2017-18 Spurs Season Preview: A look at the Southwest Division
Things have changed considerably for teams in the Southwest Division.
The two teams that will be fighting for the top spot in the division are the San Antonio Spurs and the Houston Rockets. Both teams have made changes to their roster and will be hoping they pay off come the postseason. Memphis is in transition, Dallas is under construction and New Orleans will be in the hunt for a playoff spot.
Now let's take a look at the Spurs' competition in the Southwest Division:
Last Season: 33-49
2017 Playoffs: -
Projected Win/Loss: 35-47
Dirk Nowitzki signed a new 2-year deal with the team and is headed for his 20th season with the Mavericks. The Mavs' legend is looking to help guide and mold the younger core into a team that can compete within the division with the likes of San Antonio and Houston.
His help will come from the Mavericks No. 9 overall pick in the draft, Dennis Smith Jr. Smith is an electric player and one that will help boost a backcourt that is lacking. Definitely a season in which will show the Mavericks if he will be the man to lead the team into the future.
The key though for Dallas is the health of Dirk. Last season he appeared in 54 games with averages of 14.2 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game. He can deliver big shots in crucial moments but at 39 years of age, staying healthy has got to be the team’s number one priority.
Last Season: 55-27
2017 Playoffs: Lost, 2nd Round (San Antonio 3-2)
Projected Win/Loss: 58-24
With a new coach at the helm in Mike D’Antoni and his approach of putting the ball in his star player James Harden’s hands to make plays, the Houston Rockets are coming off of a 55 win season, third seed in the conference and a trip to the playoffs, there is a new beginning in Houston. The team used that momentum in the offseason to get even better. With a dumping of draft picks on other players to land Chris Paul from the Los Angeles Clippers, the Rockets were the first team to make a big splash in the offseason.
They did not stop there. With such a high-powered offense as the Rockets, a team that averaged 115 points per game, ranking them second in the league, they needed some backbone to their defense and that is when they went out and signed P.J. Tucker and Luc Mbah A Moute to help anchor them.
During a season in which Harden (MVP runner-up) held the ball most of the time, he now has to share the rock with Paul.
How will Paul settle in with the Rockets?
Harden and the Rockets were bounced out of the playoffs by the San Antonio Spurs in the second round of the playoffs.
With the addition of Paul, the Rockets are hoping that with another star on the team to play alongside Harden, it could help catapult the team into the Finals.
Last Season: 43-39
2017 Playoffs: Lost, 1st Round (San Antonio 4-2)
Projected Win/Loss: 40-42
The heart and soul of the Memphis Grizzlies is out as Zach Randolph was not re-signed by the Grizzlies during the offseason.
A big hole that will be difficult to fill as he lived by the “Grit-and-Grind” attitude. Randolph was not the only one that left. Vince Carter and Tony Allen are both gone as well.
With solid contributors now gone, it is now time for Memphis to go from the low post mentality to a commitment of faster pace. Times are changing in the NBA and teams are looking at the run-and-gun style of play and have excelled at it.
This season will be a trying one for the Grizzlies. Yes, they still have Mike Conley and Marc Gasol that will provide great production for the team but Chandler Parson has yet to live up to his $94-million contract he signed in 2016, last season he was sidelined with a knee injury.
The Grizzlies are in a tough spot, trying to now change their offensive identity at a time when the Western Conference is as loaded with as many good teams as ever.
For the Grizzlies, making the playoffs this season will be more of a thought than it actually happening.
New Orleans Pelicans
Last Season: 34-48
Projected Win/Loss: 38-44
On paper the New Orleans Pelicans looks like they have a talented roster that could compete with teams in the Southwest Division. With possibly the best big-man lineup in the league with Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins, getting those two to gel together will be a task in itself.
What the Pelicans had to do during the offseason was bring back Jrue Holiday, they did and it only took a five-year $126-million to do so. They did not stop there. New Orleans went out and signed veteran point-guard Rajon Rondo but has been dealing with injury this preseason.
All in all, the success of the Pelicans falls on the shoulders of “The Brow." Last season was the first time in his five-year career that Davis did not miss more than 14 games. This is huge for a guy that can fill up the stat sheet.