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Mills facing a battle for court time with Spurs

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SAN Antonio went close to the NBA title last season but were run down by Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference finals.


Boomers guard Patty Mills's Spurs will be the team to beat again in the South-West Division with their main opposition coming from the improving Memphis Grizzlies.

In the third instalment of the division by division preview of the NBA for season 2012-13, Paul Suttor and Paul Zalunardo examine how the five teams in the South-West Division are shaping up.

South-West Division

Dallas Mavericks: Two years ago they were champions, last season they were cannon fodder for the new-generation Thunder in the first round of the play-offs. Leading into the 2012-13 season, it's hard to pinpoint exactly where the Mavericks sit in the pecking order. They have lost veteran guards Jason Kidd and Jason Terry and after missing out on the Deron Williams sweepstakes, replaced them by putting a lot of faith in inconsistent Grizzlies guard O.J. Mayo. Dirk Nowitzki will be able to swish his jump shot until he's in his mid 70s but the support cast of 76ers amnesty recipient Elton Brand and Hornets centre Chris Kaman is hardly the same as the trophy-winning squad of two short years ago.

Last season: 36-30 (1st round play-offs)

Gains: G Jared Cunningham (draft), C Bernard James (draft), G Jae Crowder (draft), G Darren Collison (Pacers), G Dahntay Jones (Pacers), C Chris Kaman (Hornets), F Elton Brand (76ers), G O.J. Mayo (Grizzlies).

Losses: G Jason Kidd (Knicks), G Jason Terry (Celtics), F Ian Mahinmi (Pacers), C Brendan Haywood (Bobcats).

Houston Rockets: The only team to finish better than .500 and still miss the 2012 play-offs, the Rockets have revamped their roster with a lot of transactions. The big question for Kevin McHale's team to solve is whether Linsanity was a flash in the pan or if former Knicks guard Jeremy Lin is the real deal. His arrival has given the Rockets marketing department a shot in the arm but public relations spin doctors can only take a player so far if his performances are not up to the mark. Partnering him with the similarly named rookie Jeremy Lamb gives the Rockets youth, but after failing to land the big fish they were after in Dwight Howard, it looks like a rebuilding season.

Last season: 34-32

Gains: G Jeremy Lamb (draft), F Royce White (draft), F Terrence Jones (draft), F Furkan Aldemir (draft), F Donatas Motiejunas (Prokom Gdynia (Poland)), F Jon Brockman (Bucks), G Shaun Livingston (Bucks), G Jeremy Lin (Knicks), C Omer Asik (Bulls), F Carlos Delfino (Bucks).

Losses: G Goran Dragic (Suns), F Chase Budinger (Timberwolves), C Samuel Dalembert (Bucks), G Kyle Lowry (Raptors), F Luis Scola (Suns), G Courtney Lee (Celtics).

Memphis Grizzlies: After making the play-offs, the Grizzlies believe they are on an upward trajectory so have taken the “it ain't broke don't fix it” theory to their roster and gone for stability. The on-court chemistry between Rudy Gay, Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph and Mike Conley shouldn't be disrupted by the addition of Toronto's Jerryd Bayless, who played strongly for an abysmal Raptors side last season. Gasol was a star at the Olympics, and he needs to reproduce that sort of dominance at NBA level for the Grizzlies to go deep into the post-season.

Last season: 41-25 (1st round play-offs)

Gains: G Tony Wroten (draft), G Jerryd Bayless (Raptors).

Losses: G O.J. Mayo (free agency), F Dante Cunningham (trade).

New Orleans Hornets: Making the quantum leap from having the worst record in the Western Conference last season to the 2012-13 play-offs will be too big for the Hornets but they will be a force in the next few seasons. Coach Monty Ellis tried not to smile when the Hornets struck it lucky on lottery day but that lasted for all of 1.3 seconds. No.1 pick Anthony Davis impressed his Team USA comrades at the Olympics and the retention of Eric Gordon when he looked set to join the Suns and the acquisition of Ryan Anderson means New Orleans will do plenty of damage in the West, but true title contention won't arrive for at least another 12 months.

Last season: 21-45

Gains: F Anthony Davis (draft), G Austin Rivers (draft), F Darius Miller (draft), F Ryan Anderson (Magic), C Robin Lopez (Suns), F Hakim Warrick (Suns), G Roger Mason (Wizards).

Losses: F Trevor Ariza (Wizards), C Emeka Okafor (Wizards), F Gustavo Ayon (Magic), G Jarrett Jack (Warriors), C Darryl Watkins (76ers), C Chris Kaman (Mavericks), G Marco Belinelli (free agency), G Jerome Dyson (trade), F Carl Landry (Warriors), G Brian Roberts (free agency).

San Antonio Spurs: Like the Celtics, the Spurs ignored the critics who said they were too old and should have retooled their roster years ago. And like Boston, they looked like upstaging their younger rivals in the play-offs but ultimately ran out of steam. Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili are another year older and, of course, another year wiser but it remains to be seen whether their wisdom can again offset the inevitable penalties Father Time delivers. The acquisition of French young gun Nando De Colo will hurt Boomers guard Patty Mills's chances of getting more minutes off the San Antonio bench.

Last season: 50-16 (Western Conference finalists)

Gains: G Marcus Denmon (Euroleague), G Nando De Colo (2009 draft)

Losses: F Derrick Byars (waived)