Sunday 22 October 2017 / 07:01 PM

ALL-STAR BREAK REVIEW: SOUTHWEST DIVISION

We’ve reached the All-Star Break, that wonderful halfway point of the NBA season where teams get over a week off, things get festive, and the trade deadline looms. Teams now have to look at whether they’ll make that playoff push, or head down the tank.

And to get you caught up to speed, we’ll be reviewing how each team has stacked up this season compared to expectations, and where things are heading after the All-Star Break. This time, the Southwest Division.

San Antonio Spurs (43-13, 2nd in West)
Preseason Pick: 3rd in West

Well, the Spurs are still the Spurs. After demolishing the Warriors on opening night, they’ve steadily sat at the second spot in the West. They’ve got the speed and offensive efficiency of a year ago, and Kawhi Leonard is getting better every single day. There isn’t a huge difference in the talent level from a year ago, but they may not need it to keep their distance from everyone in the West and locking up that 2 seed.

Biggest Question in Second Half: Can they give the Warriors a fight? While it’s nice that the Spurs are doing as well as they always have, they still don’t look any better. They are without Duncan, and didn’t really add anyone to make them much better to the level that Durant was added to the Warriors. And that was never the expectation, but if they weren’t good enough to make the Western Finals a year ago, do they stand any better chance now?

Worse or Better Than We Thought: Same

Houston Rockets (40-18, 3rd in West)
Preseason Pick: 6th in West

The greatest show in the NBA currently resides in Houston. After a big time rebuild and getting rid of Dwight Howard, the Rockets have opened up their offense around James Harden up top and a new head coach. They are scoring in bunches, only behind the Warriors in their scoring per game. And Harden is an MVP candidate, and may even be the best point guard in the league. They are threatening the Warriors and Spurs.

Biggest Question in the Second Half: Will their defense be enough? The Rockets pretty much rely on outscoring everyone, and their defense is the fifth worse in the league. That won’t cut it in the postseason, especially with the Spurs and Warriors good enough to play with them. They need to be able to stop someone, and it’s yet to be seen if they could.

Worse or Better Than We Thought: Better

Memphis Grizzlies (34-24, 6th in West)
Preseason Pick: 10th in West

Grit and Grind has a new look this year. Marc Gasol is still showing out, and Zach Randolph is looking good. But that’s nothing compared to how well Mike Conley has played. The Grizzlies are going to be pesky in the postseason, and that defense is playing at levels we all expected them to. We keep expecting them to fall off with their age, but it looks like they’re as good as ever.

Biggest Question in the Second Half: Is Chandler Parsons going to wake up? The Grizzlies made a splash in free agency by getting Parsons to agree to come to the land of no threes. He was supposed to reinvent the offense, and give them a shooter that could spread the floor for the first time in their history with this lineup. That hasn’t happened, but if he wakes up, this is a DEADLY team.

Worse or Better Than We Thought: Better

New Orleans Pelicans (23-34, 11th in West)
Preseason Pick: 13th in West

Forget everything I was going to tell you about the injury-prone, under performing New Orleans Pelicans. Everything I was going to say about how they were wasting the prime years of Anthony Davis by getting the man no help. Because they totally did that, and stole DeMarcus Cousins from the Kings. This pairing, along with Jrue Holiday, I’m not sold on. But you can’t say it’s not big time help. And should catapult them into the race for the 8th spot in the Western playoffs.

Biggest Question in the Second Half: How does a Boogie-AD frontcourt look? These two are uber talented, there is no question. I mean, they are both averaging 27 and 10+ boards per game. But their touches are going to go down, and will it work? And how do they look against some of the better running teams in the NBA? This is going to be fascinating.

Worse or Better Than We Thought: Better

Dallas Mavericks (22-34, 13th in West)
Preseason Pick: 9th in West

The Mavericks wanted badly to contend, and they aren’t too far out of a playoff spot. But still, this looks like a team in the midst of a rebuild. They are going to be active at the trade deadline, but what’s enough to keep them going? The Mavs have some holes everywhere, and could definitely benefit from tanking with the Warriors and Spurs as good as they are.

Biggest Question of the Second Half: Well, will they tank? Mark Cuban is stubborn. He’s been a big proponent of not tanking and keeping his integrity. But this is how the game is played in the NBA. Will he keep trying to rebuild on the fly, or will he finally hit the reset button and send some of these contracts out of town?

Worse or Better Than We Thought: Worse

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About the author

Austin Albertson

Austin is CBS' senior NFL and NBA analyst, bringing you commentary on everything between the lines and inside the hashes, from the film room to the scoreboard.

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