San Antonio Spurs (50-16, lost in the western conference finals to OKC)
Headline: After a historic winning run ran into stormy weather in the western conference finals, Tim Duncan and co look to regroup for one final title shot.
Summary: What the Spurs have done the past decade plus is truly amazing. The last time they failed to win 50 games, for example, was the year the season itself was only 50 games (and they of course walked away with the title that year). Yet, you could have forgiven many for writing off the Spurs before last season. They were wrong as the Spurs simply caught fire the latter half of the season before running into an OKC team that was just a bit better than them in the playoffs. They may not be the best on paper but don’t go writing the Spurs out, history shows you’ll regret it.
Overall Trend: Down. The Spurs have had an absolutely amazing run and although one more title run is possible, there is no question they are not what they once were.
Salary: $73.42M (over luxury tax threshold)
2013 NBA Draft Picks: Own both their own picks.
Biggest Addition: Nando De Colo
Losses: No significant losses.
Best Case: NBA Title. It is certainly possible that Tim Duncan, Manu and Tony Parker could turn back the clock and make a title run, if they can remain healthy that is.
Worst Case: First round. The Spurs are good but they are no longer great. With a deep western conference, it is possible it might be one and done for the Spurs this season.
Most Likely Case: Second round. OKC and the Lakers are both better than the Spurs. Still, they can be expected to win one round before falling to one of these two powers.
Memphis Grizzlies (41-25, lost in first round to the LA Clippers)
Headline: A year older and wiser, the Grizzlies look to move towards the top of the west
Summary: If their 2011 playoff run that pushed OKC to the brink in the second round felt like a dream, 2012 was more of a reality check for this squad. They lost in the first round in a strange series against the Clippers and appear to have settled comfortably into a role as a middle of the pack western conference playoff team. They are a step behind the western elite and are likely to remain there for the time being.
Overall Trend: Down slightly, losing OJ Mayo will probably hurt a bit and when your best addition is Jerryd Bayless, that’s a downgrade.
Salary: $78.33M (over luxury tax threshold)
2013 NBA Draft Picks: Owe 2013 First Round Pick to Minnesota (top 14 protected) and 2013 Second Round Pick to LA Lakers (top 55 protected).
Biggest Addition: Jerryd Bayless.
Losses: OJ Mayo
Best Case: Western Conference Finals. The Grizzlies have enough talent and pose enough matchup problems to give a few teams fits in the playoffs. They could possibly pull a few playoff upsets before falling one step short of the finals.
Worst Case: First round of the playoffs. If they can’t keep their chemistry, they get hit by injuries or they run into a bad early playoff matchup, it could be a depressingly short stay for the Grizzlies this season.
Most Likely Case: First round. The Grizzlies are a good team, but they just appear to be a step below the western conference elite this season.
Dallas Mavericks (36-30, lost in the first round to OKC)
Headline: Dallas looks to make one final run for a title in the twilight of Dirk’s career.
Summary: 2012 was a bit more of a reality check for the Mavericks as they fell from their lofty perch with an early playoff exit versus a clearly superior Thunder team. As the Mavericks appear headed towards a necessary rebuild they will look to find one more spark of magic that will perhaps lead them to a second title in three years.
Overall Trend: Down, Dallas didn’t exactly age gracefully last season and with Jason Terry and Jason Kidd both gone, they are no doubt worse off than they were last year.
Salary: $60.16M (over cap)
2013 NBA Draft Picks: Owe their 2013 First Round Pick to Houston (top 20 protected) and have the right to swap their second round pick with the Lakers.
Biggest Addition: Chris Kaman
Losses: Brendan Haywood, Jason Terry, Jason Kidd.
Best Case: NBA Title. If it all comes together, the Mavericks could be a dark horse favorite to win it all.
Worst Case: Miss playoffs. If they are hit by the injury bug, it’s not entirely hard to see how the team could slip just behind a team like Minnesota and miss out on the playoffs entirely.
Most Likely Case: First round. When it’s all said and done, Dallas probably has enough to get to the postseason but not enough to stay there for very long.
Houston Rockets (34-32, missed playoffs)
Headline: Linsanity comes to Houston as the Rockets blow it up and start over
Summary: There are few worse places to be in the NBA than perpetually just missing the playoffs year after year. Such was the case for the Rockets, who missed the playoffs for their third straight season despite not having a losing record in any of those three years. Realizing the inevitable, the Rockets blew it up in the offseason and with the help of three top picks in this year’s draft, look to rise anew.
Overall Trend: Down and down quickly. The Rockets may be among the favorites for worst record in the west this year. The future may be bright but the present certainly isn’t.
Salary: $55.09M (under cap)
2013 NBA Draft Picks: Owe their 2013 First Round Pick to Atlanta (top 14 protected) and their 2013 Second Round Pick to Brooklyn (top 40 protected). Own Dallas’s 2013 First Round Pick (top 20 protected), Toronto’s 2013 First Round Pick (1-3 and 15-30 protected) and Charlotte’s 2013 Second Round Pick.
Biggest Addition: Jeremy Lin
Losses: Luis Scola, Kyle Lowry, Goran Dragic, Marcus Camby, Chase Buddinger.
Best Case: Get the #1 overall pick in the upcoming draft. The Rockets figure to have among to be among the favorites to finish near the bottom of the league and thus have a good chance at winning the #1 overall pick.
Worst Case: Mid lottery pick. The Rockets are bad but they are good enough to win enough games to end up in the middle of the lottery instead of towards the top.
Most Likely Case: Top 5 pick. The Rockets won’t have to wait around long to make their selection in the 2013 NBA Draft.
New Orleans Hornets (21-45, missed playoffs)
Headline: After landing the unibrow and securing their future in the Big Easy, the Hornets look to begin the climb out of the western conference cellar
Summary: Conventional wisdom says that if you are near the bottom of the league anyways, you should tank and try and get as high odds as possible to win the #1 overall pick. Well the Hornets were near the bottom of the league but they certainly didn’t tank last season, fighting hard in seemingly every game. The main reason they didn’t win that many was simple, they had virtually no talent. With Anthony Davis in tow, however, they look to move up this year.
Overall Trend: Up, it might not show in their record much this year but the Hornets are much better off than they were a year ago.
Salary: $65.85M (over cap)
2013 NBA Draft Picks: Owe their 2013 Second Round Pick to Philadelphia.
Biggest Addition: Anthony Davis
Losses: Gustavo Ayon, Chris Kaman, Trevor Ariza, Marco Belinelli
Best Case: #1 overall pick. The Hornets will be better this year but they should still be near the bottom of the west. They will have a decent shot at winning their second straight #1 overall pick.
Worst Case: They make shortsighted deals. The worst thing a rebuilding team can do is give loaded contracts to veterans. Here’s to hoping the Hornets won’t do that.
Most Likely Case: Pick in the 5-7 range. The Hornets will be bad again this year but probably just enough better to put them either on the edge of, or just outside of, the top 5.