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BlondeBomber41
10-01-2008, 07:22 PM
http://www.nba.com/mavericks/news/Southwest_Outlooks_082808.html

Dallas Mavericks

Art Garcia, Mavs.com

The Mavs are looking to return to elite status in the Western Conference. Those who run the show believe the window for a championship is still open because of former MVP Dirk Nowitzki and fellow Olympian Jason Kidd.

The trick is getting consistent contributions from the supporting cast, namely Jason Terry, Josh Howard, Erick Dampier, Gana Diop, Jerry Stackhouse and Brandon Bass. Charged with the task of getting it back together is Rick Carlisle, a veteran coach with an even-handed approach who led playoff teams in Detroit and Indiana.



Memphis Grizzlies

Matthew Hood, Grizzlies.com


This year Memphis boasts one of the youngest teams in the NBA, featuring a starting line of three former top 10 picks from the last three years: O.J. Mayo, Mike Conley and Rudy Gay. While there will be some growing pains, the Grizzlies will try to use their youth and athleticism to improve from last season.

Add the acquisitions of Marc Gasol and Darrell Arthur, along with plenty of cap space for the 2009 summer, and the Grizzlies should not only improve this season, but should continue to “power forward” for many years to come.



Houston Rockets

Jason Friedman, Rockets.com

This may seem bold considering the Rockets haven’t experienced the second round in more than a decade, but anything less than a Western Conference Finals appearance this season would have to be seen as a massive disappointment. Put simply: Houston didn’t go all-in with Artest just to get past the first round.

On paper, all the pieces are in place for the team to make a serious title run. The key, as it always is with this club, is staying healthy – both from a physical standpoint and, with Artest now in tow, a mental one, too.



New Orleans Hornets

Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com

For the first time in franchise history, the Hornets are being viewed as a legitimate championship contender. New Orleans won a team-record 56 games in 2007-08 and captured its first-ever division title. Behind an MVP-caliber season from the 23-year-old Paul, the Hornets established themselves as one of the NBA’s up-and-coming clubs.

Many analysts’ opinions of the team’s chances to compete for a trophy improved considerably after the addition of Posey. New Orleans may be a trendy pick this fall to win the unheralded reserve’s third ring in a span of four years.



San Antonio Spurs

David Thiessen, Spurs.com

How much longer can the Big Three of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker carry the Spurs? That was the question last year and it’s still here. San Antonio tried to add youth and athleticism but none of the additions should change the look of the team too much. Expect much of the same from these Spurs, although they have a little more athleticism and depth at the guard position thanks to George Hill and Roger Mason Jr.

Once again, the team’s success will come down to the health of the Big Three. They should make the playoffs, but will they be healthy enough to compete for a championship?