Southwest Division: Spurs are Dominant, Rudy Gay is all but gone from Memphis

I’ll be bringing my talents to…

While the Division looks to be back to just a one team race for the top spot (was it ever in question the Spurs would win this division?), it doesn’t mean there aren’t story lines galore in the Southwest.  Where will Rudy Gay land? Will the Rockets use their young assets to bring another star around Harden before the deadline? Can the Mavericks continue to recover from a poor start? And the “Pelicans” hang tough with just about every team…Greivis Vasquez for Most Improved anyone? Let’s tackle these questions in the our most recent roundup.

SOUTHWEST W L PCT GB HOME ROAD DIV CONF PF PA DIFF STRK L10
San Antonio 36 11 .766 20-2 16-9 11-2 21-8 104.4 96.3 +8.1 Won 8 9-1
Memphis 29 15 .659 5 ½ 17-7 12-8 4-5 16-11 93.4 89.5 +3.9 Won 1 5-5
Houston 25 22 .532 11 15-8 10-14 4-7 9-17 104.9 102.4 +2.5 Won 3 4-6
Dallas 19 26 .422 16 12-9 7-17 3-5 10-17 100.6 103.0 -2.4 Lost 1 6-4
New Orleans 15 30 .333 20 7-15 8-15 4-7 8-20 93.5 97.3 -3.8 Lost 1 5-5



We don’t need to say much about San Antonio this week as they have continued their dominance winning 8 straight games to stretch their lead to 5.5 games.  They also have dominated divisional opponents winning 11 of 13 contests so far.  The scariest news for other teams in the division? The Spurs are likely to win their next 4 games, against NBA bottom feeders Charlotte, Washington, Minnesota, and Detroit.  The only possible tests I see in there is Detroit potentially or Washington if Martel Webster or Bradley Beal catches fire from downtown.  So it looks like they will be winners of 12 straight soon…time for Pop to start coming up with a rest schedule for his stars.  This team does everything well except maybe rebound, but they aren’t too shabby at that either (-.7 differential is minimal).  I honestly think this is the best team in the NBA and I can’t wait for the Feb 21st game against the Clippers of Lob City and the March 11th game against OKC.  Those will be the real measuring sticks we need to evaluate the championships hopes of each team I believe (sure it’s just one game, but those are the BIGGEST regular season games left in the Western Conference). Well, just to understand the Spurs magic, here is Tim Duncan doing the un-amazing amazingly:

Okay so now onto the real gritty stuff in this division.  First off, I believe Rudy Gay is all but gone from the Grizz.  His contract is such a huge cap hit next year, that a small market team like Memphis just can’t take on the risk of having to pay out the final 37 million on his contract.  While reports from reliable sources like WoJo say that the Raptors and Grizz have all but completed a trade, needing only a third team to take on Jose Calderon’s $10.5 million contract, I think that is just one instance where Gay could land outside Memphis.  The Celtics with Paul Pierce’s contract that could be bought out (only 4 million guaranteed next season) are another option, although as a C’s fan, I don’t think the blowup strategy would really work with our roster (a topic for another post). Anyway, the biggest hurdle is finding that third team.  Could the aforementioned Celtics, a team in need of PG help following the season ending ACL injury to star Rajon Rondo, be a taker? The Mavericks who have a lot of veterans on short contracts including Chris Kaman’s expiring 8 million could be a landing spot for Calderon to help facilitate this deal.  All in all, where there is smoke, there is likely fire, so Rudy Gay you better get a travel bag ready.  While often a poor shooter, his talents/potential are in line with stardom:

Oh yeah, so the Grizzlies are pretty good right now too, winning 3 of 4. Marc Gasol is a monster and they have the best defensive backcourt (Tony Allen & Mike Conley) in basketball. Too bad they just can’t generate the revenue to support the team they could have.

The Rockets are yet another interesting team in this Southwest.  The team is not poised to truly compete this season, although they are extremely fun to watch and can actually be good on both ends of the floor. What this team really needs is another star to compliment James “the beard” Harden.  Could they make a run at Kevin Garnett or Pau Gasol, even Zach Randolph? They certainly have the young talent to entice a team in transition mode in need of youth, but are those the players they want to add.  With Harden and Asik as really the only untouchables, (Parsons, Morris, Paterson are all valuable pieces, but not untouchable) putting a star with them makes this team one of the most dangerous in the league.  I want to know what Rocket fans think…Do you try and improve now for a two year window and then find another player to team with Harden, or do you steadily wait and hope you have a long window that starts as early as next year, but most likely 2014? I’m thinking championships here, not just a playoff team.  The Rockets have won 4 of 5, so maybe they just stay the course this season and reevaluate where they are after. It’ll be tough to compete with Spurs, Clippers and Thunder over the next couple years anyways. Just keep in mind that if they want to be aggressive, they have the young talent to go get someone.

The Mavs are a team that I think will be Buyers, but really should be sellers come the deadline in two weeks.  They have almost no shot at competing for a title this season, and unless they can bring in some more talent to surround Dirk, Mayo, and Collison with for next season they will find themselves in the NBA hell-fire of a late lottery team.  They suffered a heartbreaking, soul crushing loss last night to Portland, who stormed back after being down 21 points.  Portland was down 3 with about 5 second left and managed 5 points in that time frame, thanks to a 50/50 charging foul called on Mayo and a heroic effort by LeMarcus Aldridge (game tying 3 with 5 second left, buzzer beater after the charge to win). I just don’t think this team has what it takes and should sell off Kaman, Brand, and Carter.  The one big question in Big D is whether or not the team has a chance at Dwight in the offseason? If they do, they only want back expiring contracts or inexpensive talent, but if they feel he is out of their reach they need to acquire some long term talent to pair with Dirk in his
twilight.

And finally, the NO Pelicans..err Hornets always seem to have a sting in them, but just not enough to get over the hump. Greivis Vasquez and Omer Asik are my two picks for a toss up in the Most Improved Player award,  While Vasquez is still less than stellar at shooting, his determination and grit is admirable.  He gets into the lane nicely and he continues to find his teammates at a staggering pace.  Vasquez went from 5.4 assists per game last season to 9.3 so far this season in 9 more minutes   That’s incredible improvement.  I’m just waiting for Anthony Davis to figure the NBA game out.  He doesn’t always get rebounds and he sits on the baseline offensively way too often.  Once his activity level boosts, he will be a star.  I look for a monster second half from the big fella.

That all for today’s roundup folks.  Remember to follow me on twitter https://twitter.com/theNBAninja and stay tuned as the PickandPopDiaries enters 21 days of trade rumors heading up to the deadline.

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