The Western Conference is as competitive as it has ever been.
And nothing portrays that more than the NBA’s Southwest Division.
The Star-studded, talent rich group is lined with teams ready to compete for the Western crown.
Whether it’s age old vets ready to continually compete, or newly-formed super teams coming together for the first time, the Southwest is truly the muscle of the West.
Position: 15th in West
Future: Dennis Smith Jr.
Biggest Concern: Can they restore the glory days?
The 2011 NBA Finals brought about the best moment in granchise history, giving the Mavs their first ever Championship.
Since then, however, it’s all been downhill. Their stars have either left or aged, leaving behind a tattered legacy and a nearly retired Dirk Nowitzki.
Even though their roster could, admittedly, be worse, this upcoming season comes with very little expectation. As far as they’re concerned, it’s all about the development of Dennis Smith Jr., who could be the key to turning that franchise around.
If Smith Jr. looks to be the star so many believe he can, the Mavs could be close to resurrecting their glory days. But if not, this season will only serve as a final goodbye to Dirk.
Position: 9th in West
Future: In Danger
Biggest Concern: How much grit do they have left?
The grind in Memphis just lost some of its grit. Without Zach Randolph and Tony Allen, the Memphis Grizzlies are only a shell of what they used to be. Worse still, they have yet to solve thier shooting problem.
Fortunately, the stars they do have (Mike Conley, Marc Gasol) should be enough to keep them competing for a playoff spot.
Regardless, the Grizz will need significant help from Tyreke Evans and and Chandler Parsons if they want any hope of exceeding expectations.
With Marc Gasol nearing the end of his best years, Memphis’ window may already be closed. This upcoming season will give them a chance to find out how much they have left.
New Orleans Pelicans
Position: 7th in West
Future: Who knows?
Biggest Concern: Will DeMarcus stay in town?
When talking about the Western Conference elite, very rarely do the Pelicans ever get mentioned.
With DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis forming an elite front court pair, they should be the talk of the West... until you realize what the rest of their roster intails.
Outside of thier star big men, the Pelicans have virtually nothing. As a result, their place in the West is a huge question heading into the new season. Obviously, they’re not the favorites. But do they have enough to even challenge the Dubs?
That’s something the team will look to answer as the weeks go by.
Position: 4th in West
Biggest Concern: Can they compete with the Warriors?
The Houston Rockets were already among the West’s biggest superpowers last season. Adding Chris Paul to that mix has only increased their chances of making a serious post-season run.
Its too early to tell exactly how the two stars will fit together, but all signs point to a successful union. Right along with San Antonio and OKC, the Rockets are one of the few teams capable of giving the Warriors a sweat.
But in the midst of all the optimism, there’s also the chance this whole operation is just a one year show. Chris Paul can be a Free-Agent next summer, meaning he could leave the Rockets after just a single season. And considering they had to give up assets to trade for him, that would be a devastating blow.
So while Houston is absolutely playing for it all this season, they’ll also be playing for the security of thier future, which could fall apart if CP elects to leave.
San Antonio Spurs
Position: 2nd in West
Biggest Concern: Can they go all the way?
The Spurs always find a way.
Call it luck, good leadership, or just plain stubbornness, this team always manages to stay relevant, even in the loaded Western Conference.
And with a star like Kawhi Leonard, that relevancy doesn’t seem to be on the way out any time soon. As one of the best two-way players in the league, he’ll have a chance to lead the Spurs to another season of glory.
Between him, Pop, and thier reputation for greatness, the franchise is expected to have another brilliant season. They’ll likely stand as the Spurs biggest threat come playoff time.
But with the Spurs falling short due to injury last year, will they face yet another set back?
Southwest Division Overview
The Spurs. The Rockets. The Pelicans. The Southwest is a Western Conference gold mine. Even so, this division faces a lot of questions heading into the new season. Many of these teams are in danger of losing their “it-factor,” with no clear direction of what to do next.