So far, I have previewed each team from the Pacific and Northwest divisions. Now, here’s a look at the Southwest division.
The Rockets came off the best regular season in franchise history winning going 65-17. As a number one seed in the Western Conference, they took the champion Warriors to the brink in the Conference Finals but fell short in the end. They could’ve been one Chris Paul injury away from a trip to the Finals. James Harden is the league’s reigning MVP because of his great performances last and will look to replicate it in 2019.
However, Houston would lose two key wing defenders, Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute in free agency. They would sign Carmelo Anthony to be the third scoring option behind Harden and Paul. Big man Clint Capela was kept into the fold for his shot blocking presence, rebounding, and pick and roll lob catcher from CP3 and Harden. The bench is still good led by sharpshooter Eric Gordon, Gerald Green, Ryan Anderson, and Nene. Houston has their work cut out for them as the West still goes through Dub Nation.
San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs are in the post Kawhi Leonard era. They shipped away the star that they thought that he would take the mantle from Tim Duncan. However, they would get an All-Star player in return in DeMar DeRozan. Also, another team legend departed when Tony Parker left the franchise he’d known for 17 years and signed with the Hornets. Despite the Kawhi saga last season, San Antonio still found a way to make the playoffs due to the brilliance of Gregg Popovich. DeRozan will become a better player due to the Spurs coaching staff.
Also, LaMarcus Aldridge had an All-Star year after Pop utilized him in the midrange, where he’s more comfortable. He and DeRozan will be the one-two punch to lead Gregg Popovich’s team. Dejounte Murray will be in his first full season as the team’s starting point guard. They still got 41 year old Manu Ginobili, Patty Mills, Marco Belinelli, and Davis Bertans leading their bench.
New Orleans Pelicans
Anthony Davis is a top five player in the NBA and the unquestioned leader of the Pelicans franchise. Jrue Holiday is a very underrated player that can score and defend. They both lead New Orleans to the postseason with DeMarcus Cousins being sidelined with his torn Achilles. As a six seed, they swept the Trail Blazers in a dominating fashion. They would lose to the Warriors in the second round. What’s unbelievable is that Cousins left the Pelicans and joined Golden State.
New Orleans lost Rajon Rondo in free agency, who played a huge role with his playmaking and leadership. They got Julius Randle to fill the void left by Boogie and help out Davis in the front court. Elfrid Payton will be the primary ballhandler that can also defend. Nikola Mirotic leads the bench along with E’Twaun Moore and Ian Clark with their three point shooting.
The greatest player in franchise history Dirk Nowitzki will be playing in his 21st season. It is the most by one player for one team in NBA history. The Mavs are embracing their youth movement despite missing the playoffs last season for the second straight season. They got European sensation Luka Dončić to go along with young Dennis Smith. These two are the foundational pieces of the team.
DeAndre Jordan signed with the team to add his shot blocking, rebounding and alley oop dunking. Most importantly, he did not renege them like he did in the summer of 2015. Also, they have Harrison Barnes as their go to scorer while Dončić and Smith grow as players. Dallas will be competitive but will fall short of the playoffs in the loaded West.
Memphis fell completely off the map last season. Head coach David Fizdale was fired early in the season after benching Marc Gasol in a game and then clashing with him. Additionally, Mike Conley played in only 12 games because of an Achilles injury. As a result, they had one of the longest losing streak in NBA history with 19 and finished with a 22-60 record. Also, they lost a game to the Hornets by a franchise worse 61 points.
With their losing record, they would have the fourth pick in the draft and selected Jaren Jackson Jr. Jackson is a stretch big that can defend and shoot the three. In free agency, they signed Kyle Anderson to be their starting small forward because Chandler Parsons is injury prone. The Grizzlies will be better with Conley and Gasol healthy and right but it will be tough for them to get back to the playoffs.
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