1. Dallas Mavericks
The Mavericks underwent what many would consider a disappointing season, finishing 36-30 with a short playoff stint. During the offseason, Dallas pulled off some interesting signings eventhough they couldn’t secure Deron Williams. Dallas managed to ink O.J. Mayo, Darren Collison and Elton Brand to upstart this group that has the talent to make another postseason run. Dirk Nowitzki will enter his 11th season after averaging 21.6 points and 6.8 rebounds last season. The Mavs will remain as a tough force in their conference because of their experience and respectable weapons on offense.
2. San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs finished with an overall record of 50-16 last season. They’re aged set of stars are collectively succeeding alongside the fresh faces the front office has added. San Antonio loved what they saw coming from Kawhi Leonard during his rookie year, averaging 8.6 points and 5.9 rebounds in the playoffs. The Spurs have one or two more seasons left with this group of vets, with Tim Duncan turning 36 earlier this year. Tony Parker enters his 11th season after putting up 18.3 points and 7.7 assists last year. Things shouldn’t change much in San Antonio, some small additions should keep them fighting for first in their division once again.
3. Memphis Grizzlies
Memphis was eliminated during Game 7 of the first round game against the Clippers. The team’s scoring power forward, Zach Randolph missed several weeks due to injury and wasn’t the same upon his return. The Grizzlies have some sheer talent in Rudy Gay, who put up 19 and 6 all year round. The loss of O.J. Mayo over the summer may hurt, but small signings such as Jerryd Bayless and Wayne Ellington should keep this team in the hunt against mediocre teams. Tony Allen has also earned his starting job and should make the All-Defensive First Team after this season.
4. Houston Rockets
The Houston Rockets laid down the big cash over the summer on Jeremy Lin, hoping he can navigate the Rockets into a post season appearance. Kevin Martin and Chandler Parsons are decent weapons to have around the wing, with Parsons averaging 9.5 points and 4.8 boards in his rookie year. The Rockets have an interesting mix in their front court that includes: Omer Asik, Patrick Patterson, Marcus Morris, Donatas Motiejunas and a few others. Look for the Rockets to make some strides late in the season to stay in the playoff hunt this time around.
5. New Orleans Hornets
The Hornets are going to be a young team to watch develop before our eyes. With praised rookies in Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers, New Orleans will become a competitor in this division sooner than later. New Orleans carries its respectable set of sharpshooters in both Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson. The injury-plagued Gordon played just 9 games last season, but averaged 20.6 points and 3.4 assists in those games. The Hornets also have some decent depth when it comes to their bench, players such as Robin Lopez and Jason Smith will fill in their front court well.