THE NBA season is fast approaching! So there is no better time than the present to analyse each of the 30 teams with tipoff etching closer every day. Read each of the division by division primers to know what to expect from the 2017-18 NBA season!

Atlantic Divison
Pacific Division
Central Division

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Dallas Mavericks

Roster Changes
A shuffle of role players and pieces is basically all that Dallas managed in the offseason. They did however add another transcendent talent in Dennis Smith from NC State with the 9th pick in last years draft. The Mavs are hoping he can be their point guard of the future and help soften the blow when Dirk retires, likely at the end of the season.

Three Questions That Matter

1.Can Dennis Smith Jr Lead The Team In Scoring?
IN Las Vegas Smith showcased his talents scoring the ball averaging over 17 points a game. During his freshman season, he was able to score as well including an epic 32-point performance against Duke. With the ball in his hands most of the time in his first pro season there is a chance that his scoring prowess will see him beat out his new teammate Harrison Barnes for the teams scoring title.

2. How Will The Nerlens Noel Saga Unfold?
AFTER a tumultuous back and forth, Noel returns to Dallas for a second season. Unable to work out a multi-year contract with the Mavericks, Noel will make $4.1 million this year, which given his potential is a steal. If the two sides can’t work out another deal then there is a chance he walks as an unrestricted free agent next offseason.

3. What Can We Expect From Harrison Barnes In Year 2?
BARNES averaged a ‘hollow’ 19.2 point a game last year on a team that won just 33 games. If Dallas is going to take a step towards returning to the playoffs then Barnes will need to expand his game and become more than just a one-dimensional scorer. Growth from the former Warrior will help to not only benefit the team in the long term but it will also ease some of the pressure surrounding Dennis Smith.

Record: 35-47
UNFORTUNATELY, the Mavericks seem destined for another lottery season with little growth from a season ago. It may not be a bad thing though as adding another young star to their core will help soften the blow when Dirk eventually retires, which could very well be at the end of the 2017-18 campaign.

2017 NBA Preview - Southwest Division 1Image from basketballsocietyonline.com

Houston Rockets

Roster Changes
IF you have been living under a rock their is a new All-Star in Houston. He goes by Chris Paul and with him, he brings 8x All-NBA nods, over 8,000 assists and a chance to take down Golden State. Acquiring him from the Clippers changed their roster though, with the Rockets sacrificing plenty of their depth to land Paul. They did however add the likes of Tarik Black and P.J. Tucker to help boost their second unit.

Three Questions That Matter

1. Just How Much Will They Miss Beverley’s In Your Face Moxie?
HE won’t go down as one of the greatest players to play in the NBA, but Patrick Beverly did have something you can’t coach. His hustle and competitive drive helped energise Houston and gave Harden the perfect backcourt running man to drive the team forward. Without him, you have to wonder if the teams ‘heart and soul’ left as well with their spiritual leader wearing a Clippers jersey

2. What Can P.J. Tucker Bring?
EVEN though Trevor Ariza will start at SF for Houston his back-up, P.J. Tucker will demand a high amount of minutes himself. In his first season as a Rocket, the team will be hoping he can provide that defensive prowess and drive that saw him be successful in Phoenix and Toronto.

2017 NBA Preview - Southwest Division 2Image from chron.com

3. Can Harden and Paul Co-Exist?
THE biggest question around the franchise is if the two superstars can play together. With Mike D’Antonio opting to use Harden as a point guard and primary ball handler last season, the team was vastly more successful, while Harden himself put forth an MVP calibre campaign. Chris Paul has played with the ball in his hands for a dozen years, so he will need to alter his habits slightly as well. I think the two can figure it out, but it is still an interesting debate.

Record: 60-22
EVERYONE may be expecting a slow start while chemistry gels between this revamped Houston team, but I’m tipping the opposite. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if Houston opens the season as the best team in the NBA. They have three-point shooting, rim protection, versatility and the stars to deliver with the game on the line. They’ll be the second-best team in the league.

Memphis Grizzlies

Roster Changes
THE offseason saw the end of the ‘Grind and Grind’ era in Memphis. Loyal servants Zach Randolph (Kings) and Tony Allen (Pelicans) moved on with Vince Carter opting to sign elsewhere too. They brought in Tyreke Evans, Ben McLemore and a few rookies as well as bringing Mario Chalmers back to the team for a second stint after his injury hiatus.

Three Questions That Matter

1. Is This Still A Playoff Team?
THERE is no doubt this team isn’t the same squad that has rolled to seven straight playoff appearances. They still have two underrated stars on their roster and if they can get more out of their new pieces they could very well scrap into a lowe seeded postseason spot.

2. Will Chandler Parsons Stay On The Floor?
PLAYING in just 161 out of a possible 246 games in the last three seasons the verdict is out on what Parsons can do in 2017-18. He appeared in just 34 games for Memphis last season after dealing with injuries for the majority of the year. When healthy he looms as a great third option for the Grizzlies and will help them potentially chase a playoff spot. But even if he can be healthy he still needs to show he wasn’t a flash in the pan player or he could find himself without a job.

3. Should They Consider Trading Conley And/Or Gasol?
THE Grizzlies have reached the end of an era, and the question remains is it time to fully move on. Marc Gasol and Mike Conley are talented stars that can potentially lift a fringe lottery team into the top of the conference and it might make sense to deal them for first round picks and expiring contracts.

2017 NBA Preview - Southwest Division 3Image from espn.com

Record: 39-43
GIVEN how ruthless the West is shaping up to be there just isn’t a scenario I can imagine where Memphis wins over half of their games. Injuries have been a concern in the past to most of their big name guys and they lack the ‘real’ depth to survive should someone go down. It’s sad because those Grizzlies teams of the past half a dozen years were fun to watch, but they missed their championship window and now seem destined to restart.

New Orleans Pelicans

Roster Changes
AFTER trading for DeMarcus Cousins at the deadline last year most of the changes in NOLA this year involved role players. Rajon Rondo landed on the roster after his rocky ending in Chicago with Tony Allen also signing with his division rivals.

Three Questions That Matter

1. Can The Twin Towers Work?
MAYBE the biggest question in the entire league. Can ‘Boogie’ and ‘The Brow’ figure it out. Both are perennial All-Stars and may be the best two big men in today’s NBA. Together the form a formidable frontcourt with the potential to build something real in New Orleans. After scrambling and failing to find the right supporting cast for Anthony Davis so far in his career, the front office is praying that Cousins can produce and they can build their franchise around them.

2. Should They Aim Upwards Or Downwards?
YOU have to wonder even with the two talented bigs, just where is this roster at. Davis and Holiday are on the books for at least another few seasons, but Cousins is a free agent this offseason. Should they look at moving Davis for a litter or lottery picks (I’m looking at you Boston) and letting Cousins walk? Or should they build around those three and hope that another star or a glut of role players can see them build a championship contender?

3. Who Can Hit A Three-Pointer?
WHILE the numbers from a season ago will tell you this team was a middle of the road team shooting the deep ball, it’s hard to imagine them producing at the same level this year. They traded Buddy Hield (39.1% from three last year) to Sacramento for Cousins and brought in clankers Tony Allen (28% from three for his career) and Rajon Rondo (30.4% for his career). It doesn’t bode well this teams spacing issues and give Davis/Cousins room to operate down low.

Record: 38-44
THE top heavy Pelicans team can expect another season in the lottery. Even if Boogie and the Brow click and Holiday stays healthy they are talent thin beyond that with a bunch of role pieces and rookies chewing up the rest of the minutes. I hope that they can resign Cousins and it works between him and Davis, but another losing season in New Orleans might mean the end of Davis’ tenure.

2017 NBA Preview - Southwest Division 4Image from givemesport.com

San Antonio Spurs

Roster Changes
SAN Antonio desperately tried to find a buyer for LaMarcus Aldridge, but after failing to do so got the band back together again. They virtually swapped Jonathon Simmons for Rudy gay and his bung achilles while making some small tweaks to the supporting cast.

Three Questions That Matter

1.Is It Possible That Kawhi Can Keep Improving?
AFTER annually bettering his game, NBA fans are wondering just how good Kawhi Leonard can really be. Emerging as the best two way player in the league today, Leonard was on the verge of winning MVP last year averaging over 25 PPG on a 61 win team. If ‘The Klaw’ can take another step in his development in year seven he very well may claim the first MVP award of his career.

2. Patty Mills = Future Point Guard?
THERE is no denying that the Spurs are on the verge of losing members two and three of their superstar trio. After Duncan’s retirement last offseason Parker and Ginobili are close to calling time on their careers which means San Antonio needs to start planning for the future. They did so at the point guard spot resigning Patty Mills to a four year, $50 million dollar extension. With Parker sidelined to start the season the starting spot is Mills to lose and he now has a chance to show he deserves to be a big part of their future.

3. Can Aldridge Do Something? Anything?
LAMARCUS Aldridge’s arrival in San Antonio two years ago looked like a masterstroke by the franchise, with the former Portland big man expected to offer Kawhi a superstar sidekick. While his averages of 17 PPG and 8 RPG seem respectable, Aldridge has shown in the playoffs that he can go missing and struggle mightily. If the Spurs are to remain championship contenders than Aldridge needs to not only become that stable No. 2 guy, he needs to do it in May and June as well.

Record: 53-29
RULE No. 1 in the NBA, never count out Gregg Popovich and the Spurs. While I expect them to feature atop the conference for the 923rd consecutive season, this may be the year that they finally start to show signs of decline. An ageing supporting cast a HUGE reliance on Leonard’s health will see them win 50+ games but settle for the 3rd or 4th seed in the playoffs.

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