By: Kevin Ebert
Last year, the Rockets were possibly the best team out West. If it wasn’t for a Game Six and Seven collapse against the Warriors, it could have been them holding the Finals trophy at years end. What’s good for them is that most of the pieces to that team are coming back. With Harden and Paul staying, their two biggest players return but their biggest issue is defense. Ariza and Mbah a Moute were two of their best on-ball defenders and it will be important to replace them, especially when going against the star-studded Warriors. Their only major newcomer this year was Carmelo Anthony and he certainly is not known for his defense, and hardly known for his offense at that matter. I would put them at first in the Southwest at years end.
San Antonio Spurs
Last year, all the talk was about Kawhi Leonard. That is all gone. With Kawhi heading out to Toronto and Demar DeRozan coming in, it’s a new season. Not only that, but Spurs legends Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli are also gone. Can DeRozan and Aldridge carry this team to the status they left it at? I think so. With Popovich at the helm and talent like Patty Mills, Pau Gasol, I see the Spurs walking out of the Southwest at #2.
New Orleans Pelicans
The Pelicans come back this year after being manhandled by the Warriors. Most of their team returns which is good, but this team is going to have a hard time getting past where they were a year ago. Outside of Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday, they don’t have any big time talent. Losing Demarcus Cousins doesn’t seem like as big of a deal, but I think it will be bigger than anticipated. Now Davis is an all star and Holiday is right below that tier, but it’s not enough to consistently win games. Expect it to be a rough season for them. I have them as 3rd place in the Southwest.
The Dallas Mavericks made two big splashes this offseason, trading for/drafting Luca Doncic and Deandre Jordan. After falling on their face and going 24-58 this past season, at least they have something fun to watch now. Although it will be fun to watch, I don’t think this will be the Mavericks year just yet. I think they will take a step forward but with such depth out West, I don’t see them making the playoffs. I have them as 4th in the Southwest this next season.
This past season really could not have gone any worse for the Grizzlies. With Mike Conley’s injury issues and Gasol aging, it does not seem like they are heading in the right direction in general. The Grizzlies did just snag one of the more versatile players of the draft in Jaren Jackson though, and if they can keep Conley healthy, they could be a decent team. I think they will do better than last year but not by much. Expect another rebuilding year for Memphis. I see them as last place in the Southwest.
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