 41-41 • 8th, Western Conference (4th, Southwest Division) • Lost to GS in Quarterfinals

Current Head Coach: Mike D’Antoni

Projected Starting Lineup

Draft Picks

  • #37 Overall: Chinanu Onuaku
  • #43 Overall: Zhou Qi

Notable Offseason Additions

  • Coach Mike D’Antoni
  • Ryan Anderson
  • Eric Gordon
  • Nené
  • Pablo Prigioni

Notable Offseason Subtractions

  • Terrence Jones
  • Jason Terry
  • Josh Smith
  • Dwight Howard

The Big Picture

The Houston Rockets…are League Pass Gold in 2016-17.

James Harden, the new starting PG of YOUR Houston Rockets, will put up monster numbers under Mike D’Antoni. MDA approached things the right way after being hired – he immediately gave Harden full-time point guard duties since he, well, handles & initiates action at the league’s 3rd-highest usage rate (32.5%) anyway.

In doing so, Harden has his most control since arriving in 2012 – as the singular ball-handler in MDA’s starting five, double-digit dimes, triple-doubles, 50 point nights, 20-20 games? • The offensive potential (& turnovers!) is limitless.

Outside if Harden, Ryan Anderson is a ‘D’Antoni Guy’pick & pop threat who you can also throw the ball to on the elbow and expect a solid source of points. He and Harden will screen & roll all day long if you let ’em.

It’s not all roses though. Houston will get scored on…a lot. The progression of talented Swiss center Clint Capela will be fun but other than Trevor Ariza & Patrick Beverley, HOU doesn’t have many real defenders.

In the end, does it even matter? In the regular season, no.

Houston will approach 50 wins and score close to 115/night. But in the playoffs, simply outscoring teams isn’t a winning formula.

The Rockets finding some sort of defensive balance will tell us if we can take them seriously in 2016-17.

Undisputed X-Factor: KJ McDaniels • Hey, KJ actually fits the profile of a defender! – elite wing athlete, pretty solid lateral quickness.

In all seriousness, KJ’s third NBA campaign will be his best yet. Mike D’Antoni’s gonna like his ability to finish in transition & make game-altering blocks. Can he get around 34-35% from downtown?

Season Prediction: 3rd, Southwest Division • Will Lose in Quarterfinals

Memphis Grizzlies


2015-2016 Season Result: 42-40 • 7th, Western Conference (3rd, Southwest Division) • Lost to SA in Quarterfinals

Current Head Coach: David Fizdale

Projected Starting Lineup

Draft Picks

  • #17 Overall: Wade Baldwin IV
  • #57 Overall: Wang Zhelin

Notable Offseason Additions

  • Chandler Parsons
  • James Ennis
  • D.J. Stephens
  • Tony Wroten

Notable Offseason Subtractions

  • Matt Barnes
  • Jordan Adams

The Big Picture

The Memphis Grizzlies…are a classic sleeper team.

No one ever discusses Memphis as a title contender, certainly not in this era. One look at their core of ‘Money’ Mike Conley Jr., Zach Randolph & Marc Gasol and you might think:

‘They’re the same team every year, can’t score when it matters most.’

Well you’d be surprised to learn Memphis is slowly turning into a well-rounded offensive team ft. versatile forwards.

(New addition) Chandler Parsons joins athletic forward JaMychal Green in (new) coach David Fizdale’s starting five. The Parsons signing (4 years/$94 million) was the biggest free agent transaction in Grizzlies history – if healthy (hasn’t yet returned from knee surgery), he adds much-needed floor spacing and shot creating up front.

Z-Bo moves to bench w/ the emergence of Green, a better shooter and athlete next to Gasol. Randolph is a Sixth Man of the Year candidate: he has some experience in a reserve role (15 non-starts in ’15-16) & most second unit defenders won’t know how to defend him – very patient: Z-Bo’s series of fakes will send less disciplined bigs flying.

You’re already at a disadvantage if Randolph forces you to sic a tougher defender (a starter, for example) on him – in the end, it’s reliable bench production for Coach Fizdale every night.

With Gasol & Conley leading the way, Memphis will be right in the trenches this postseason. Is a title run in store? Let’s see how quickly Fizdale’s new offense gels before getting too excited.

Undisputed X-Factor: JaMychal Green • Green, aforementioned, is a tough big who earned his keep in the league – undrafted, paved his own way through the D-League.

An improving shooter and faceup option, Green is a daily fantasy sleeper.

Season Prediction: 2nd, Southwest Division • Will Lose in Semifinals

San Antonio Spurs


2015-2016 Season Result: 67-15 • 2nd, Western Conference (1st, Southwest Division) • Lost to OKC in Semifinals

Current Head Coach: Gregg Popovich

Projected Starting Lineup

Draft Picks

  • #29 Overall: DeJounte Murray

Notable Offseason Additions

  • Pau Gasol
  • Dewayne Dedmon
  • David Lee

Notable Offseason Subtractions

  • Tim Duncan (Retired)
  • David West
  • Boban Marjanovic

The Big Picture

The San Antonio Spurs…will play without Tim Duncan for the first time since 1997.

The ‘Tim Duncan-era’ is officially over. TD quietly decided to walk into the sunset this summer – but as long as Gregg Popovich leads the way, San Antonio won’t miss a beat. A change in practice, personnel & strategy took place before Duncan’s decline a couple seasons ago – Coach Pop will recover how he always does: plugging in the gaps.

2x NBA Champion Pau Gasol slides into TD’s starting center spot, while David Lee takes over Boris Diaw (UTA)‘s role off the bench. Gasol & Lee are excellent passers – moving the ball shouldn’t be an issue but don’t be surprised if SA’s defense takes a step back.

Kawhi Leonard will still do his thing but the Spurs don’t have the same interior protection in 2017. LaMarcus Aldridge doesn’t wanna defend the basket 24/7, Gasol is incapable of doing so • New acquisition Dewayne Dedmon is a wild card.

It’s hard to predict where San Antonio ultimately finishes. They have the veteran leadership (TP & Manu are back for another go round • Manu’s final stanza) & preparedness to capture the 1 or 2 seed & push for a Conference Finals berth. But above that?

Can they knock off the Warriors?

It’s gonna take some luck, a(nother) superstar season outta Kawhi, & Coach Pop magic but the Spurs just might wind up as the Dubs’s greatest challenger come playoff time.

Undisputed X-Factor: Kyle Anderson  • Diaw was traded in the offseason to clear opportunity for Anderson, we think.

Anderson doesn’t have a natural position but his unique playmaking ability, at 6’9, is something Coach Pop will try and utilize this upcoming season. Anderson’s running out of chances to impress but the path to consistent PT has never been clearer.

Season Prediction: 1st, Southwest Division • Will Lose in Semifinals

…the Southwest Division is the toughest division in the league


Darryl F. & Jabari J.

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