Apr 14, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; The video board displays the New Orleans Pelicans logo following the final home game of the season and the New Orleans Hornets franchise against the Dallas Mavericks at the New Orleans Arena. The Mavericks defeated the Hornets 107-89. The game was the final home game for the Hornets franchise as they will be rebranded as the New Orleans Pelicans starting next season. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Offseason Improvement Rankings: Southwest Division

Last season the Suns were the worst team in the Western Conference and the fourth-worst overall. They earned the fifth pick in the 2013 draft with that miserable season. This coming season, the Suns will exciting and more interesting, but also worse, because almost all the other teams improved themselves. This could give the Suns one of the top picks in a potentially top-5 draft in NBA history. I asked editors around FanSided’s NBA Division for the low-down on their team.

Disclaimer: It took a while to coordinate with everyone and with some people I couldn’t get in touch, so I had to assess the offseasons of some teams. Also, I had to update some teams who continued signing and trading players after these were written.

  • Houston Rockets – by Phillip Pyle (Space City Scoop)

 This offseason was the culmination of what Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey had been plotting since his arrival in 2007. At last the Rockets have two All-Stars with the addition of 3-time Defensive Player of the Year, Dwight Howard. The Rockets didn’t stop there. Also added to the roster were Omri Casspi, Reggie Williams, Robert Covington, and B.J. Young, all capable of making three pointers consistently. Rockets retained Aaron Brooks, Fransisco Garcia, and drafted point guard Isaiah Canaan with the 34th pick in the 2013 NBA Draft.

Next for the Rockets is incorporating Howard into a fast-paced three point loving offense. Dwight single-handedly out scored the Rockets entire team in the paint by nearly 200 points, and last year he was marred by injuries. With coach Kevin McHale and the hiring of Rockets Hall-of-Famer Hakeem Olajuwon as “Center Coach” there is plenty of expectation in regard to Howard’s offensive play. If the Rockets are able to get center Omer Asik to play alongside Howard the Rockets could play a starting five consisting of Howard, Asik, Chandler Parsons, James Harden, and Jeremy Lin. This is the year the Rockets and the city of Houston have been waiting on, at last the new age is upon us.

  • Dallas Mavericks- Rodney Fisher  (The Smoking Cuban)

The Dallas Mavericks began their offseason with high hopes of finally landing the big name free agent, but like last year it didn’t happen. The Mavs moved quickly to upgrade their roster in hopes of returning to the playoffs the upcoming season. Coach Rick Carlisle has been adamant that they needed players who can create their own shot. The answer was adding nine year veteran guard Monta Ellis. They also struggled greatly with their point guard play last season and addressed that need first by signing Jose Calderon and drafting Shane Larkin. Samuel Dalembert was signed to bring a more rebound and defense minded option to play alongside Dirk Nowitzki. This formula worked before with Tyson Chandler. The Mavericks brought back Brandan Wright, Shawn Marion, and Vince Carter to keep the cohesiveness of the team. The biggest surprise however may be the addition of Gersson Rosas as general manager. Rosas brings a new dynamic with an analytic approach that will shape the roster in the future.

  • Spurs –  Michael Rehome (Air Alamo)

This offseason the San Antonio Spurs did manage two get their hands on a couple of free agents.  First act of duty for San Antonio though was to resign Manu Ginobili and Tiago Splitter.  There were many teams that were interested in Tiago and with him being a restricted free agent, and a young seven-footer, there was no way that the Spurs would let him go without giving him a contract in which he could not refuse.  He resigned without any issues as well as Manu Ginobili for another two-years.

As free agency hit, there were some names thrown out there that the Spurs were interested in, Andrei Kirilenko, Kenyon Martin, Antwan Jamison just to name a few.  Though neither of the names mentioned signed with the Spurs, they did happen to pick-up Marco Belinelli as well as Jeff Pendergraph.

Belinelli, 6-foot-5, 195 pounds, has played professionally since 2002.  Last season, the Italian guard played for the Chicago Bulls where he appeared in 73 games, averaging 9.6 points, 2.0 assists and 1.9 rebounds in 25.8 minutes.  He will provide some quality minutes off the bench for San Antonio, possibly a back-up to Kawhi Leonard.

Jeff Pendergraph, as stated above, also came to an agreement with the Spurs, on a two-year deal. Pendergraph a 6-foot-9, 250 pound forward just finished his third year in the league.  The past two season he was playing for the Indiana Pacers where he appeared in 37 games while averaging 3.9 points, 2.8 rebounds in just 10 minutes per game.

Belinelli and Pendergraph both bring their own style of play to San Antonio.  I assure you that Head Coach Gregg Popovich will know how to use these two, as well as get the best out of them.

The signing of Pendergraph would make one to believe that the San Antonio Spurs are done with free agency but as we know in this league anything can happen.  There have been rumors of possible sign-and-trades, but nothing else has come from those rumors.

  • Grizzlies – Timothy Brown (Beale Street Bears)

Not much has happened for the Grizzlies this offseason, especially when compared with other teams. To an extent, that’s intentional: the team was over the cap going into the offseason, and last year was a franchise best for this Memphis team. With so little flexibility, the team was probably hoping that small changes, a new organizational structure, and time for growth is all the team needs to leap to competitor status.

For the most part, the Grizzlies have executed on that: they traded Darrell Arthur for Kosta Koufos and re-signed Jon Leuer, moves that open up the bench for the frontcourt significantly, which was a big problem last season. Re-signing Tony Allen, the Grindfather, keeps the team’s identity in check (as does drafting Jamaal Franklin, dubbed “The Grindson”). Not extending coach Lionel Hollins’ contract and hiring defensive assistance Dave Joerger as head also gives the front office the kind of shift in organization structure that they think might propel the team forward.

It is a bit strange, however, that the team has yet to fill the massive gap in their offense; their three point shooting. The Grizzlies are a horrific three-point shooting team and as a result, the Spurs were able to suffocate their big-man core in the playoffs to sweep Memphis.

The Grizzlies have marginally improved, and that’ll be nice for fans who want to see their team in the second round and higher, but it’s strange and frustrating to see the team not fill the one hole it needs to really become a legitimate contender (Since Timothy wrote this Memphis signed three-point expert Mike Miller).

  • New Orleans Pelicans

The newly-named Pelicans went pretty big this offseason. On draft night, they traded their seventh-pick (Nerlens Noel) and filler to Philadelphia in return for all-star point guard Jrue Holiday.  They added former rookie of the year Tyreke Evans jettisoning him from NBA purgatory in Sacramento (since Chris Webber was there nothing has happened). To get Evans in the three-way trade, they sent Robin Lopez to Portland for rookie defensive center Jeff Withey. The Pelicans also sent Greivis Vasquez to the Kings, since there was no need for him with the arrival of Holiday. Anthony Davis has improved and they added shooter Anthony Morrow. This team is poised to at least contend for one of those final playoff spots in the Western Conference this upcoming season.

So, of the five teams in the division, The Rockets improved from eighth seed to at least fifth or sixth seed with the addition of Dwight Howard, maybe even higher. The Pelicans went from the seventh-worst team to one that could potentially make the playoffs.

Tags: Basketball Dallas Mavericks Houston Rockets Memphis Grizzles New Orleans Pelicans Offseason Phoenix Suns San Antonio Spurs Sports

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