Southwest Division Preview

Southwest Division Preview

Southwest Division Preview
Bovada Sportsbook

Most of the national media’s attention on the Western Conference this offseason has been spent on the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Los Angeles Lakers. But with four of the last six NBA championships won by a Western Conference team coming out of the Southwest Division, this is still a division race that must be closely followed. Here’s a preview of the Southwest Division for the upcoming 2012-13 season.

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San Antonio counting on improvement from within

Last season, the San Antonio Spurs finished the regular season tied with the Chicago Bulls for the best straight up record in the NBA of 50-16 and finished as the league’s most profitable team against the NBA basketball odds at 42-20-4. San Antonio finished the regular season with 10 straight wins (9-0-1 ATS) and also won its first 10 games of the playoffs, sweeping Utah and the Los Angeles Clippers and taking a 2-0 lead over Oklahoma City in the Western Conference Finals.

Oklahoma City would go on to win the next four games of the series, and the media built this up as a “passing of the torch” from Tim Duncan to Kevin Durant. But when Duncan inked a new three-year deal to keep the core of him, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili together, he didn’t do so to pass a torch; the Spurs want to go for another title.

San Antonio didn’t do much to improve its roster from the outside, instead counting on its younger players to take the next step in their development this year. Young guards Danny Green and Patty Mills are both expected to continue to improve, and second-year big man Kawhi Leonard could develop his offensive game after a strong defensive showing last year.

Even if you do place the Spurs behind the NBA’s elite, at 18/1 to win the NBA championship and 17/2 to win the Western Conference, there is plenty of value in this veteran group.

Grizzlies and Mavericks expected to get into the mix

Just two years removed from winning the NBA championship, the Dallas Mavericks (40/1 to win the NBA championship, 18/1 to win the West) will be a completely different team. Gone are staples Jason Kidd and Jason Terry, and in is a new batch of offensive talent around Dirk Nowitzki including Darren Collison, O.J. Mayo, Chris Kaman, and Elton Brand.

The plan is to see who fits and who doesn’t this season and to make a play at a big free agent next year. But with so much depth and talent collected (along with returning players Vince Carter and Shawn Marion), the pieces are actually in place for the Mavericks to do some damage; but it would take everything gelling at the right time.

The Memphis Grizzlies (35/1 to win the NBA championship, 16/1 to win the West) are a young and tenacious team that is extremely tough to play against, finishing last season with a 41-25 straight up record before eventually falling to the Los Angeles Clippers in an entertaining seven-game series.

Can Memphis take the next step this season? Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol lead a talented core that is certainly capable of beating anyone on any given night with their aggressive play on both ends of the court. But can they navigate through the super-deep West? The bench is a concern, but the starting five can compete with anyone.

Who can top Oklahoma City and Los Angeles?

Rounding out the Southwest Division are the Houston Rockets (75/1 to win the NBA championship, 40/1 to win the West) and the New Orleans Hornets (150/1 to win the NBA championship, 100/1 to win the West). Both are in rebuild mode, and the Rockets hope to have the key to their rebuild in offseason acquisition Jeremy Lin.

As far as betting value goes, now is the time to bet on the San Antonio Spurs. A proven winner every regular season with a talented, veteran core, you aren’t going to see a much better price than 18/1. And if the Lakers run into injury issues or the Thunder take an unexpected step backwards in their development, this Spurs team is good enough to capitalize.

On Dallas and Memphis, a wait-and-see approach might be best. Either could be worth a stab if they get hot in the second half of the season or make a strong acquisition at the trade deadline.

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