2011-2012 NBA Southwest Division Odds and Predictions – Favorites, Contenders and Sleepers to Win the NBA Southwest Division: Without a doubt, the toughest and deepest division in the NBA last season was the Southwest in the Western Conference. All five teams finished above .500, and four teams made the playoffs. Both totals were the most of any division. Not to mention the fact that the San Antonio Spurs won the division with a conference-high 61 victories. No other division in either conference could boast the top-to-bottom depth of the Southwest.

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2011-2012 NBA Southwest Division Odds and Preview

  1. Dallas Mavericks (57-25 last season)

After failing to win the division, the Mavericks caught fire come playoff time and steamrolled their way through the Western Conference. Dallas finished the job by taking down the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals. Granted, the roster isn’t getting any younger, but Dirk Nowitzki showed last year that he can carry a team to a title. Jason Kidd, Jason Terry and Shawn Marion bring plenty of veteran experience, and Rudy Fernandez will provide energy off the bench. Losing center Tyson Chandler will hurt, but the Mavericks’ window to win another championship is open at least another year.

  1. San Antonio Spurs (61-21 last season)

San Antonio compiled the conference’s best record and won the Southwest Division, only to be knocked out in the first round of the playoffs by division rival Memphis. The Spurs looked old and slow, and the roster isn’t exactly younger this season. Veterans Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili lead the team, but all three have to play limited minutes to avoid getting burned out. Ultimately, the success of the Spurs will be determined by the role players. Gary Neal has the chance to be a solid weapon from the perimeter, and Danny Green has the athleticism to be a force in transition and on defense. Rookie forward Kawhi Leonard could also make a quick impact, especially when it comes to rebounding. The playoffs are almost a certainty, but San Antonio’s years as the division’s top team could be numbered.

  1. Memphis Grizzlies (46-36 last season)

The Grizzlies played the role of Cinderella during the playoffs last season, taking out the top-seeded Spurs in the opening round as the No. 8 seed. Memphis has a chance to improve its position this season with the core of the team returning. Mike Conley Jr. finally found his stride as the team’s point guard, Zach Randolph emerged as the team’s emotional leader, and Rudy Gay reached superstar status. Throw in Marc Gasol’s physical presence in the paint, Tony Allen’s defensive skills, and O.J. Mayo’s scoring off the bench, and the Grizzlies have more than enough firepower. Memphis should easily make the playoffs.

  1. Houston Rockets (43-39 last season)

The year’s of Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady leading the Rockets are long gone, but the team exceeded expectations last year. Kevin Martin continues to be a dynamic player on offense, and Luis Scola is one of the more skilled big men in the NBA. Kyle Lowry impressed with his play at the point guard spot after injuries forced him into the starting lineup, and he will run the show full-time this year. Houston was the first team out of the Western Conference playoffs last year, and the will likely be on the bubble again. Chase Budinger, Jordan Hill and rookie Marcus Morris are three players that need to step up if the Rockets are going to get over the hump.

  1. New Orleans Hornets (46-36 last season)

Although the Hornets finished third in the Southwest Division last season and made the playoffs, there is a good chance point guard Chris Paul won’t be around for a repeat performance. A trade to the Los Angeles Lakers was vetoed, but New Orleans is going to continue to pursue deals. The Hornets know Paul isn’t going to resign with the team after this season, and while they probably won’t get equal value, losing him after the year means getting nothing in return. If Paul leaves, Emeka Okafor becomes the top player on the team. The Hornets won’t make it far with Okafor leading the way.

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