2012 NBA Offseason: Grading the Southwest Division


Jan 21, 2012; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets shooting guard Kevin Martin (12) drives to the basket while defended by San Antonio Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard (2) during the third quarter at the Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Campbell-US Presswire

San Antonio Spurs: B

Out: None; James Anderson, though, will almost assuredly be out of San Antonio

In: Nando De Colo

Quick take: I realize I’m a little biased towards San Antonio but they managed to retain a legitimate championship contender without exceeding the luxury tax threshold.

That is a remarkable feat in itself and wouldn’t have been possible without the selfless Tim Duncan cutting more than 50% of his salary; allowing San Antonio to avert the free agency market completely by shifting their focus on re-signing Boris Diaw, Danny Green and Patty Mills. Nando De Colo seems to be a nice addition as well. They may not have made any notable improvements but they have staved off the tax and are in line for some potential internal improvements.

Memphis Grizzlies: B

Out: O.J. Mayo

In: Jeryd Bayless and Tony Wroten Jr

Quick take: Memphis finally parted ways with a player that never quite became a superstar, though he remained an above-average scorer. O.J. Mayo’s faults can be directly attributed to Memphis’ poor shooting; as such, the lack of space he garnered rendered him less effective than he would have performed in a neutral environment.

The Grizzlies replaced him with Jerryd Bayless, who signed a favorable two-year, $6 million contract. Bayless continues to struggle with shot selection; 37.3% of his attempts last season were long 2s per NBA.com/Stats. Last season Bayless added the 3-point shot to his repertoire; he shot at a career-high mark of 42.3% on 3-pointers. So it’s pretty safe to wonder: Is that repeatable? Even if he regresses, Bayless scored at an efficient rate on both isolation and in the pick-and-roll which should bolster Memphis 27th-ranked pick-and-roll attack.

Apr 4, 2012; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Rodrigue Beaubois (3) guards Memphis Grizzlies shooting guard O.J. Mayo (32)during the second quarter at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-US PRESSWIRE

Dallas Mavericks: A

Out: Kelenna Azubuike, Brendan Haywood, Jason Kidd, Ian Mahinmi, Lamar Odom and Jason Terry

In: Elton Brand, Darren Collison, Jae Crowder, Jared Cunningham, Bernard James, Dahntay Jones, Chris Kaman and O.J. Mayo

Quick take: While Mark Cuban failed miserably in an attempt to prolong Dallas’ tight championship window after Deron Williams re-signed with the Brooklyn Nets, he did manage to quickly conjure up a makeshift team that will likely contend for a playoff spot in the Western Conference.

On paper, they are much deeper, more versatile in the backcourt and assuming Dirk Nowitzki continues to play at an elite level in his 15th season, competent enough offensively to bolster their defense, which finished eight in defensive rating last season.

Yet they do have a couple of redundant pieces, especially in the backcourt, which directly contradicts their draft picks of Jae Crowder, Jared Cunningham and Bernard James. That doesn’t completely undermine Cuban’s crafty moves, though; snagging Elton Brand, who graded as an elite defender against post-ups and pick-and-rolls last year, for $2.1 million was an incredible find; orchestrating a sign-and-trade that netted them Darren Collison and Dahntay Jones for an otherwise underwhelming seven-footer was an effective way to capitalize on Indiana’s cap situation; even paying Chris Kaman $8 million for one year isn’t a bad deal.

Their offseason wasn’t ideal but it was effective and they will enter next offseason with enough cap space to make a difference next summer as well.

Houston Rockets: A-

Out: Chase Budinger, Marcus Camby, Samuel Dalembert, Goran Dragic, Courtney Lee, Kyle Lowry and Luis Scola

In: Omer Asik, Jon Brockman, Toney Douglas, Gary Forbes, Josh Harrelson, Jerome James, JaJuan Johnson, Terrence Jones, Jeremy Lamb, Jon Leuer, Jeremy Lin, Shaun Livingston, E’Twan Moore, Donatas Motiejunas, Royce White and Sean Williams

Quick take: Houston had perhaps the most interesting offseason in the entire league. They shuffled players in and out of their system, stockpiled assets and, when their assets didn’t materialize into Dwight Howard, forced Chicago and New York to swallow cap-inflicting backloaded deals. That strategy proved effective as both the Knicks and Bulls opted to maintain cap flexibility in the wake of the new punitive luxury tax breathing down their necks. Houston was aggressive, forthcoming and, most important, still turned their offseason into a net positive.

Of course, their plan wasn’t one without risk; had the Knicks swallowed their offer sheet on Jeremy Lin, they would have fruitlessly flipped away Kyle Lowry for a draft pick that didn’t turn into Howard in addition to allowing Goran Dragic to walk. For the time being, they will wait in the wings until another superstar becomes available and their surplus of assets will allow them to become viable contenders again.

New Orleans Hornets: A-

Out: Trevor Ariza, Gustavo Ayon, Marco Belinelli, Jarrett Jack, Chris Kaman, Emeka Okafor

In: Ryan Anderson, Anthony Davis, Rashard Lewis, Robin Lopez, Austin Rivers, Hakim Warrick

Quick take: With the benefit of luck and a cost-effective measure — trading for Rashard Lewis freed up some long-term commitments — New Orleans began an efficient rebuilding effort. Their rebuilding hinges solely on the progression of Anthony Davis; if he becomes an instant success and anchors their defensive units, then they will be difficult to beat. If he proves to be ill-equipped to bang on the interior and his one-dimensional offensive game is exposed, their ascent will be stymied a bit.

But acquiring Ryan Anderson for a respectable four-year, $36 million contract, given the inflated market on above-average talent, isn’t bad; especially since he shoots well from the perimeter — an area where the Hornets finished 21st — and meshes well with either Robin Lopez or Davis defensively. The selection of Austin Rivers does muddle things up a bit for Eric Gordon, who New Orleans matched a four-year, $58 maximum contract to fulfill the same role as Rivers. Regardless, it was a nice step in the right direction for the Hornets.