NBA Preview: Spurs Hope To Keep Their Grip On the Southwest Division

2011–12 Record: 50–16

WHAT THEY HAVE: One of the greatest coaches in the game in Gregg Popovich and a title-winning trio. Forward Tim Duncan controls the paint, while point guard Tony Parker and guard Manu Ginobili create off the dribble. Guard Danny Green and forward Matt Bonner shoot threes to spread the floor, while forward Kawhi Leonard and guard Stephen Jackson play solid D.

WHAT THEY NEED: A fountain of youth. Despite riding a 20-game winning streak into Game 3 of the conference finals, the Spurs seemed to wear out against the Thunder's young legs.

BOTTOM LINE: Don't underestimate the Spurs. Even with the upstart Thunder and rejuvenated Lakers, this team should win its division again and make a run for the championship.

[Video: NBA rookie photo shoot]

2011–12 Record: 41–25

WHAT THEY HAVE: A tough defense and a pair of big men that can dominate in the paint. Forward Zach Randolph was injured much of last year, so his 20.1 ppg dipped to 11.6. If he can improve his scoring, Randolph and center Marc Gasol will give the Spurs and the Thunder matchup problems. That should free up forward Rudy Gay to create offense from the wing.

WHAT THEY NEED: To get their two most important players in sync. Because Gay was injured two seasons ago and Randolph was out for all but 28 games last year, they haven't spent a lot of time on the court together.

BOTTOM LINE: Memphis should make its third consecutive playoff appearance.

[Photo Gallery: NBA stars with new teams]

2011–12 Record: 36–30

WHAT THEY HAVE: Dirk Nowitzki. The 7-footer's mixture of size and shooting touch is unmatched in the NBA. After 14 years in the league, he is still an elite power forward, scoring 21.6 points and grabbing 6.8 boards per game last year.

WHAT THEY NEED: Help for Dirk. After winning the title two years ago, Dallas has tried to refill its ranks with younger talent. This year, point guard Darren Collison and guard O.J. Mayo replace Jason Kidd and Jason Terry in the backcourt. Center Chris Kaman and forward Elton Brand are key additions up front.

BOTTOM LINE: Dallas has a premier player in Dirk, but to earn a playoff spot, the young frontcourt needs to make a big impact.

2011–12 Record: 34–32

WHAT THEY HAVE: A high-octane backcourt. The Rockets' new guard, NBA sensation Jeremy Lin, showed during the height of Linsanity last season that he could score, run the pick-and-roll and create offense off the dribble. Lin will pair with fellow guard Kevin Martin, who led the team with 17.1 points per game last year.

WHAT THEY NEED: A reliable inside threat. The Rockets have a young starting frontcourt, but one of their first round draft picks — Jeremy Lamb, Royce White, and Terrence Jones — must lend a hand to a thin roster.

BOTTOM LINE: Times may be tough in Houston, but the Rockets are well-positioned to sign a big free agent next off-season.

2011–12 record: 21–45

WHAT THEY HAVE: A star for the future. With quickness and a 7' 5" wingspan, Anthony Davis is an elite shot blocker and on-the-ball defender, so he'll shore up the Hornets' defense. New Orleans also re-signed talented guard Eric Gordon, who will provide scoring from the backcourt.

WHAT THEY NEED: NBA experience. Davis's offensive game lacks polish, and he'll have to get stronger to battle down low. The 10th pick in this year's draft, guard Austin Rivers, will have to create offense for teammates and not just himself.

BOTTOM LINE: Davis's biggest contributions will come on D. But it will be hard for him to turn around the team's fortunes alone.

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