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As the much-awaited NBA 2009-2010 Season begins, we end our special with the Southwest Division of the Western Conference. Time to soak up on the games! [firstpara] 

DALLAS MAVERICKS
Coach: Rick Carlisle
Projected Starting Five:
PG: Jason Kidd
SG: Josh Howard
SF: Shawn Marion
PF: Dirk Nowitzki
C:
Drew Gooden

Key Additions: Shawn Marion, Drew Gooden, Tim Thomas, Quinton Ross, Kris Humphries, Nathan Jawai, Greg Buckner, Rodrigue Beaubois (R)
Key Losses:
Devean George, Brandon Bass, Antoine Wright, Jerry Stackhouse, Ryan Hollins

The Dallas Mavericks are more of a dark horse and less of a long shot to contend for the NBA title this season. Shawn Marion provides the team with an all-around defender and rebounder; he is also a solid finisher on the fast break. He might just be that "last missing piece" that the team has needed over the past two seasons.

Josh Howard's ability to stay healthy and play in as many games as possible will also be an important factor in the Mavs' NBA Playoff campaign. His ability to mesh and co-exist with Marion on the wings will be critical as well. Drew Gooden is a clear upgrade from Erick Dampier as a starting center. Rick Carlisle, however, will do a "center-by-committee" rotation, shifting Gooden, Dampier, and Kris Humphries as the need arises. The Dallas Mavericks team is a serious sleeper this season and should be respected accordingly.

HOUSTON ROCKETS
Coach: Rick Adelman
Projected Starting Five:
PG:
Aaron Brooks
SG: Shane Battier
SF: Trevor Ariza
PF: Luis Scola
C:
Chuck Hayes

Key Additions: Trevor Ariza, Chase Budinger (R), David Andersen (R), Jermaine Taylor (R)
Key Losses:
Ron Artest, Dikembe Mutombo (retired), Von Wafer (Greece), and Yao Ming will be out for the season

The pairing of Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming did not pay the dividends that the Houston franchise hoped it would. They did not foresee their two stars to succumb to injury year in and year out.


WORDS BY: ERIK ONG

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