Grading Offseasons: Southwest Division

Sure, the NBA offseason isn’t over yet, but with the passing of Summer League and most of the key free agents signed, let’s grade each of the NBA teams’ progress this summer. To finish, here’s the Southwest Division.

Dallas Mavericks (55-27, Lost First Round): A-

Dallas once again succumbed to a Western Conference foe a little too early last season, falling to the Spurs in the first round. This summer, the priority for Mark Cuban was to re-sign Dirk Nowitzki, who stunningly opted out of his contract, and the team succeeded. Then they further bolstered their frontcourt by re-signing Brendan Haywood to start at center and parlaying Erick Dampier’s bloated expiring contract into Tyson Chandler and Alexis Ajinca from Charlotte. The Mavericks will, once more, be contenders in the West, even as the roster gets yet another year older.

San Antonio Spurs (50-32, Lost Western Conference Semifinals): A

The Spurs’ window for capturing another title under the reign of Tim Duncan is quickly closing, but R.C. Buford did everything he could to make this year will be a full-scale assault. That started with keeping the big three together, and Manu Ginobili will stick around for another year. Richard Jefferson’s also coming back after opting out of his deal and not finding a bite on the open market — and he’s getting significantly less money, too. They’re also bringing 2007 first-round pick Tiago Splitter over to the NBA this year, and many believe he can be a standout big man from the get-go. Finally, they drafted James Anderson, who can fill minutes at the 3 right away.

Houston Rockets (42-40, Missed Playoffs): B

The Rockets suffered last season in the absence of Yao Ming, who will be back this year — no one’s sure if he’ll play up to his previous standard of greatness, though. Other than that, the Rockets re-signed Luis Scola, who had a great year last year, and Kyle Lowry, a defensive point guard who has the potential to improve. Throw in Patrick Patterson, who many believe is the most NBA-ready prospect in the draft, and Houston will almost definitely be in the playoff picture next Spring.

Memphis Grizzlies (40-42, Missed Playoffs): B-

Although I disagree with the negotiation strategy used by the Grizzlies to lure RFA Rudy Gay back to Memphis, I don’t deny that it was a completely necessary move for the development of the team. Not letting him get away was the best thing they could have done this summer. In addition, they brought in Xavier Henry, a plus shooter, via the draft, so they continue to stockpile the young talent. They might make the race for eight interesting, at least, come April.

New Orleans Hornets (37-45, Missed Playoffs): F

The Hornets had a bad year last season amid injuries to Chris Paul, and they didn’t do anything this summer to remedy the problem, leading to Paul’s distrust in the team and desire for a trade. Darren Collison might be the next big thing, but there won’t be anyone around to help him. The Hornets didn’t add any draft picks, and the only free agents they signed are basically negligible. If Paul decides to quit on this team next season, it could be a brutal campaign in New Orleans.

Hardwood Paroxysm