In anticipation of the 2016-2017 season, here are some of the highlights of the offseason in the Southwest Division.
Barnes and Bogut Highlight Yet Another Mavs Retooling: The Mavericks had an interesting offseason, as they swooped in and picked up former Golden State Warriors Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut. Though not huge pickups, each player brings a specific skillset that benefits Dallas; Bogut provides rim protection and post passing, while Barnes will be a suitable replacement for Chandler Parsons, who left in free agency. The Mavericks are trying their best to surround Dirk with a team that can keep him in playoff contention, but we will have to see if this year’s collection of role players will mesh and get them a postseason spot.
Kawhi Leads the Spurs in Life After Duncan: San Antonio Spurs legend Tim Duncan retired this summer, and his absence will resonate throughout the AT&T Center for a while. However, despite losing a veteran and an important part of their system, the Spurs are still poised, as usual, to stay at the top of the Western Conference. Kawhi Leonard remains one of the best players on both ends of the floor, as well as one of the few individuals that can contain LeBron James. LaMarcus Aldridge is elite, and the veteran trio of Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Pau Gasol will provide coach Gregg Popovich with plenty of options. Expect the Spurs to have another 50-win season combined with a deep playoff run.
Memphis Looking for “Grit and Grind” Payoff: The Grizzlies have based their recent success on the strength of their frontcourt duo of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, as well as strong play from point guard Mike Conley, who they signed to an NBA record $153 million deal over 5 years. However, due to injury issues last year, they only got to the first round, losing to the San Antonio Spurs. This year, their main offseason acquisition player was Chandler Parsons, a quality wing player with strong perimeter shooting. If Memphis can stay healthy, look for them to go far in the Western Conference this year.
Can Davis Carry the Pelicans Back to the Playoffs?: Over the past few years, Anthony Davis has shouldered the burden of being the only consistent source of production on the New Orleans Pelicans. Not only have the Pelicans been unable to support him with quality players, but they have also been incredibly prone to injury. Jrue Holiday, Anthony Davis, Omer Asik and Tyreke Evans all played under 70 games last season. With draftee Buddy Hield as their only real offseason acquisitions, it looks like Davis will have just as heavy of a burden to carry this season.
New Look Rockets Hoping to Keep Their Footing in the West: With the Rockets losing Dwight Howard in free agency and the hiring of coach Mike D’Antoni, Houston is looking to go back to forming the team squarely around Harden. New acquisitions Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson provide outside shooting and point tothe offensive approach Houston is taking. Harden will enjoy all the time with the ball in his hands, but he needs to play defense and know his role in D’Antoni’s offense if the Rockets hope to compete in the West.
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