Since we last checked in on our divisional opponents it appeared to be a three-way race for the title. Count the New Orleans Hornets out now as the San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Mavericks continue their dominance over the entire NBA. I just could not fathom what has occured in the first part of the season. The Spurs and Mavericks were “supposed” to drop off into obscurity but instead they rise up to all out murder on everyone else in the league.
My hat is thusly tipped to both those teams, well done not much more I can say about them before we delve in deeper. The rest of the division has been decent albeit not outstanding. The Hornets have held their own, the Grizzlies have battled the .500 mark and the Rockets are doing a stellar job of trying to tread water.
So my humble friends let’s head over the jump to the wild, wild west.
San Antonio Spurs
Good god can anyone catch these guys other than the Mavericks? It would not in the slightest surprise me if the Spurs legitmiately challenged the Lakers for a Western conference championship. The season is long so we’ll see how they’ll hold up, but for the most part they’ve been dominating. 25 wins, top of the west and we can safely say, atop of the league. If the New Orleans Hornets plan on copying the Spurs organisational model, let’s hope they get it right.
Tim Duncan and Tony Parker continue to show up as the leaders, but it’s been the play of other contributors that has them placed so well. I’ve personally been very impressed with the likes of Richard Jefferson, Tiago Splitter and the unknown Gary Neal. It seems that the Spurs are the best in the league at evaluating talent and producing it too.
Every year it seems the Dallas Mavericks have the regular season down to a fine art only to hurl up a “choke” badge in April. I do think though this year is different. Most players on the team have been together for a while now, they don’t need a trade to make them better on paper, they are ready to make their run. While it may only be for this year and maybe the next it’s still better than nothing.
Dallas has 23 wins and is only 2 games behind the Spurs. Outside of the Lakers this would be the only other team I’d say could catch them. They possess the size and defensive prowess to limit the Spurs as well they have the scoring ability of players like Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry and Caron Butler among others.
While I still think they are primarily a jump shooting team, they still seem to be able to convert on most of those shots.
New Orleans Hornets
You’ve probably heard me ramble on about the Hornets for so long about their inconsistencies but I’m just writing what’s given to me. I’d love to tell you things seem sunny over the horizon but really they are not. While I do think the team will remain in New Orleans I still feel like this team just doesn’t possess the balance of the Spurs or Mavericks. They don’t have all those other winners you’d hope for. Trevor Ariza has played downright terrible (offensively), Emeka Okafor is still trying to figure out how to clap his hands together let alone catch a ball and dunk it and Willie Green continues to hog the ball among all the other things that have cost this team. While the current 7th seed looks nice, it’s not entirely comfortable.
The Hornets have a tough slate of upcoming games beginning with the Atlanta Hawks as well as the Boston Celtics, it’ll be some tough tests but all the more reason to start kicking it into gear as we head into the real part of the season. Chris Paul will need to keep up his amazing lines of efficiency (he’s leading the league in almost all efficiency categories) However it is Paul’s team-mates that need to pick up the slack because a 17-12 record could easily be 20-9 and a 7th seed could easily be a 4th one.
You have to really give it to the Rockets after a pitful start to the year they’ve rallied to get near the .500 mark. Leader Yao Ming is out for the year and it’s doubtful whether he plays much more for the rest of his NBA career. The Rockets put all their chips in one basket and it back-fired on them. Their renound stellar defense is the reason this team got out to a slow start, but I think with a consistent rotation they can get back into the thick of things and hunt for that 8th seed.
The thing about the Rockets is that they have a tonne of talent. That is why they are so dangerous. I know that Luis Scola isn’t playing as well as he used to, but a number of other players are stepping up. It’ll be interesting to see if this team can make a run at that 8th seed, there’s plenty of time to do so.
A youthful roster, the Grizzlies are indeed a promising group of players. They’ve had big wins against the Heat and Lakers, yet fallen short on a number of occasions to inferior teams. There is potential in this group of players but no quite yet. They still seem to be missiing a piece (just like the Hornets) that can put them over the edge. Only difference between the Hornets and Grizzlies is a man named Chris Paul.
Again the Grizzlies possess a number of athletic and dynamic players that really know how to put the ball in the hoop. However I do question the depth of their defensive capabilities. This is a league in where teams must stop the other one from scoring. If you do that you give yourself a chance.
I think the chances of the Hornets catching the Mavericks and Spurs are bleak and I think the chances of the top two units of winning it all are vastly improved. I wouldn’t be surprised if one of them slipped a little, but god damn they keep on winning. Each time I check the box score it seems all they do is win and it’s very annoying. Even when the Hornets lose a tough game the Spurs or Mavericks go out and casually beat a tough team like the Jazz or Nuggets.
This is the toughest division in all of basketball, even if it means not much.