Starting with our tour of the West, we begin in the Southwest, or Texas + 2. The aging (as usual) Spurs, the on fire Dallas Mavs, the highly unstable Houston Rockets, the surprising and very young Memphis Grizzlies and the New Orleans Hornets, trying to cope without Chris Paul, in what is probably the most evenly matched division in basketball.
For our previous posts – Atlantic division, Central division, Southeast division.
Chris Paul, New Orleans Hornets
Although 2009-2010 won’t be exactly a season Paul would like to remember with him being injured half the time, when he is/was healthy, he was the best point guard out there, yes, even better than someone in Utah. Paul leads the league in assists per game with 11.2 and has the best assist per turnover ration in the league (4.42), along with 20.4 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.3 steals per game while shooting 50.4% from the field and 42% from the three. Yes folks, the 6’0 dude from Wake Forest does it all, and there’s still a chance he’ll be healthy for some playoff time, if the Hornets get there. They probably won’t.
Caron Butler, Dallas Mavericks
The first of two Mavs on this list, who look like the hottest team in the league since the trade with the Wizards that brought Butler along with Haywood and Stevenson to Dallas. Butler was part of a fantastic offensive trio in DC along with Arenas and Jamison, but Arenas single handily destroyed everything around him, and the Wizards decided to send everyone away. Butler is scoring 16.9 points with 6.3 rebounds per game and is a great addition for Dallas, on both ends of the court, suddenly looking like (maybe) the best team out West.
Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks
The 31 year old German mis-match nightmare just continues with what he’s been doing for about a decade, and that’s pretty much everything on a Dallas franchise that got a hell of a lot better after the trade deadline. Nowitzki’s numbers – 25.1 points (8th in the league) with 7.7 rebounds per game, although his three point shooting has continued with its gradual decline over the last few seasons, currently standing at 34.8%. Still second in the West, it seems like (again) the last opportunity for Dallas under his leadership to go deep in the playoffs and get their first NBA title.
Zach Randolph, Memphis Grizzlies
Has Zach Randolph finally found a place he fits in, a place he’s liked? Considered to be one of the leagues biggest ego maniacs in recent years, Randolph’s numbers aren’t new (20.7 points, 11.8 rebounds, second in the league). It’s the team success around him, as the young Grizzlies might make the playoffs this season for the first time without Pau Gasol on the team. He also got to play in his first all-star last month after nine years in the NBA. He might be back in the post season for the first time since 2003 (Portland), and like they showed against Boston last night (111-91), they’re a very dangerous team, home advantage or not. And speaking of Gasol…
Center – Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies
After a solid rookie campaign in 2008-2009 Marc Gasol continued improving this year, currently averaging 14.8 points with 9.5 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game, fitting in much better with his teammates and with NBA basketball in general. He might not be an all-star caliber player like his older brother but he’s a very good center and with lots of room for improvement on a team that’s probably the most pleasant surprise in the league this season and with a very bright future ahead.