Apr 10, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guardJames Harden
(13) dribbles the ball as San Antonio Spurs forwardKawhi Leonard
(2) defends during the fourth quarter at Toyota Center. The Spurs won 104-103. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
The San Antonio Spurs are used to winning the Southwest Division. They’ve won seven division titles in the last decade. Last year it was the James Harden led Houston Rockets that won the division by the narrowest margin.
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The Rockets won 56 games, while the Memphis Grizzlies and the Spurs won 55 games apiece. Despite dealing with injuries to Patrick Beverley, Dwight Howard, and Terrence Jones the Rockets won the division and finished second place in the Western Conference.
The Dallas Mavericks finished with 50 wins and the New Orleans Pelicans finished with 45 wins. The Mavericks are expected to decline a bit with Monta Ellis leaving to the Indiana Pacers and Tyson Chandler headed to Phoenix. The Mavericks did add Wesley Matthews, who is one of the better “3 and D” players in the league.
The Pelicans have one of the best players in the league in Anthony Davis. They have dealt with injuries to Jrue Holiday, Ryan Anderson, and Eric Gordon two straight seasons. If they all stay healthy, they will be a dangerous team that can finish as high as 5th or 6th in the West.
The Grizzlies are terrific on defense, but they lack the firepower on offense to get over the hump. The Grizzlies have a terrific trio in Marc Gasol, Mike Conley, and Zach Randolph. Grizzlies should be in the mix to win the division, but they aren’t as big of a threat as the Rockets are.
The Rockets lost in the Western Conference Championship against the Golden State Warriors. The Rockets showed how tough of an out they are when they came back from down 3-1 against the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Rockets lost Josh Smith in the offseason, as he signed with the Clippers. The Rockets made a big splash as they traded Nick Johnson, Kostas Papanikolaou, and Pablo Prigioni for Ty Lawson. Lawson is one of the better point guards in the league. Lawson averaged 15.2 points and 9.6 assists last year. The problem with Lawson is off-the-court. Lawson has had two DUI’s in the past year. If Lawson gets it together the Rockets will be a contender.
The Rockets have one of the best players in basketball in Harden and a terrific center in Dwight Howard. They also have a terrific supporting cast with players like Beverley, Donatas Motiejunas, Jones, and Trevor Ariza. It will be interesting to see if Lawson starts or if they stay with defensive minded Beverley in the lineup. Nevertheless the Rockets will be a team no one wants to face if their new floor general delivers.