Southwest Division Team Grades

This has been an uneven stretch for the teams at the top of the division, but San Antonio has maintained their steady lead over Memphis. Houston is falling fast having lost 4 in a row, while the Hornets have shown they can still sting opponents, winning 5 of 6 including wins over the Texas Trio. In this NBA divisional roundup, I’ll grade each team based on it’s performance so far this season and include my hopes for the second half.

Duncan and the Spurs Always have Swagger

San Antonio 29 11 .725 16-2 13-9 8-2 16-8 104.8 96.7 +8.1 Won 1 7-3
Memphis 24 12 .667 3 14-5 10-7 4-3 14-9 94.0 90.0 +4.0 Lost 2 6-4
Houston 21 18 .538 7 ½ 14-7 7-11 3-6 7-14 105.5 103.7 +1.9 Lost 4 5-5
Dallas 16 23 .410 12 ½ 10-7 6-16 2-4 8-14 99.4 102.6 -3.2 Won 3 4-6
New Orleans 12 26 .316 16 6-13 6-13 3-5 6-16 92.4 96.8 -4.4 Won 1 6-4

San Antonio Spurs:

The Spurs sit atop the division as they have dominated the league with impressive fashion despite a few poor performances.  They are 5th in the NBA in offensive efficiency at 106.8 points per 100 possessions and an even better 4th in defensive efficiency allowing only 98.8 points per 100 possessions. They have done exactly what they needed to do this season which is establish themselves as a title contender despite being an older team and be in the mix for one of the top seeds in order to obtain home-court for the playoffs. I’m still not convinced that they would beat OKC in a 7 game series, but I think they would hang tough with the Clippers as well as the rest of the western conference hopefuls. It’s hard not to be a fan of this team as they execute as well as anyone thanks to having the best coach in the game hands-down in Greg Popovich.

I see them maintaining their divisional lead and staying right where they are in the conference as the third seed. With an aging roster, Pop will become more minute conscious as the postseason nears, giving Duncan, Parker, and Gino a chance to rest.  

Grade: A 
Despite a few poor losses, this team is playing great basketball and deserves the highest mark. Ball Movement offensively and crisp rotations defensively are common sights for this top-tier franchise.

Memphis Grizzlies:

While the Grizz continue to play great defense, ranking second in defensive efficiency in allowing only 97 points per 100 possessions, they have struggled offensively ranking 18th in offensive efficiency while having difficulty getting much needed baskets at time. With Rudy Gay struggling to find his shot amid trade rumors, the team is not going inside to Marc Gasol nearly enough.  They have a poor shooting team in general, with the streaky Wayne Ellington as their best option for stretching the floor and creating driving lanes.  Thankfully for Grizzly fans, the team can still lock up its opponents even when there shots aren’t falling.  Tony Allen leads this scrappy defensive bunch as they have excellent one on one defenders to go along with near flawless rotations.  This team is doing about what I expected them to do, but they have no shot at winning the title this year. With the owners unwilling to continue to spend big and face luxury taxes, this small market team that is unable to sell out home games despite the teams’ success will have to be a seller at the trade deadline. 

As good as they have played, I expect the trades that will almost assuredly happen to derail their success somewhat.  Currently sitting in the 4th seed, I expect this team to slide back out of a home-court seed.  The Rudy Gay/Zach Randolph rumors will be fun to follow and we will post any buzz we hear on ThePickandPopDiaries.

Grade: B+
They have performed very well up to this point in the season as Lionel Hollins has the group in-synch defensively.  I don’t know if there is a better half-court frontline than what the Grizz throw-out there in Gasol and Randolph.

Houston Rockets:

This has been a really poor week for the Rockets, but overall this team has flourished this season.  We have seen the coming out party for a handful of players under the watchful eye of Coach McHale and his extremely uptempo offense.  Houston is the highest scoring team in the league at 105.5 points per game and they get plenty of shots to go around.  The team certainly needs some work defensively as a unit, but they have some excellent one on one defenders on this team.  Houston plays at by far the fastest pace of any team in the league averaging almost 100 possession per 48 minute game.

The second half may be a little rough on this team as I see them falling out of the playoffs, or maybe hanging onto an 8th seed if the competition also falters, but don’t let this get you down rocket fans, this team will be better next season and should be competitive for the foreseeable future.

Grade: A-
This team has outperformed expectations and has settled into their own unique style of play.  They will run opponents out of the gym willingly.  Bring your track shoes when you visit Clutch City.

Dallas Mavericks:

They were without there star player for most of the season, but as Dirk has returned to the starting lineup so has the swag (everyone is saying it, why not me?) to this Dallas team.  They have won 3 in a row, giving me some hope that just maybe with the right acquisition at the trade deadline, this team could make a run for a last playoff spot.  If they get in, this veteran squad could make some noise.  The “Bank of Cuban” as the owner calls it is open this deadline, so i wouldn’t be surprised if they go out and make a splash taking on an overpaid but skilled player (would the Grizz trade Gay within the division? Respond in the comments). The sample size of this team healthy is too small for me to have a real idea of what they may accomplish the rest of the way, but my guess is they come up a game short in the end.

Grade: Incomplete
I need to see what this does with Dirk longer term.  So far, if I had to grade them I’d say a C- as they are bottom 10 in the league in both offense and defense, but I don’t think its fair to assign this team a C- when the player they have run their entire offense through for the past decade was out with an injury.

New Orleans Hornets:

Well currently one of the hottest teams in basketball, the Hornets have been poor most of the year, just recently showing flashes of their bright future.  NO is about average in terms of offensive efficiency  scoring 101 points per 100 possessions, but have yet to show anything defensively that would give me confidence that they can play 500 or above ball the rest of the year. They are 4th to last in defensive efficiency and seem to have trouble guarding both the pick and roll as well opponents three point shooting (opponents shoot 37% from downtown against the Hornets). While they obviously have their shortcoming as the last place team, I actually think the maturation of some of the roll players like Vasquez, Lopez and Aminu has been excellent.  As Anthony Davis becomes  more accustomed to the pro style play as well as the continued re-acclimation of  Eric Gordon into the dominant scorer role, I think this team could not only have a very bright future but a solid second half.  I think they could get to 30 wins this year.

Grade: B-
They have been about on par to my expectations so far this year.  They are a fun team to watch and the hope in the Big Easy is that the young players continue to develop as they should.  Monty Williams is a damn good coach, give him time and he will reward the franchise with wins.


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