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2013-14 NBA Preview: Southwest Division
By: Staff Writer - StatFox
Published: 10/23/2013  at  4:04:00 AM
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StatFox concludes its run of previewing all six NBA divisions before the regular season tips off on Oct. 29. The final preview is the Southwest Division, where San Antonio Spurs won by just two games over Memphis last season.

Once the NBA season begins, check out NBA Best Bets for all the Expert picks both Against the Spread and Over/Under Totals. StatFox Scott was 57% (130-99-5) in Totals last season (including 58% in playoffs) and 52.4% ATS (122-111-2) on his regular season Best Bets. StatFox Gary was 59.4% (19-13-1) on Totals in the postseason, while StatFox Dave was 53% ATS (10-9) Best Bets for the NBA Playoffs and StatFox Brian was 52.1% ATS (25-23) Best Bets in the postseason.

SOUTHWEST DIVISION

DALLAS MAVERICKS

2012-13 SU record: 41-41 SU (50.0%), 16th in NBA
2012-13 ATS record: 47-34-1 ATS (58.0%), 2nd in NBA
Odds to Win 2013-14 Southwest Division: 15-to-1
Odds to Win 2013-14 Western Conference: 15-to-1
Odds to Win 2013-14 NBA Championship: 50-to-1

GUARDS
MONTA ELLIS slides into the 2-guard spot vacated by O.J. Mayo. He should benefit from the attention Dirk Nowitzki gets and from playing alongside a pure point guard . . . JOSE CALDERON is a defensive liability, but he should have the Mavs’ offense running more smoothly . . . VINCE CARTER has become one of the league’s better sixth men. He’ll see plenty of minutes for a team that figures to frequently play small ball . . . When healthy, DEVIN HARRIS should be the defensive side of a platoon with Calderon . . . Israeli star GAL MEKEL should be able to help at both guard spots on a part-time basis . . . WAYNE ELLINGTON has yet to prove he can do anything with second-unit minutes . . . After breaking his foot, SHANE LARKIN is looking at a redshirt year.

FORWARDS
Last season was a bit of a lost season for DIRK NOWITZKI, who missed the beginning of the year after knee surgery and didn’t get going until late. Health, as well as the arrival of a true point guard in Jose Calderon, should allow him to bounce back nicely . . . SHAWN MARION had a nice resurgence last season, and he should have at least one good season left as he plays for another contract . . . JAE CROWDER has a chance to establish himself as the heir apparent to Marion. He’s a hustle guy right now, and whether he can be more will depend on whether he develops his jump shot . . . RICKY LEDO was a favorite NBA draft sleeper for many experts. But while the skilled wing has NBA talent, he also has a reputation for being a bad seed. Ledo is almost certainly headed to the D-League for now.

CENTERS
SAMUEL DALEMBERT is a sad consolation prize in the Dwight Howard derby. He’ll likely step in as a starter . . . BRANDAN WRIGHT has never been able to overcome injuries. He could end up splitting time with Dalembert . . . DEJUAN BLAIR will provide energy and offense at the four and five . . . BERNARD JAMES should continue to develop as a rim protector.

StatFox Take: The Dallas Mavericks struck out on both Dwight Howard and Chris Paul during the free agency period and ended up with Monta Ellis, Jose Calderon and Samuel Dalembert instead. The Mavericks are going to be a competitive team this season, and could push for the eight seed in the Western Conference, but they are far away from contending, and Dirk Nowitzki’s best years are far behind him.

HOUSTON ROCKETS

2012-13 SU record: 47-41 SU (53.4%), 11th in NBA
2012-13 ATS record: 44-43-1 ATS (50.6%), 14th in NBA
Odds to Win 2013-14 Southwest Division: 8-to-5
Odds to Win 2013-14 Western Conference: 11-to-2
Odds to Win 2013-14 NBA Championship: 12-to-1

GUARDS
JAMES HARDEN is a franchise player, and as one of the league’s elite pick-and-roll threats, he and Dwight Howard have the potential to be dominant . . . Trade rumors will continue to circle JEREMY LIN, who isn’t an off-the-ball threat to fit alongside Harden. He is, however, clearly a starting-caliber point guard . . . PATRICK BEVERLEY really shined in back-up minutes last year, and he’s part of the reason that Lin is expendable. He’s strong defensively, and he proved capable of running the second unit. He’ll be one of the league’s top back-up PGs if Lin stays . . . Rookie combo guard ISAIAH CANAAN will be developed as a spot-up shooter . . . REGGIE WILLIAMS is a roster filler . . . AARON BROOKS is around as a reclamation project . . . RONNIE BREWER provides a much-needed athletic perimeter defender.

FORWARDS
CHANDLER PARSONS is an elite role player. He entered the league with the reputation as a pure athlete, but it’s his ability to knock down the corner three that’s made him so valuable in Houston . . . GREG SMITH looks like another great find for the Rockets. He’s an athletic banger who can allow Dwight Howard to roam a bit on defense . . . DONATAS MOTIEJUNAS showed flashes as a rookie, but the stretch four looks like a situational role player for the foreseeable future . . . FRANCISCO GARCIA will lend a veteran presence to the second unit . . . Versatile TERRENCE JONES could be in for more minutes as the Rockets look for the right role players . . . OMRI CASSPI might be getting his last chance at the NBA.

CENTERS
DWIGHT HOWARD should be much happier in Houston, though the Rockets still have to convince him that he can dominate as a pick-and-roll player. He should make everyone forget about his season with the Lakers . . . The fact is OMER ASIK just doesn’t fit alongside Howard. But if he stays somewhat happy in Houston, he could be a valuable second-unit player . . . MARCUS CAMBY has latched on to chase a ring.

StatFox Take: The Rockets acquired the most dominant big man of all of basketball this offseason in Dwight Howard. With Howard and James Harden, Houston may have the best 1-2 punch in basketball and they have the role players to brew up something special in Houston. If this team can find some chemistry and make Dwight Howard as effective as he was in Orlando, they’re as good a pick to win the Western Conference as anybody, and once they get to the playoffs they will have mismatches at numerous positions.

MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES

2012-13 SU record: 64-33 SU (66.0%), 5th in NBA
2012-13 ATS record: 58-36-3 ATS (61.7%), 1st in NBA
Odds to Win 2013-14 Southwest Division: 6-to-1
Odds to Win 2013-14 Western Conference: 15-to-1
Odds to Win 2013-14 NBA Championship: 35-to-1

GUARDS
MIKE CONLEY has steadily improved every season. He’s now a borderline All-Star point guard . . . TONY ALLEN is back as the defensive half of Memphis’ SG platoon. He’s a favorite of new head coach David Joerger, the mastermind of the Grizzlies’ suffocating defense as an assistant . . . JERRYD BAYLESS is on the cusp of being one of the NBA’s top sixth men. He’s the only pure scorer they have on the perimeter . . . MIKE MILLER’s minutes will be limited in the regular season, but he’s still an effective bench option with his long-range shooting . . . Ultra-athletic rookie JAMAAL FRANKLIN seems like a future rotation guy if/when he grasps Joerger’s defensive schemes.

FORWARDS
ZACH RANDOLPH has taken a back seat to Marc Gasol, but Z-Bo is still a dangerous low-post scorer. He might give way to Ed Davis a little more often when Memphis needs defense . . . TAYSHAUN PRINCE brought another quality defender to Memphis at last season’s trade deadline. He’s no better than a fifth option on offense, though . . . QUINCY PONDEXTER is one of the only shooters Memphis has, and he seems ready for a bigger role after a strong postseason performance. If nothing else, he’s the heir apparent to Prince . . . ED DAVIS seems ready for a bigger role, but it’s not coming behind Randolph and Gasol. He’s a back-up for at least one more season . . . JON LEUER gives the Grizzlies another savvy reserve big.

CENTERS
He’s a bit overrated defensively (good, but not Defensive Player of the Year good), but MARC GASOL has emerged as the centerpiece of the Memphis offense. He’s one of the league’s best passing big men, to go along with some skill in the post . . . KOSTA KOUFOS gives them another 7-footer who can move the ball, though his role will be much smaller than it was in Denver.

StatFox Take: The Grizzlies didn’t change much this season except they did get rid of head coach Lionel Hollins while promoting Dave Joerger, a team's assistant from last season. Joerger wants to play a little bit faster, but also is a tough defensive-minded coach. With Mike Miller, the Grizzlies addressed a glaring need for outside shooting, but they still are missing the perimeter scorer they need to catapult them to the next level.

NEW ORLEANS PELICANS

2012-13 SU record: 27-55 SU (32.9%), 26th in NBA
2012-13 ATS record: 40-41-1 ATS (49.4%), T-17th in NBA
Odds to Win 2013-14 Southwest Division: 20-to-1
Odds to Win 2013-14 Western Conference: 50-to-1
Odds to Win 2013-14 NBA Championship: 100-to-1

GUARDS
JRUE HOLIDAY is perfect for head coach Monty Williams. He defends and can create in the half-court set . . . ERIC GORDON didn’t want New Orleans to match his deal two offseasons ago, and he spent last year letting everyone know it. If healthy and motivated (two big “ifs”) he’s a 20-point scorer . . . TYREKE EVANS will get some starts at the three and come off the bench at times. Either way, he is the kind of aggressive (if sometimes out-of- control) offensive threat this lineup needs . . . Even after an injury-filled season, ANTHONY MORROW’s shooting could earn him a rotation spot . . . AUSTIN RIVERS was overmatched last season, to the point where he didn’t seem to belong in the NBA. It’s tough to see the win-now Pels relying on him often.

FORWARDS
ANTHONY DAVIS was overwhelmed by Williams’ complex defensive schemes, and opponents consistently took him out of plays with screen-and-rolls at him. Williams will surely use some of his new talent to allow Davis to roam more on defense . . . RYAN ANDERSON’s defensive shortcomings could lead to a drop in playing time, but his shooting and the spacing it creates is too valuable to this offense . . . AL-FAROUQ AMINU will likely split time with Tyreke Evans at the three. He’s more valuable defensively, and is starting to show some signs of improvement on offense . . . DARIUS MILLER has a shot to break into the rotation if his defense improves . . . LANCE THOMAS is a long athlete who is capable of playing some good defensive minutes . . . ARINZE ONUAKU most likely won’t see the floor for more than a minute at a time.

CENTERS
JASON SMITH might be their most complete defensive big man, and that should be enough to earn him solid minutes . . . GREG STIEMSMA is more off a warm body, but he at least gives them another rim-protecting option . . . JEFF WITHEY will spend most of the season on the bench learning Williams’ complex schemes.

StatFox Take: The New Orleans Pelicans traded Nerlens Noel and a pick in the highly-touted 2014 NBA draft for Jrue Holiday, while also trading for Tyreke Evans. The Pelicans are now playing for the present as opposed to the future, but they are not a good enough team to contend in the West quite yet. Monty Williams could potentially coach his team to a playoff berth in the Western Conference, but they are not ready to make any real noise quite yet.

SAN ANTONIO SPURS

2012-13 SU record: 73-30 SU (70.9%), 2nd in NBA
2012-13 ATS record: 53-48-2 ATS (52.5%), 11th in NBA
Odds to Win 2013-14 Southwest Division: 6-to-5
Odds to Win 2013-14 Western Conference: 9-to-2
Odds to Win 2013-14 NBA Championship: 10-to-1

GUARDS
Considering how exhausted he looked by the end of the Finals, don’t be surprised if TONY PARKER gets more rest during the regular season . . . DANNY GREEN had a coming-out party this past June. A three-point specialist who can defend, the Spurs will lean on him more heavily during the first 82 . . . MANU GINOBILI looks oh-so-close to being done. His minutes will decline . . . MARCO BELINELLI adds quality depth behind Green. He’ll take many of the minutes that used to go to Ginobili and Gary Neal, who left for Milwaukee . . . CORY JOSEPH enters the season as the favorite to back up Parker, but it’s a fluid situation . . . NANDO DE COLO fell out of the rotation last season, but has enough talent that he should bounce back . . . PATTY MILLS is more of a cheerleader than a useful bench piece.

FORWARDS
TIM DUNCAN just keeps going. The 2012-13 regular season was his best in years. The Spurs will keep his minutes in check, but he likely has another great season in him . . . KAWHI LEONARD is one of the league’s elite role players, and he seems to keep getting better. He can shoot, score off the dribble and defend . . . JEFF AYRES is a skilled big man who will back up Duncan and can play alongside him for stretches. Like all of their frontcourt players besides Duncan, the player formerly known as Jeff Pendergraph, will see his playing time will fluctuate greatly depending on matchups.

CENTERS
TIAGO SPLITTER continues to improve rapidly, and he’ll now take the bulk of the minutes alongside Duncan. But as we saw in last year’s Finals, head coach Gregg Popovich will keep him on the bench if the matchup isn’t right . . . BORIS DIAW’s versatility gives Pop options off the bench . . . MATT BONNER is pretty much just around to participate in the Three-Point Shootout at this point in his career.

StatFox Take: Last season, the San Antonio Spurs were a missed layup away from being the NBA champions. The core has gotten older, but Kawhi Leonard is on the verge of super stardom. The sneaky signing of Marco Belinelli could make up for the inevitable injuries coming to Manu Ginobili. If Gregg Popovich can work his magic to keep this team healthy, they are once again a threat to win both the Western Conference and the NBA Championship. Age doesn’t seem to matter when it comes to this bunch.

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