2009 NBA Preview: Southwest Division

This year, we’re doing a division-by-division preview with quick-hitting analysis for every team in the league. If a franchise is a legitimate championship contender, I’ll focus on what stars have to line up for a title run. If a team is a playoff “also-ran,” I’ll identify the weaknesses that have to be shored up via trade, free agency or draft over the next couple of seasons to make it a contender. If a team is likely to miss the playoffs, I’ll take a look at the salary cap, and provide a blueprint for how the team should proceed in the near future to get back in the postseason. At the end of each divisional preview, I’ll provide some (random) thoughts for the fantasy hoopsters out there.

For each division, I’ll pick the order of finish. You’ll also see the team’s league-wide preseason rank in parenthesis. Be sure to check back over the course of the next couple of weeks for previews of each division.

San Antonio Spurs (3)
Did the Spurs do enough this summer to make another title run? On paper, it sure looks like they did. They added Richard Jefferson to shore up the small forward position, which has declined as Michael Finley and Bruce Bowen have aged. He’s a good defender, especially when he’s not asked to score 20 points a game, and the Spurs won’t put him in that position. The Spurs also signed Antonio McDyess, who is 35 years old, but was quite productive last season as he proved that he still has some gas left in the tank. San Antonio also had the luxury of a top 10 talent (DeJuan Blair) falling into its lap in the second round of the draft due to concerns about his knees, which served him quite well at Pitt. And, of course, the Spurs return their three principals. Tony Parker has developed into one of the best point guards in the game, Manu Ginobili is a clutch closer, and Tim Duncan is still Tim Duncan. Since his game isn’t dependent on athleticism, it continues to age well. The key for the Spurs is staying healthy. If Parker, Ginobili, Duncan and Jefferson are all healthy heading into the playoffs, San Antonio will be a very tough out, even for the Lakers.

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2008 NBA Team-by-Team Preview

Ron Artest is a Rocket, Jermaine O’Neal is a Raptor and Mo Williams is a Cavalier. Richard Jefferson is a Buck and Corey Maggette is a Warrior. Baron Davis signed up to play with Elton Brand in L.A., but Brand bolted for Philly to play with AI2 instead. And Andrew Bynum is back from injury, trying to figure out how to co-exist with Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom. There, you’re all caught up on most of the big summer news from the NBA.

Want more? We’ve got you covered. Our team-by-team preview breaks down each franchise’s offseason movement and outlook, along with a player (or situation) to keep your eye on. We also ask “The Big Question” that is haunting each team as it enters the season.

For the last two weeks, We’ve been previewing each team from #30 to #1, posting three team previews per business day, starting with the league’s bottom feeders – we’re looking at you, Thunder – and finishing up with the cream of the crop. So who will be #1? The Lakers? The Celtics? Or will there be a surprise at the top of our preseason power rankings?

Click here to see the entire preview.

2008 NBA Preview: #26 Memphis Grizzlies

Offseason Movement: The team acquired Antoine Walker and Marko Jaric as part of the deal that brought O.J. Mayo to Memphis in exchange for Kevin Love and some loose change. Walker is in the last year of his contract, while Jaric has three years and $21 million remaining on his deal. Neither player is likely to figure into the team’s long-term plans.
Keep Your Eye On: O.J. Mayo, G
Mayo is a highly touted combo guard. He showed some serious ability in college, but has struggled over his career with his maturity. However, he has more recently earned a reputation for being an extremely hard worker, which is one of the key components to NBA stardom.
The Big Question: Have the Grizzlies turned the corner?
Believe it or not, the 2007-08 season might have been the franchise’s low point. In addition to Mayo, the Grizzlies can now boast about a talented group of youngsters that includes Rudy Gay, Mike Conley and Hakim Warrick. The team also has Kyle Lowry, Javaris Crittenton and Darrell Arthur on the roster. Memphis projects to have a load of salary cap room over the next two summers, so if they can find a star power forward and/or center to run with Conley, Mayo and Gay, the Grizzlies may be a team to be reckoned with in two or three years.
Outlook: 2007-08 will be known as the season that the Grizzlies gave away Pau Gasol. In the short term, the move hurts the team’s chances to win games, but in the long term, it looks like it will help the Grizzlies get back to the land of respectability. Gasol’s contract runs through the 2010-11 season, so it is unlikely that the team would have had the cap space in the summer of 2010 to make a run at a star player. Now the team has a young core to build around and if they’re able to develop and add a couple of star/superstar veterans over the next two seasons, the Grizzlies will be back on track. One problem with that plan is the ownership situation, which continues to be in flux. In order to become a viable contender in the West, the team needs an owner willing to invest in its payroll.

Check out our NBA Preview page for a look at every team. We’ll be posting three previews per business day, which will take us up to the start of the season on Tuesday, October 28th.

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