NBA betting preview: Southwest division

NBA betting preview: Southwest division

NBA betting preview: Southwest division
By VIC TAFUR

New Orleans Hornets

Odds: 52.5 over/under wins, 3-1 to win title

In: James Posey, Devin Brown

Out: Chris Anderson

Outlook: Chris Paul was the MVP on our ballot last season, after he lead the league in assists and steals, averaged 21 points a game and led the Hornets to a 15-win jump from the previous year. Credit also goes out to David West, who became an All-Star, Tyson Chandler for his defense and rebounding and Peja Stojakovic and Morris Peterson for their outside shooting. New Orleans thought it needed one more piece, frontcourt depth be damned, to make a run at the title and went out gave Posey a huge pile of cash. He brings shooting, defense and that championship intangible from Boston. Maybe he can help Julian Wright discover himself as a pro because that’s the kind of development the Hornets really need to go farther in the playoffs.

Prediction: Usually, teams that make such a huge jump take a small step backwards the next season. There’s no shame winning 50 games in a tough Western Conference. Under.

Houston Rockets

Odds: 53.5, 8-1

In: Ron Artest, Brent Barry, D.J. Strawberry

Out: Bobby Jackson, Steve Novak

Outlook: Another first-round loss led to a rolling of dice offseason with the acquisition of Artest. Tru Warrior is and always will be gamble for general managers. Artest is a great defensive player who doesn’t always choose to play great defense. He can post up any guard or small forward in the league but in Sacramento often monopolized the ball on the perimeter. If he can fit in, then this team’s biggest worry is keeping Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady healthy. This team has some special qualities demonstrated during last year’s 22-game winning streak.  Role players like Dikembe Mutombo, Rafer Alston, Luis Scola and Carl Landry all seem capable of chipping with a big game when needed. The Rockets led the NBA in two-point field-goal defense and now add Artest to help Shane Battier on the wing.

Prediction: For some reason, we like the 8-1 more than the 53.5 in a tough division. It will be close. 52, 53, 54 wins. We’d like to push, but that’s too lame. Under.

San Antonio Spurs

Odds: 52.5, 8-1

In: Roger Mason, Salim Stoudamire

Out: Brent Barry

Outlook: Defense and rebounding have always kept the Spurs at the top of the league, with Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker pushing them to a championship level every other year. The pattern may break this year with Ginobili out for a portion of the year with his lingering ankle injury, Duncan is 32-years-old and most of the bench is older. The Spurs need another scorer, and that’s asking a lot of Mason after he jacked up shots for an injury-depleted Wizards team. A ninth-straight season of 56 or more wins isn’t out of the question for San Antonio. The Spurs have enough confidence in their stars and coach Greg Popovich will make sure everyone is healthy and ready for the playoffs. A lower number of regular season wins seems a definite possibility this year for San Antonio.

Prediction: Under

Dallas Mavericks

Odds: 48.5, 20-1

In: Shawne Williams, DeSagana Diop

Out: Jamaal Magliore, Tyronn Lue, Malik Allen

Outlook: Mark Cuban just has bad luck with point guards. With the memory of Steve Nash still lingering (and how the Mavs thought he was on the way down and too expensive), the Dallas owner made a play for a veteran point guard at the trading deadline last season. He traded for Jason Kidd, 36, but gave up arguably a better point guard in Devin Harris plus two first-round picks. And the Mavs got creamed by the Hornets in the playoffs. Kidd is back, probably with a chip on his shoulder, and has two of the best forwards in the game running with him in Dirk Nowitzki and Josh Howard. Jason Terry and Jerry Stackhouse are solid and forward Brandon Bass was a nice surprise off the bench last year. Erick Dampier is as forgettable as Diop, and they share time at center. Firing Avery Johnson for Rick Carlisle as coach is what you do if you can’t get rid of the players.

Prediction: A pretty good fourth-place team. The mojo from a couple of years ago is gone and 46 wins sounds more likely than the 51 the Mavs won last year. Under.

Memphis Grizzlies

Odds: 23.5, 350-1

In: O.J. Mayo, Darrell Arthur, Antoine Walker, Marko Jaric, Hamed Haddadi

Out: Mike Miller, Juan Carlos Navarro, Kwame Brown, Jason Collins

Outlook: What do you when your home fans aren’t coming out to see you? Get rid of your best player, Pau Gasol, in a salary dump. Brutal. Since no one was watching the Grizzlies play last year, Rudy Gay remains one of the best-kept secrets in the NBA. The 6-foot-9 small forward is an offensive machine and gives the Grizzlies something to build around, alongside with some other young talent. Point guard Mike Conley can fly and should have a breakout season, backup point guard Kyle Lowery is no slouch, shooting guard Mayo can score and also handle the ball and fourth guard Jarvis Crittenton has been getting rave reviews at camp. The problem is up front with Darko “the big bust” Milicic and Hakeem “I can’t guard a chair” Warrick expected to do the heavy lifting. Arthur and Walker just add question marks and pull-up 3-pointers.

Prediction: We do like those guards. And how hard can it be to win 25 games? Over.

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