This past season has been an interesting one for the NBA. From MVP races to fantastic rookies and of course the surprising contending teams, it has been one to remember. Most especially for the toughest division in all of basketball: the Southwest Division of the Western Conference.
The overall predictions coming into the season for teams like Houston and Memphis were far below what the actual outcome of the season. And other teams that were expected to compete struggled due to unforeseen events (i.e injuries, etc.) . Now I will provide a rundown of the final standings and follow up the season as well as look ahead to next season.
2009-10 Record: 37-45 .451 winning percentage
The look on their faces pretty much sums it all up. I'm pretty sure that if
someone had asked which teams in the division would finish below .500 in
09-10, you probably would not have said New Orleans. But that's what
happens when your star PG goes down with an injury and misses 36 games.
Also Jeff Bower, the GM, was not truly qualified to coach the squad and they suffered from not having a true strategist in the 4th quarter. They showed signs of greatness at times, with David West's increasing all-around game improving and Marcus Thornton planting his name on the Rookie of the Year ballot, having multiple 30 point performances for a squad that did not seem to put out decent enough offense to compete.
'09-10 record: 40-42 .488 winning percentage
Incredible, isn't it? The Grizzlies, who looked to be finishing in the doldrums this season after a horrific 1-8 start and Iverson deciding to cut and run like the U.S in Grenada because he wasn't starting, the managed to pull the fat out of the fryer and have a winning record after those 9 games. Lionel Hollins managed to regroup his guys and dedicate the team focus around the frontcourt, which was the most productive frontcourt in the league, averaging 35.4 ppg and 21 rpg, which was the best in league even without adding Rudy Gay's 19.6 ppg and 5.9 rpg. The were impressive in January and February, setting the franchise record for most consecutive wins and consecutive home and road wins. They faded down the stretch, but they have shown that if they can get another crack at it, they can overpower anyone.
'09-10 Record: 42-40 .512 winning percentage
After Yao Ming went down last season and didn't get back up this season, the hopes for the Rockets competing were dire and somewhat a lost cause. But someone forgot to tell Aaron Brooks and Luis Scola, who went about pushing this team to the absolute limit, providing a spark for the franchise. Carl Landry was the league's best off the bench man until the front office decided that they wanted to see if they could compete and dealt him to Sacramento for Kevin Martin. While they did not make the playoffs, they did defy everyone's expectations and finished with a winning record, leading many, such as myself, to believe that if the had Yao, by George what could they do against the upper echelon teams in the league. I tell you what they could do: major damage.
'09-10 Record: 50- 32 .610 winning percentage
"Always looking up" should be the motto of the Spurs franchise, because that's all they have been doing this season. They have injuries to two of their stars over the season, yet are still looking up at the bright side. The Big Fundamental is getting closer and closer to the end of his career, yet are looking up to the future in DeJuan Blair. They played their way into the playoffs like they always do, by being strong in conference and at home and taking advantage of their deep bench, using guys like George Hill and Matt Bonner to bring about success as they always have. Yet unfortunately this year they are still looking up, looking up to the number one team in the division this year.
'09-10 Record: 55- 27 .671 winning percentage.
That's right. My preseason number one is the number one team in the Southwest. How was it won, well here's the recipe: start with a great player (Nowitski), combine that with a terrific, dare I say, Hall of Fame PG (Kidd) mesh in some great scoring (Jason Terry, Caron Butler) and mix in some defensive prowess (Brendan Haywood, Shawn Marion) and serve some great bench on the side (DeShawn Stevenson, Rodrique Beaubois, JJ Barea) , and wash that down with some great Coach-Aid (Rick Carlisle). And for dessert, how about some crazy enthusiastic billionaire owner (Mark Cuban) to make the best in the Southwest truly just that.
The 2009-2010 season was a great one and one that was unpredictable down to the last point. Now I will give my predictions on the 2010-2011 Southwest Division.
1. Memphis Grizzlies
2. Dallas Mavericks
3. Houston Rockets
4. San Antonio Spurs
5. New Orleans Hornets
**Disclaimer** - This is assuming that no free agents (i.e Rudy Gay) leave their teams going into next season.