Another thing you can almost count on is that there will be a fair number of draft night moves that will reshape many rosters around the league.
Coming off their Western Conference Finals loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, the San Antonio Spurs don’t have many holes to fill. They will eventually need to find a forward for the post-Tim Duncan era, but that will be tough to do in this draft unless they trade into the first round. The Spurs only have the 59th pick to work with, while the Dallas Mavericks and Houston Rockets may both be looking to move up in the draft order.
The Rockets dealt Chase Budinger to the Minnesota Timberwolves to acquire their third first round pick of the 2012 draft. Houston also sent the 14th overall pick and Samuel Dalembert to the Milwaukee Bucks in exchange for the 12th pick and three players. Now holding the 12th, 16th and 18th picks, the Rockets seem to be setting themselves up to make a legitimate run at Orlando Magic’s all-star center, Dwight Howard.
If their run at Howard falls short, the Rockets could snag Connecticut center Andre Drummond as a consolation prize. They are reportedly in talks with the Sacramento Kings and Toronto Raptors in an effort to move into the top-ten of the draft in order to make the Drummond selection.
The Mavericks hold the 17th pick and are also open to possibly trading up in the draft order. Given the depth of forwards in this year’s draft, they may not have to move up to fill their dire needs at the position.
The Mavericks are likely to nab whichever quality power forward slips out of the lottery and becomes available at the 17th pick. Many mock drafts have the Mavericks selecting Kentucky’s Terrence Jones. The 6-foot-9 forward could provide power off the bench and help fill the defensive and rebounding voids left after Tyson Chandler’s departure.
Like the Rockets, the Mavericks are also making a move at a perennial all-star. They are hoping that Dallas-native Deron Williams chooses to play for his hometown over resigning with the Brooklyn Nets. The Mavericks have been linked to taking North Carolina combo guard Kendall Marshall with their first round pick to give them ensure they have a point guard in case Williams stays with the Nets.
At the mid-point of an NBA season, uncertainties tend to become certainties, questions tend to get answers, and teams tend to settle into a relative standard of playing level. In general, the identities of teams begin to coalesce. This traditional expectation applies fruitfully to the San Antonio Spurs. However, the Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks are still in a nebulous zone, far from forming their identity, realizing their potential, and meeting that baseline expectation for mid-season.
At this point, the San Antonio Spurs embody the persona of a championship contender. Anything less than that would be to underestimate the potent Spurs offense and Popovich’s genius. The Spurs (36-11) currently stand at the apex of the Western Conference standings and scream contender status on a daily basis. The elite point guard play of Tony Parker, the resurgence of the greatest power forward Tim Duncan ever, and a top 5 supporting cast makes the Spurs seem invincible year in and year out. Currently boasting seven players averaging nine points or more ( Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobli, Gary Neal, Tiago Splitter, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard), the Spurs rarely depend on the same players to step up on a nightly basis. The sharing of responsibility, the culture instilled by the Spurs system, and the wealth of supporting talent explicates how the Spurs put up consistent wins despite the occasional absence of Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich. At this point during the season, the Spurs know who they are and what they want. They are a clear-cut contender.
The Houston Rockets (24-22) currently stand at the eighth position in the Western Conference standings. The Rockets show flashes of brilliance and the potential their team holds. However, their playing style is often plagued by their inexperience and inconsistency. One thing is for sure though; the Rockets have their franchise foundation piece in James Harden. Harden is on his way to becoming the NBA’s best shooting guard, fortifying his relentless athleticism with his experiences as the number one option. The Rockets know they go as Harden goes. However, with the average age of the Houston Rockets roster around 24, they still have a long maturation process to undergo before realizing their true potential and identity.
Although they have recently won six of last eight, the Dallas Mavericks (19-25) lack any sort of identity of consistency. With 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki still trying to find his Hall of Fame form and missing the All Star Game for the first time in over a decade, the Mavericks have been in a state of fluctuation and confusion. They lead the league with 17 different starting lineups. Over the past three games, they have had three different starting centers. Nevertheless, Rick Carlisle has mentioned that he is attempting to establish a more consistent lineup and rotation. Once Dirk Nowitzki encapsulates the superstar style of play he is capable of, Darren Collison and OJ Mayo begin to produce on a more consistent basis, and the team commits to defense, the Mavericks have a chance to make a late-season surge for the playoffs.
When the Spurs step on to the court at this point of the season, you know what you’re going to get. However, the same cannot be stated for the Rockets and the Mavericks. As Forrest Gump once said, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” With the Mavericks and Rockets, you just never know.