It’s kind of odd that the once-dreaded Texas Triangle seems overlooked these days, and for good reason. The Rockets’ quick fall from grace (with key losses in Yao Ming and Ron Artest) now leaves them for perhaps an 7th seed at best, and that’s just because they still have most of last year’s team.
But, you have to love newcomer Trevor Ariza’s upside, as he could very well emerge as their go-to guy this year. In a system that will feature him, he will get more responsibility on both ends. Therefore, you can’t count on his stats last year (8.9 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 1.8 apg) as a sign of what’s ahead, because they’re bound to go up. More importantly, Ariza averaged almost two steals per game.
Paired with the scrappy bunch of Shane Battier, Luis Scola, Carl Landry and Aaron Brooks makes the Rockets a fun team to watch.
The Mavericks, meanwhile, are slowly starting to look like the recent Suns teams that just couldn’t get it done. And with a core of players that have been trying for a while now, the lack of success suggests that the team’s composition is not enough to win. True, Dirk and Josh Howard are still two of the best forwards in the West, and they may have bought themselves a couple more chances with the acquisition of Shawn Marion (who does not need plays set for him to produce), but the Mavs aren’t getting any younger.
And finally, the Spurs. While they’re still the best team among the three, and do look considerably better than they did last year, what does the team “on paper” really tell us?
There are still the health question marks surrounding Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan, and how the defense will change with the addition of Antonio McDyess, Theo Ratliff and Richard Jefferson while losing Bruce Bowen and Fabricio Oberto. But RJ’s 19.6 ppg will be welcomed and is certainly an upgrade compared to what Bowen gave them offensively.
With most of the league upgrading, especially the West’s playoff teams, the window for a Texas championship is closing. And while the Spurs still have the best chance, it seems that the power (and hype) has shifted to the Northwest, where Portland, Utah and Denver are looking to take over.
What do you think?
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