Click Here

You are Here: Home > 2007-08 NBA Preview: The Southwest Division
2007-08 NBA Preview: The Southwest Division
By RAUL SMITH, MOP Squad Sports Staff Writer
Oct 18, 2007 - 3:34:23 AM

Email this article
Printer friendly page

It’s that time of year once again, sports fans.   Baseball’s ALCS is underway with one-half of the World Series set, football is very much in full throttle, and the NHL has kicked off, leaving one major sports league left to get started…the NBA!


And much like last year, I will once again take a stab at predicting how the NBA season will go in 2007-08.   So with that said, here is a look at the NBA, division-by-division, team-by-team, courtesy of MOP Squad Sports columnist Raul Smith.

And yes, I did hear about Kobe allegedly cleaning out his locker.  The entire Kobe soap opera has now reached a ridiculously-new level.  But then again, I'd be pissed too if I were Kobe Bryant.  The owner, Dr. Jerry Buss, tells him not to take internal matters to the media, so what does he do?  He contradicts himself and takes internal matters, namely trade negotiations, to the media.  Yeah, I'd be upset, too.


But anyway, today is the last of the six-part NBA preview, as I will look at the Southwest Division, home to the defending NBA champion San Antonio Spurs.


Dallas Mavericks

Head coach : Avery Johnson is in his fourth season as head coach of the Mavericks.

Last year’s record : 67-15, a league-best and enough to earn this team the Southwest Division title and the 1st seed in the Western Conference Playoffs.   However, the 1st seed was proven to be a disaster, as the Mavericks fell in the first round to the 8th-seeded Golden State Warriors 4-2.

MVP Candidate : the reigning league MVP, Dirk Nowitski has taken his game during the offseason and improved on a few things.   That’s scary considering he was already one of the league’s most lethal marksmen from 3-point range.

Here’s the lowdown : if there was a single guy in the NBA that had a harder offseason than Dirk Nowitski, please raise your hand…just as I thought.   Nowitski heard all the raps during the offseason, not only about himself but about his team as well.   People say how Nowitski is not brave enough to take it inside, how Nowitski is purely a sharpshooter and nothing more, how the Mavericks are not going anywhere because they don’t have an inside presence.   Nowitski has worked on his game all offseason to try and prove the doubters wrong.   Plus, it’s not like anybody can say anything about the Mavs’ defense anymore; not when they went out and signed free agent guard and defensive specialist Eddie Jones.   Plus, Mark Cuban made sure that they didn’t lose too many important guys in the offseason, so the team is back with a chip on their collective shoulder.

Player to watch this season : nine-year NBA veteran point guard Jason Terry will try to cement his own name on this Mavericks team.   He’s shown flashes of greatness in recent years; now it’s time to be a little more consistent with it.


Houston Rockets

Head coach : Rick Adelman is in his first season as head coach of the Rockets.   This will be his seventeenth season as a head coach in the NBA, having spent previous stints with Portland, Golden State, and Sacramento.

Last year’s record : 52-30, which was good enough for third place in the Southwest Division and the 5th seed in the Western Conference Playoffs.   Despite having home-court advantage, the Rockets lost a tough and close first-round series with Utah 4-3.

MVP Candidate : there are two candidates for this team, really.   Tracy McGrady provides the ability to drive to the bucket, launch long-range bombs, and get to the free throw line.   Yao Ming provides an inside presence the likes of which Houston hasn’t seen since the days of Hakeem Olajuwon.

Here’s the lowdown : another season, another early exit in the playoffs for the Houston Rockets.   That was the scene again at the end of their first-round series with the Utah Jazz.   Shortly afterwards, the Rockets had fired head coach Jeff Van Gundy.   In his place, the Rockets hired a disciplinarian; a tough, rugged, hard-nosed coach that will not take B.S. from anybody.   Rick Adelman has been around long enough to know what gets players’ attention fast.   It also helps the Rockets that they now finally have a true point guard in Mike James.   However, James is not alone; the Rockets signed Steve Francis shortly after the Portland Trailblazers had released him.   This move not only reunites Francis with Adelman, but also Francis with Yao Ming.   The question is now how Francis will co-exist with Tracy McGrady.   Losing Juwan Howard shouldn’t hurt this team much, though.

Player to watch this season : should Yao Ming go down to injury again this season, the Rockets still have the services of long-time NBA veteran Dikembe Mutombo.   Mutombo provided quality minutes at the center position for the Rockets when Yao was injured last season.


Memphis Grizzlies

Head coach : Marc Iavaroni is in his first season as head coach of the Grizzlies.   He has no prior head coaching experience, but did spend a few years on the bench as an assistant under Mike D’Antoni in Phoenix.

Last year’s record : 22-60, a league-worst, earning this team fifth and last place in the Southwest Division, as well as, obviously, a trip to the lottery.

MVP Candidate : Pau Gasol remains the MVP of this team, despite what anybody else says.   He’s a good player in the high post both on offense and defense, and can rebound the ball about as well as anybody on the roster.

Here’s the lowdown : did I not say last season that this would happen?   Going without Pau Gasol, the Memphis Grizzlies did exactly what I knew they would do: come out of the gates slowly and never recover.   This season, the team is excited because of the new coaching philosophy that Marc Iavaroni brings.   And aside from losing Chucky Atkins, the team is pretty much back fully intact from last season.   They did go out and add free agent Darko Milicic, as well as take Mike Conley from Ohio State with the fourth pick overall in the draft.   It should be very interesting to see whether or not these changes make a difference for this franchise to finally get back on the right track.

Player to watch this season : will Darko Milicic finally show the potential that he showed right before Joe Dumars took him second overall in the draft (ahead of Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, and Carmelo Anthony), or will Milicic finally cement his legacy as the Sam Bowie of this decade?


New Orleans Hornets

Head coach : Byron Scott is in his fourth season as head coach of the Hornets and his eighth season as a head coach in the NBA.

Last year’s record : 39-43, which was good enough for fourth place in the Southwest Division, but not good enough for a playoff berth.

MVP Candidate : I think it finally dawned on everybody last season just how valuable Chris Paul is when he got injured.   He’s a true playmaker in every sense of the word, he’s the team captain, and he has an uncanny ability to run the fast break.

Here’s the lowdown : for three years running now, the New Orleans Hornets have been trying their hardest to go to the playoffs under head coach Byron Scott.   So far, no success has been found.   That’s why during the offseason the Hornets made it a mission to improve the team dramatically.   They drafted Julian Wright from Kansas with the thirteenth overall pick to help bolster their frontcourt in the event Peja Stojakovic never recovers from his career coma.   Along that same line, they went and signed free agent marksman Morris Peterson.   For the sake of nostalgia, they traded for guard David Wesley. (Remember, Wesley played for the Hornets when they were in Charlotte and when they first moved to New Orleans.) All the while, all they lost was Desmond Mason and Devin Brown.   With Chris Paul back at the point and David West ready to show that he is for real, and the team finally having one stable home rather than two homes, the New Orleans (NOT Oklahoma City) Hornets are finally ready to take the next step in making the playoffs.

Player to watch this season : the team traded for Tyson Chandler for a reason; that reason being to bring a low post presence.   So far, he has yet to do that.   In order for this team to succeed, they will need him to do that, especially in a division rich with great low post players.


San Antonio Spurs

Head coach : Gregg Popovich is in his twelfth season as head coach of the Spurs.

Last year’s record : 58-24, which was good enough for second place in the Southwest Division and the 3rd seed in the Western Conference Playoffs.   The Spurs would go on to win their fourth NBA Championship in nine years by defeating Denver (4-1), Phoenix (4-2), Utah (4-1), and Cleveland (4-0).

MVP Candidate : even with the breakout performance in the playoffs last season by Tony Longoria…ERR, I mean Parker, Tim Duncan is still far and away the team captain and MVP of the Spurs.   Without him, there would not have been a remote chance for a fourth ring for this squad.

Here’s the lowdown : for a decade now, the San Antonio Spurs have been synonymous with winning and championships.   They have had more championships in the past decade than any other team in the league.   Not even the early-millennium Los Angeles Lakers have more championships in the last ten years than the Spurs.   They captured their fourth championship, however, in very controversial fashion.   Clouds of shady officiating, intentional body checks, and alleged cheating have tainted this championship for them.   This season, the Spurs look to drive one more championship trophy down to the River Walk.   To help do this, they kept all of their key guys that were a part of the championship team from last year.   Duncan, Parker, Ginobili, Oberto, Finley, Horry, Bowen, Barry, Udrih, Elson, and Vaughn are all back, and this time, they even went and signed former Portland guard Ime Udoka.   However, the age of this team may play a factor in whether or not they get that fifth championship trophy.   Half the team started showing signs of wear-and-tear last season.   But, in the infamous words of Rudy Tomjanovich, “Never underestimate the heart of a champion.”   And, love them or hate them, the San Antonio Spurs have the heart of a champion.

Player to watch this season : Manu Ginobili will be a key factor for this team.   He has been the team leader in times where Duncan couldn’t be out on the floor last season.   Even though he played most of last season off the bench, Ginobili is still All-Star caliber and can show it at any time.


Overall, here’s a look at where I think each team will rank at the end of the season:


1.) San Antonio Spurs: Duncan and Co. look to make it five championships in a decade.   Remember the Alamo!

2.) Dallas Mavericks: there are just too many question marks all over the place after their horrible performance against the Warriors.

3.) Houston Rockets: the big three from Texas remain atop the Southwest Division.

4.) Memphis Grizzlies: it’s amazing what healthy All-Stars on your roster can do for you.

5.) New Orleans Hornets: it’s now or never for head coach Byron Scott.   I just don’t think he’s up to the task.   You will see a coaching change before the start of the 2008-09 NBA season.


Now, as I officially wrap up the Western Conference, here is how I predict the playoffs will play out:


1.) Phoenix Suns: could the acquisition of Grant Hill be what the Suns have been missing?   And can they overcome the Shawn Marion sideshow?   My money is on “yes”.   And homecourt advantage throughout won’t hurt their chances of finally getting over the hump, either.

2.) San Antonio Spurs: Tim Duncan and the crew will push for one last title run.   A division title is not a bad place to start; the 2nd seed in the conference will be a better one.

3.) Dallas Mavericks: there may be a lot of question marks about this team, but not enough that they won’t be one of the top three teams in the Western Conference this season.

4.) Utah Jazz: last year’s successes and failures will be a great learning curve for this team, I think.   They’ll not only take something from going all the way to the conference finals last season, but also the late-season downward spiral as well as the beating they took from San Antonio.

5.) Denver Nuggets: the chase for the Northwest Division will be so close it won’t even be settled in the regular season.   Well, actually, it will be settled, but the winner of the playoff matchup will be kind of like pseudo-division champs…unless Utah wins, then it really doesn’t matter either way.

6.) Golden State Warriors: Don Nelson looks to make it 2-for-2 against his old team.   Being second in the Pacific Division behind Phoenix really isn’t such a bad thing after all.

7.) Los Angeles Lakers: three seasons, three 7th-seeded finishes for the Lakers…no wonder Kobe’s getting pissed.   Being fed to wolves every single postseason with no really good draft picks to speak of would get my ire too if I was a top-tier player in the NBA.  Oh, and the owner publicly disclosing information regarding trade negotiations doesn't help matters, either.

8.) Houston Rockets: One season after Rick Adelman takes over for Jeff Van Gundy, and not only do they not improve, but they’re actually regressing.   Two words as to why: Steve Francis.


That’s the entire NBA preview for 2007-08.   I sincerely hope you have enjoyed reading this as I did doing all the work to put this together.   Hope you enjoy the season, folks!


Emails welcome at

Copyright 2007 - MOP Squad Sports

Top of Page