The Favorite: SAN ANTONIO SPURS
This one is close because of the unbelievable offseason the Houston Rockets have had, but you have to take the proven commodity and nobody has proven more than Greg Popovich, Tim Duncan and the Spurs. They return Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili and should see even more improvement from swingman Kawhi Leonard, guard Danny Green and big man Tiago Splitter, who the team re-signed in the offseason.
The Tanker(s): NONE
There really isn’t one in this division. The Spurs and Grizzlies played in the western conference finals while Houston made the postseason as well. Dallas was 41-41 and spent money to improve. Plus, the Pelicans should be much improved after the additions they made in the offseason.
Division MVP: DWIGHT HOWARD
When Howard was healthy with the Orlando Magic, he developed into one of the five best players in basketball. He was the league’s best interior defender and rebounder and averaged over 20 points per game. He took a Magic team that had no other star power to the 2009 NBA Finals and the 2010 Eastern Conference Finals. If Howard is indeed healthy, he could have the best season of his career. He’s never played with a player near the caliber of James Harden.
The “Real” Division MVP: DWIGHT HOWARD
When healthy, Howard is the best player in this division. Harden, Parker, Duncan and Grizzlies center Marc Gasol are next in line.
Team To Watch: NEW ORLEANS PELICANS
The Pelicans made a big splash in the offseason, bringing in all star point Jrue Holiday for the Philadelphia 76ers and former Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans from the Sacramento Kings. Their roster is solid with former top overall pick Anthony Davis, the underrated Ryan Anderson up front. They also brought in veteran Greg Stiemsma to join Jason Smith and rookie Jeff Withey as backups up front. Al-Farouq Aminu and Anthony Morrow are solid wings and Eric Gordon is an explosive scorer when healthy.
Player To Watch: TYREKE EVANS
Evans has always been an extremely talented player. During his rookie season, he won Rookie of the Year and put up numbers that only LeBron James topped as a rookie. Pelicans head man Monty Williams is going to use Evans off of the bench and he says he’s perfectly fine with that. Still, it will be interesting to see how Evans actually handles. He’s a nice option off of the bench because he can play as a point guard or off of the ball. Plus, he can provide a nice scoring boost if the starters struggle or help extend a lead if they don’t.
SCIC’s Division Champ: HOUSTON ROCKETS
The Spurs will probably take plenty of nights off to rest their veteran players and the younger Rockets won’t need to. The Rockets have done an excellent job of building depth in a fairly short period of time. They have Harden and Howard as the stars of their team, but have other good complimentary players like point guards Patrick Beverly, Aaron Brooks and Jeremy Lin, swingman Chandler Parsons, who has become an excellent shooter and solid all-around player. They are deep behind Howard with Omer Asik and Marcus Camby and have brought in a couple of shooters, who will inevitably be open because of Harden and Howard. This is a much deeper team than the Spurs.