SOUTHWEST DIVISION

SAN ANTONIO SPURS

LAST SEASON: 58-24, lost to Miami Heat 4-3 in the NBA Finals.

STARTING FIVE: G Tony Parker (20.3 points, 7.6 assists, 52.2 percent FG), G Danny Green (10.5 points, 3.1 rebounds, 42.9 percent 3s), F Kawhi Leonard (11.9 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.7 steals), F Tim Duncan (17.8 points, 9.9 rebounds, 2.7 blocks), C Tiago Splitter (10.3 points, 6.4 rebounds, 56.0 percent FG).

KEY ADDITIONS: G Marco Belinelli (free agent, Bulls).

KEY LOSSES: G Gary Neal (free agent, Bucks), assistant coach Mike Budenholzer (head coach, Hawks), assistant coach Brett Brown (head coach, 76ers).

COACH: Gregg Popovich, 18th season with Spurs, 905-423.

San Antonio Spurs shooting guard Danny Green (4) drives between Atlanta Hawks shooting guard Kyle Korver (26) and Jeff Teague in the first half of a
San Antonio Spurs shooting guard Danny Green (4) drives between Atlanta Hawks shooting guard Kyle Korver (26) and Jeff Teague in the first half of a preseason NBA basketball game, Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013 in Atlanta. ((AP Photo/John Bazemore))

EYES ON: Manu Ginobili. Parker is the engine, Duncan is the conscience and Popovich the brains of the Spurs. But Ginobili is the heart and soul. But of the Big Three, he has shown the most signs of slowing down. As a 35-year-old last season, Ginobili's statistics dropped significantly in every major offensive category other than assists. He struggled with injuries and simply wasn't able to conjure the same type of magic as consistently as he did in the past. He was spectacular in Game 5 of the NBA Finals, with 24 points and 10 assists to put the Spurs ahead 3-2 in the series. But he was nowhere to be found in Games 6 and 7 as the Spurs let their fifth title slip away.


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He signed a two-year contract to return to San Antonio, but the Spurs added Belinelli to possibly reduce some of Ginobili's work load.

OUTLOOK: Count the Spurs out at your own peril. The team's nucleus keeps getting older, but the Spurs keep winning and winning by mixing in young players such as Green Leonard. With other Western Conference stars such as Kobe Bryant and Russell Westbrook recovering from injuries, the opportunity is there for them once again.

MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES

LAST SEASON: 56-26, lost to San Antonio Spurs 4-0 in Western Conference finals.

STARTING FIVE: G Mike Conley (14.6 points, 2.17 steals, 6.0 assists), G Tony Allen (8.9 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.5 steals), F Tayshaun Prince (10.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.3 assists), F Zach Randolph (15.4 points, 11.2 rebounds, 1.4 assists), C Marc Gasol (14.1 points, 7.7 rebounds, 1.7 blocks).

KEY ADDITIONS: G-F Mike Miller (free agent, Heat), C Kosta Koufos (trade, Nuggets), G Nick Calathes (trade for rights, Mavericks), G Jamaal Franklin (draft, San Diego State).

KEY LOSSES: Coach Lionel Hollins (contract not renewed), F Darrell Arthur (trade, Nuggets), G Tony Wroten (trade, 76ers).

Houston Rockets’ James Hardenreacts after being hurt during the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game against the Memphis Grizzlies in
Houston Rockets' James Hardenreacts after being hurt during the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game against the Memphis Grizzlies in Memphis, Tenn., Friday, Oct. 25, 2013. ((AP Photo/Danny Johnston))

COACH: Dave Joerger, first season.

EYES ON: Miller and Prince. The Grizzlies persuaded Miller to sign with them instead of Oklahoma City or Denver, and he is their best 3-point threat if they can keep him healthy through the season and ready for the postseason. Prince's 3-point shot tailed off a bit in his 37 games after being traded to Memphis, but he worked hard this offseason to get ready for the uptempo pace Joerger wants on offense.

OUTLOOK: Memphis believe it has improved its bench and offense. Having seen exactly what it takes to go deep into the postseason, the Grizzlies want their first trip to the NBA Finals even if Joerger has to juggle minutes to keep Randolph, Allen, Miller and Prince healthy.

HOUSTON ROCKETS

LAST SEASON: 45-37, lost to Oklahoma City Thunder 4-2 in first round.

STARTING FIVE: G Jeremy Lin (13.4 points, 3.0 rebounds, 6.1 assists), G James Harden (25.9 points, 4.9 rebounds, 5.8 assists), F Chandler Parsons (15.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.5 assists), G Patrick Beverly (5.6 points, 2.7 rebounds, 2.9 assists), C Dwight Howard (17.1 points, 12.4 rebounds, 2.4 blocks).

KEY ADDITIONS: Howard (free agent, Lakers), C Marcus Camby (free agent, Knicks), F Ronnie Brewer (free agent, Thunder),

KEY LOSSES: F Thomas Robinson (trade, Blazers), F Royce White (trade, 76ers).

COACH: Kevin McHale, third season with the Rockets, fifth season overall, 118-124.

EYES ON: Howard. The Rockets snagged the biggest star in free agency by signing Howard to a four-year deal worth about $88 million. He will look to bounce back from a tough season in Los Angeles that was filled with unrest, including an admission that there were times that he wasn't having fun and what many believed to be a less than positive relationship with Kobe Bryant. He's a year removed from back surgery and said he's feeling healthy and loves the chemistry with his new teammates.

OUTLOOK: After making the playoffs last season for the first time since 2009, the Rockets believe adding Howard to Harden, in his second year in Houston, gives this young team a push to contend sooner than anyone expected. They also will need Lin to improve in his second season with the Rockets.

DALLAS MAVERICKS

LAST SEASON: 41-41, missed playoffs.

STARTING FIVE: G Jose Calderon (11.3 points, 2.4 rebounds, 7.1 assists), G Monta Ellis (19.2 points, 3.9 rebounds, 6.0 assists), F Shawn Marion (12.1 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists), F Dirk Nowitzki (17.3 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists), C Samuel Dalembert (6.7 points, 5.9 rebounds, 0.4 assists).

KEY ADDITIONS: Calderon (free agent, Pistons), Ellis (free agent, Bucks), Dalembert (free agent, Bucks), F/C DeJuan Blair (free agent, Spurs) G Devin Harris (free agent, Hawks), G Wayne Ellington (free agent, Cavaliers).

KEY LOSSES: G O.J. Mayo (free agent, Bucks), G Darren Collison (free agent, Clippers), F/C Elton Brand (free agent, Hawks), C Chris Kaman (free agent, Lakers).

COACH: Rick Carlisle, sixth season with Mavericks, 12th season overall, 520-366.

EYES ON: Ellis. The Mavericks are reaching the point where they need a new No. 1 scorer with the 35-year-old Nowitzki coming off a season shortened by knee surgery. Ellis could be that guy after signing a three-year contract. He averaged 25.5 and 24.1 points per game in back-to-back seasons with the Warriors earlier in his career, and led the Bucks last season. But there are issues about his efficiency. He shot 29 percent from 3-point range last season.

OUTLOOK: The Calderon-Ellis backcourt tandem appears to be an upgrade over Collison-Mayo, and the Mavericks overcame Nowitzki missing the first 27 games to stay in the playoff race until late in the season. Assuming Nowitzki stays healthy, Dallas should be a contender after a 12-year postseason streak ended last season.

NEW ORLEANS PELICANS

LAST SEASON: 27-55, missed playoffs.

STARTING FIVE: G Jrue Holiday (17.7 points, 4.2 rebounds, 8 assists), G Eric Gordon (17 points, 1.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists), F Al-Farouq Aminu (7.3 points, 7.7 rebounds, 1.4 assists), F Anthony Davis (13.5 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.8 blocks), C Greg Stiemsma (4.0 points, 3.4 rebounds, 1.2 blocks).

KEY ADDITIONS: Holiday (trade, 76ers), G Tyreke Evans (trade, Kings), G Anthony Morrow (free agent, Mavericks) Stiemsma (free agent, Timberwolves).

KEY LOSSES: G Greivis Vasquez (trade, Kings), C Robin Lopez (trade, Trail Blazers), G Roger Mason Jr. (free agent, Heat).

COACH: Monty Williams, fourth season with Pelicans (formerly called the Hornets), 94-136.

EYES ON: Davis. The No. 1 pick in 2012 showed star potential while playing limited minutes after an early season stress fracture in his ankle. Since then he has ramped up his workout regimen, beefing up by 15 pounds. He spent the offseason with the U.S. national team program, only further refining his basketball skills while practicing with elite players, and expects to be a force on both ends of the floor.

OUTLOOK: While the Pelicans are lacking an established true center, they believe they have the athleticism, skill and scheme to play good team defense. They also have a handful of proven scorers in Gordon, Holiday, Evans, Davis and 3-point shooting extraordinaire Ryan Anderson. This team has a new identity with its name, as well as its red, gold and blue uniforms. They also expect their identity to change in the standings from that of a cellar dweller to a playoff team.

-- ASSOCIATED PRESS