The Southwest Division, comprised of the three Texas teams (Houston, Dallas and San Antonio) as well as New Orleans and Memphis, is by far the strongest division in the NBA. Last season, all five teams made the playoffs out West and each won between 45 and 56 games. It’s pretty amazing, as no other division even had four teams make the playoffs to say nothing about the entire division qualifying for the postseason.
The strength of the division will be a little more top heavy as the Mavericks will presumably fall off significantly, while the Spurs will jet to the top of the NBA’s elite from day one. Despite these offseason changes, the Southwest is still the juggernaut division that other teams will dread facing in extended, brutal road trips.
5. Dallas Mavericks (50-32 last year)
Key Additions: Deron Williams, Wesley Matthews, Zaza Pachulia, Justin Anderson
Key subtractions: Monta Ellis, Tyson Chandler, Al-Farouq Aminu, Rajon Rondo
While not noted on the key subtractions because he never played for the Mavs, DeAndre Jordan was certainly the most heart-wrenching loss for Dallas this offseason. Owner Mark Cuban and head recruiter small forward Chandler Parsons thought they had Jordan locked up as their star center for the foreseeable future, making Dallas a contender for years to come. Unfortunately for them, Jordan had second thoughts and, while frowned upon, legally was able to go back on his word and re-sign with the Los Angeles Clippers instead of joining Dallas.
Dallas quickly turned around and got a replacement (and significant downgrade) at center in Zaza Pachulia. They also bolstered the backcourt by signing former All-Star Deron Williams after he got bought out of his contract with the Brooklyn Nets.
The Mavs have basically solidified their spot as the worst team in the division. As everyone else stayed the same or got better, they got markedly worse. The Mavs basically lost all their good players except for Parsons and the aged Dirk Nowitzki. However, they did draft Justin Anderson, who may be a bright spot on their team this season.
4. New Orleans Pelicans (45-37 last year)
Key additions: none
Key subtractions: none
The Pelicans basically said, “We are standing pat,” with their offseason moves. Well, that’s not totally true. Their offseason plan was to back the Brinks truck up to Anthony Davis’ house, handing him a $140+ million contract over the next five years. That’s certainly putting all your eggs in one basket. However, that’s a good basket to put them in as it looks as if Davis will be a top-three player in the league for most of his career.
Their major move was a coaching change, going from Monty Williams to former Phoenix Suns head coach and most recently NBA championship-winning Golden State Warriors assistant head coach Alvin Gentry. This is a great move for them and should help them get to the next level.
The Pelicans also re-signed Omer Asik, Alexis Ajinca and Dante Cunningham to round out their roster.
This team is somewhat hampered by a collection of average players apart from Davis. While he can improve, and everyone else can marginally improve, this team won’t get much further unless some other roster changes are made.
4. Memphis Grizzlies (55-27 last year)
Key additions: Brandan Wright, Jarell Martin
Key subtractions: Kosta Koufos, Nick Calathes Jon Leuer
The priority for the Grizzlies management this summer was re-signing All-NBA first-team center Marc Gasol. Gasol reportedly didn’t consider any other teams so it was pretty easy, but both sides just had to get it done. Now they have their twin towers in Gasol and Zach Randolph along with their perpetually underrated point guard Mike Conley as they continue being perennial contenders in the league. They were about as good as the Rockets last season (one game worse in the final standings), it just looks worse because they had to face the juggernaut Warriors a round earlier than the Rockets.
Memphis has an older core of players, so they had better make their championship push sooner rather than later, before that window closes and they have to start over.
2. Houston Rockets (56-26 last year)
Key additions: Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell
Key subtractions: Jason Terry
The Rockets were a few wins away from the NBA Finals. Why change anything if it isn’t broken? They were able to persuade both Corey Brewer and Patrick Beverley to spurn the Sacramento Kings and their bigger deals to return to Houston.
They already have their two stars locked up under contract in James Harden and Dwight Howard.
They weren’t at all healthy during the playoffs as Beverley and Donatas Motiejunas were both sidelined. Adding Dekker and Harrell and staying healthy will make the Rockets a contender for years to come.
1. San Antonio Spurs (55-27 last year)
Key additions: LaMarcus Aldridge, David West
Key subtractions: Tiago Splitter
The team, which is so well run that everyone else is jealous and hates them, did it again. Just in a different way this time. Instead of just developing decent, unknown players into stars, the Spurs nabbed the best available free agent out there in LaMarcus Aldridge, added David West on a bargain veteran minimum deal and re-signed their own players, keeping them among the NBA’s elite for years to come.
They kept Danny Green on a bargain contract and kept Spur-lifers Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili on super cheap deals that basically mock the CBA in terms of value. They got West to opt out of his contract in Indiana and leave over $10 million on the table to come to San Antonio to compete for a ring next spring. There is something to be said for how the culture can affect your product on the court. Just ask San Antonio and Sacramento, you’ll get two very different perspectives.
With three Hall of Famers in Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, along with All-Stars LaMarcus Aldridge, David West, sharpshooter Danny Green, not to mention Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, this Spurs team will lead the Southwest Division for a while and will be competing for, if not winning, multiple championships in the near future.
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