July 20, 2012 *Court Vision* 2012 NBA Free Agency Carousel – Southwest Division
The Western Conference’s Southwest division has had a whirlwind of an offseason, starting with the draft. League-owned New Orleans won the lottery and with it brought one of the most highly rated big men since Pat Ewing to the Big Easy. The team was sold shortly thereafter to Tom Benson, owner of the Saints, bringing in a new age for the franchise. Darrell Morey and the Rockets made every move imaginable to collect the assets necessary to entice Orlando to lend them Dwight Howard for a year. That seems to have fallen apart as they will instead settle for a pair of backups, a big man (Asik) and point guard (yeah you Linsanity). Enjoy that Rockets fans. The normally steady and clean-cut Spurs have even been dragged into the headlines. Star Tony Parker nearly suffered a career changing injury at a New York nightclub, getting glass in his eyes as a fight erupted between Drake and Chris Brown. Luckily it looks like he will be ok, but it was certainly scary for a moment. The Mavs, positioning themselves for 2 years since their title for a run at hometown boy Deron Williams and Dwight Howard, struck out. Cuban cannot be happy with being stuck scrounging the amnesty waiver-wire. With so much activity out of the Southwest, and not all good news, it’s been an intriguing 2012 offseason thus far.
San Antonio Spurs (1st place in 2011-2012)
Players Added: Marcus Denmon
Players Lost: None
The Dime: Outside of the Parker incident, it has been business as usual this offseason for the Spurs. They re-signed anchor Tim Duncan, ensuring the legend will retire in San Antonio, as well as locked up Danny Green, Boris Diaw, and Stephen Jackson for a 2013 return. The core of Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili will remain together, hoping to make one last run at the title that appeared within grasp this year. I will be interested to see how the decline of Tim Duncan will be continued to be managed. Coach Pop did a marvelous job of conserving the veteran in the lockout shortened year, but it will be a different story over an 82 game schedule. It would be great to see the veterans make one last legitimate run, here is to hoping last year was not the last hurrah.
Memphis Grizzlies (2nd place in 2011-2012)
Players Added: Tony Wroten, Jerryd Bayless
Players Lost: OJ Mayo,
The Dime: The Grizzlies were an under-the-radar favorite for many people last year. However, even with the return of Rudy Gay they were not able to get further over the hump, falling in the first round of last seasons playoffs. They have not made many moves this offseason, but did add a scoring-guard in the draft in Wroten. Gay’s name has been circulated in some trade talk thus far, but nothing appears eminent. I will be looking to see how the year starts off for the Griz. If they start slow, I think the Gay trade-talk will start up again in more earnest. It may be time for a change in Memphis to mix up a stagnant franchise, and I think Gay is the piece most likely to be moved.
Dallas Mavericks (3rd place in 2011-2012)
Players Added: Elton Brand, OJ Mayo, Darren Collison, Dahntay Jones, Jae Crowder, Jared Cunningham
Players Lost: Jason Kidd, Jett Terry, Brendan Haywood
The Dime: This has been an offseason to forget for the Mavericks. After clearing the books over the last few years to welcome hometown hero Deron Williams back to Dallas to join forces with Dwight Howard, the Mavs struck out in a serious way. Not only were they unable to bring in an additional star to pair with Dirk, they saw some of their most valuable veterans walk for a chance to chase a title elsewhere. Mark Cuban and company are at a serious crossroads. With the roster as currently constructed, they are nowhere near title contention (Cuban’s stated yearly goal). A move needs to be made to get them moving back in the right direction, and Cuban is always ready to pull the trigger on a deal. I would not be surprised to see some additional changes to the Mavs roster.
Houston Rockets (4th place in 2011-2012)
Players Added: Jeremy Lin, Royce White, Terrence Jones, Jeremy Lamb,
Players Lost: Kyle Lowry, Goran Dragic, Luis Scola, Samuel Dalembert
The Dime: The Rockets are traditionally one of the league’s most shrewdly run franchises in the league. Known for bringing a “Moneyball”-style statistical analysis for decision making to the NBA, they have spent wisely over the years and have more often than not been on the winning side of their trades. This offseason, in my opinion, was a rare miss for the Rockets. After positioning themselves with a ton of cap room and valuable assets in draft picks hoping to land Dwight Howard, the Rockets are coming away without a proven star in the league, big contracts for unproven players and a slew of front court players. I liked their draft but did not love it, suspect of their selection of players who were fairly similar (Jones and White) and the sleepy-eyed Lamb. They extended huge offer sheets to a back-up center (Bull’s Omer Asik) and last year’s media darling, Jeremy Lin. I am not sold on Lin as a legit star in the league, but he can certainly help them sell tickets. Houston had hoped to turn their franchise around with a success offseason, but I just don’t think the Rockets positioned themselves any better for long-term success with their moves. However, only time will tell if Morey got it right again after all.
New Orleans Hornets (5th place in 2011-2012)
Players Added: Anthony Davis, Austin Rivers, Ryan Anderson, Darius Miller
Players Lost: Trevor Ariza, Emeka Okafor, DeJuan Summers, Jarrett Jack
The Dime: How things can change in one year. Last offseason, the Hornets and star Chris Paul went through a prolonged public divorce ending with Paul landing with the Clippers. Although the Hornets got a decent haul in return, namely young scoring guard Eric Gordon, they had an awful season with Gordon sidelined most of the year. Their overall lack of success was rewarded, however, as they landed the first pick in the draft and the world’s most talented Unibrow. Potential controversy aside, this singlehandedly changes their franchise’s fortunes around. Paired alongside a healthy Eric Gordan, last year’s breakout star Ryan Anderson, and fellow rookie Austin Rivers, Davis has the potential to turn this lottery team into a perennial playoff and title contender. I’m not saying they’re going to win next year’s title, but they now have the catalyst who can get them there. Let’s all sit back and enjoy watching the growth and rise of this young team around Anthony Davis.