A capsule look at the NBA’s Southwest Division
Team capsules for the NBA’s Southwest Division, listed in AP Basketball Writer Jon Krawczynski’s predicted order of finish:
SAN ANTONIO SPURS
LAST SEASON: 55-27, lost to Los Angeles Clippers in first round.
STARTING FIVE: G Tony Parker (14.4 ppg, 4.9 apg, 1.9 rpg), G Danny Green (11.7 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 2.0 apg), F Kawhi Leonard (16.5 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 2.5 apg), F LaMarcus Aldridge (23.4 ppg, 10.2 rpg, 1.7 apg with Portland), C Tim Duncan (13.9 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 2.0 bpg).
KEY ADDITIONS: Aldridge (free agent, Trail Blazers); F David West (free agent, Pacers).
KEY LOSSES: G Marco Belinelli (free agent, Kings); G Cory Joseph (free agent, Raptors); C Tiago Splitter (trade, Hawks).
COACH: Gregg Popovich, 20th season.
EYES ON: Aldridge. He’s joined an elite team that is good enough to win an NBA title, but how the Spurs ultimately fare this season is likely going to be determined by how he meshes with a San Antonio core that’s been together for years.
OUTLOOK: Without question, a championship contender. Popovich is masterful at managing minutes, which will be even more important this year with a roster that keeps getting older but still isn’t slowing down.
LAST SEASON: 56-26, lost to Warriors in third round.
STARTING FIVE: G James Harden (27.4 ppg, 7 apg, 5.7 rpg, 1.9 spg), G Patrick Beverley (10.1 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 3.4 apg) or G Ty Lawson (15.2 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 9.6 apg), F Trevor Ariza (12.8 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 2.5 apg), F Terrence Jones (11.7 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 1.8 bpg), C Dwight Howard (15.8 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 1.3 bpg).
KEY ADDITIONS: Lawson (trade), F Sam Dekker (draft), F Montrezl Harrell (draft).
KEY LOSSES: F Josh Smith (free agent, Clippers).
COACH: Kevin McHale, fifth season,
EYES ON: Lawson. He was acquired in a July trade with Denver while in a 30-day residential treatment program following his second DUI arrest. He was out in time for the start of Rockets camp and the team has been encouraged by his work and focus. They’re excited about what he can bring to the team, particularly in taking some pressure off Harden, if he stays on track.
OUTLOOK: If Harden builds on what he did last season, Lawson doesn’t have any more problems and Howard remains healthy, the Rockets should be one of the top teams in the Western Conference again a year after reaching the conference finals for the first time since 1997.
LAST SEASON: 55-27, lost to Warriors in second round.
STARTING FIVE: G Michael Conley (15.8 ppg, 5.8 apg, 3.0 rpg), G Courtney Lee (10.1 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 2.0 apg), G/F Tony Allen (8.6 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 1.4 apg), F Zach Randolph (16.1 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 2.2 apg), C Marc Gasol (17.4 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 3.8 apg).
KEY ADDITIONS: F Matt Barnes (trade, Bobcats), F Brandan Wright (free agent, Suns), F Jarell Martin (draft).
KEY LOSSES: C Kosta Koufos (free agent, Kings), G Nick Calathes (free agent, Greece), F Jon Leuer (trade, Suns).
COACH: Dave Joerger, third season.
EYES ON: Conley. The Grizzlies are a much better team with their point guard on the floor distributing the ball, a fact driven home in the playoffs when he tried to play through broken bones in his left cheek against the Warriors. Injuries limited Conley to 70 games last season, but he is in the final year of his current contract this season.
OUTLOOK: The Grizzlies had a quiet offseason for a change after front office changes in 2014 and a coaching change in 2013. Their biggest move came by keeping Marc Gasol off the free agent market, but the franchise built on ”Grit `n’ Grind” got even more defensive signing Barnes. Missing a chance to go up 3-1 over the eventual champion Warriors when injuries took a toll has the Grizzlies more determined than ever to chase a championship.
NEW ORLEANS PELICANS
LAST SEASON: 45-37, lost to Golden State in first round.
STARTING FIVE: G Tyreke Evans (16.6 ppg, 6.6 apg, 5.3 rpg, 1.3 spg), G Eric Gordon (13.4 ppg, 3.8 apg, 2.6 rpg), F Quincy Pondexter (9.0 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 1.5 apg), F Anthony Davis (24.4 ppg, 10.2 rpg, 2.9 bpg), C Omer Asik (7.3 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 0.7 bpg).
KEY ADDITIONS: C Kendrick Perkins (free agent).
KEY LOSSES: None.
COACH: Alvin Gentry, first season.
EYES ON: Gentry, who is tasked with getting more out of virtually the same roster that last season’s coach, Monty Williams, had. Williams was fired following a first-round exit from the playoffs, even though it was New Orleans’ first postseason appearance since 2011. Gentry was a lead assistant last season with Golden State, the team that eliminated New Orleans en route to an NBA title. Gentry brings the type of up-tempo, free-flowing scheme the Warriors employ, contrasting sharply from Williams’ methodical approach that limited the overall number of possessions in a game.
OUTLOOK: The Pelicans have a handful of talented scorers in their prime, led by Davis, already an emerging superstar at age 22. Gentry contends this type of roster best fits his coaching style because there is the youth and depth to push the tempo relentlessly. A second straight playoff appearance is expected as Davis continues his ascension.
LAST SEASON: 50-32, lost to Houston Rockets in first round.
STARTING FIVE: G Deron Williams (13.0 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 6.6 apg), G Wesley Matthews (15.9 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 2.3 apg), F Chandler Parsons (15.7 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 2.4 apg), F Dirk Nowitzki (17.3 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 1.9 apg), C Zaza Pachulia (8.3 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 2.4 apg).
KEY ADDITIONS: Williams (free agent, Nets), Matthews (free agent, Trail Blazers), Pachulia (trade, Bucks), C JaVale McGee (free agent, 76ers), G Justin Anderson (draft).
KEY LOSSES: G Monta Ellis (free agent, Pacers), C Tyson Chandler (free agent, Suns), G Rajon Rondo (free agent, Kings), F Al-Farouq Aminu (free agent, Trail Blazers), F Richard Jefferson (free agent, Cavaliers).
COACH: Rick Carlisle, ninth season.
EYES ON: Williams. His three years under a max deal in Brooklyn were marred by injuries, unhappiness and issues with his confidence. While playing for the hometown Mavericks could help, he’s already having injury woes. Williams is likely to miss the start of the regular season because of a right calf strain.
OUTLOOK: Losing DeAndre Jordan in free agency when he reneged on an oral commitment to the Mavericks could hang over the franchise for some time. It’s likely that the Mavericks will start the season without Williams, Matthews (Achilles surgery) and Parsons (knee surgery). By the time everybody is healthy and comfortable playing together, Dallas might be too far behind in the difficult Western Conference.