We close out our previews of the Southwest Division by asking the Crossover Chronicles writers their thoughts on the big questions in the Southwest Division.
1. What is Anthony Davis' ceiling for potential? What is his floor?
Jeff Garcia: Not many quality big men come in the NBA Draft. Last one is arguably Tim Duncan. He reminds me of when David Robinson came into the league. Many thought he would be only a defensive player but he proved otherwise. Now I am not saying he is the next Robinson or Duncan but Davis will definitely have a huge impact for the Hornets. His ceiling is high and can be another Tyson Chandler but with more offensive fire power.
Philip Rossman-Reich: Anthony Davis actually reminds me a lot of Dwight Howard when he was a rookie. Still sort of rail thin with a developing offensive game and a strong foundation in defense. I think this really sets his floor high as typically defense is the big thing rookies have to learn. I could see him developing and growing into a Dwight Howard-type player, but at worse, I agree with Jeff that he could be a Tyson Chandler-type player with a bit more offense. This year will have some speed bumps though as he learns the NBA game.
Trevor Zickgraf: Anthony Davis' ceiling is in the Kevin Garnett/Tim Duncan stratosphere. His combination of mobility and skill are close to unheard of and he has the perfect coach in Monty Williams to help him grow and mature. His floor is Marcus Camby with a jump shot, which is still pretty damn good.
2. What does Jeremy Lin need to do to live up to the hype and contract from the past year?
Jeff: Well his job became a lot easier with James Harden with him in the backcourt. With the two guards running the floor, Lin will benefit from having Harden on the floor which will allow him to score, Defenses will have to honor Harden's offensive capability, leaving Lin to create havoc for opposing teams. Living up to that contract will be a bit easier.
Philip: I think Lin is going to have a difficult time living up to all the hype he (or the media) built around him in New York. I think ultimately the Rockets regret giving him that deal. Lin can still grow though and prove me wrong. He has to continue to play within himself and be OK with being a game manager. Having James Harden in the lineup will help as that should take the ball-handling duties off of Lin. That should help him reduce hsi turnovers. He also needs to have the freedom — and not be afraid — to take over games like he did in New York. If Houston lets him do that, things could really work out.
Trevor: I'm not sure Lin can live up to his hype, because it's at a ridiculously high level (which is now way his fault by the way), but if he can produce like he did last year while cutting down his turnovers he'll live up to his contract. Getting James Harden to help him with ball handling responsibilities is going to benefit Lin a lot.
3. Who will step up and replace O.J. Mayo off the bench or in the Grizzlies lineup?
Jeff: Jerryd Bayless. Bayless showed what he can do when giving time on the floor while in Portland. He can create his own shot, solid shooter, and athletic. And with Gasol and Randolph on the floor, the two bigs will open space for him to get to the rim for easy buckets.
Philip: Wayne Ellington. Ellington was drafted with the 28th pick in the 2009 Draft by Minnesota and was, perhaps, asked to do more than he could. Certainly that was not a great environment for a young player to grow in as all those players selected in that era of Timberwolves basketball have sort of passed on (except Kevin Love… ironically, O.J. Mayo may have dodged a bullet). Ellington though is a solid shooter and could be a great fit as a role player. He is versatile enough to play the two or the three and expectations are low enough that he could be a good bench contributor for the Grizzlies this year.
Trevor: Jerryd Bayless I think is going to do a pretty good Mayo impersonation. The Grizzlies better hope his three point shooting from last year wasn't a statistical outlier.
4. Did the Mavericks do enough to get back into title contention? What do you think of the team's flexibility for the future and what it means for this year?
Jeff: No though their moves were solid. They cleared space for Dwight Howard but did not sign the big man. They are older, Dirk Nowitzki is out of action for a while, and added Kaman, Mayo, Brand, and Collison will definitely get them some wins, but it will take time for this team to gel. In reality, it is practically a brand new team. They do have flexibility go the future, but will Howard leave the Lakers if the team is successful?
Philip: After watching Dallas last night, we may want to amend our answers (eds. note: Jeff wrote his answer before the season started). But I think the Mavericks are probably not too much improved from last year. They may have taken a step back. Dallas should remain a scrappy bunch. I think the team showed that last night as Darren Collison and O.J. Mayo played extremely hard and the team looks already in sync and ready to fight. Dirk Nowitzki and Chris Kaman should make them better. But this is not a championship team. And I am still not sure if the Mavericks have planned much further than next year's free agency period. What happens if they strike out then?
Trevor: Beating the Lakers last night made me pause a little bit, but no the Mavs are not title contenders. If they were in the East they'd contend for home court advantage, but in the West they're still going to have problems making the playoffs, especially with Dirk Nowitzki out for a month and a half.
5. What do the Spurs need to do to compete for a championship in the new West?
Jeff: Simply, health. The team goes as the "Big 3" go. Remember, this is the same team that won 20-games in a row last season, won 50 games in a locked out season, and were within two wins of the NBA Finals. In essence, why fix what's not broken? The team is coming back pretty much the same, and Kawhi Leonard should have a breakout season. Add all this up and the Spurs are right in the thick of things in the title hunt. Then again, haven't we learned to never count out the team with coach Popovich and Duncan still plugging away?
Philip: Tim Duncan has to find the fountain of youth for the Playoffs. The Spurs two main competition in the West are both very very big, as compared to say the Heat whome the Spurs match up better with. San Antonio will need a good effort from Duncan in those big games to counteract Serge Ibaka/Kendrick Perkins and Dwight Howard/Pau Gasol. This should not be overlooked because while the Spurs have gotten smaller with DeJuan Blair and Boris Diaw playing power forward (or center, since Duncan does not like being called a center) the main competition for the Lakers has gotten bigger. That makes Duncan being a threat that much more critical for San Antonio.
Trevor: The Thunder helped the Spurs out by trading James Harden. I think San Antonio has pole position for the number one seed right now, which means they'll likely only have to play Oklahoma City or the Los Angeles Lakers in the playoffs. So they're title contenders now. They very well could get out of the West but beating Miami in the Finals is another story altogether.
Crossover Chronicles Southwest Division Predictions
How will the Southwest Division shake out? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below or on Twitter by tweeting us @CrossoverNBA. We are wrapping up the preview weeks with the Southeast Division this week.