Published on 14 Oct 2022 10:03 am (UK Time)
The 2022-2023 NBA Season is right around the corner. While there were many eye-opening blockbuster acquisitions during the Free Agency Market period over the summer, seeing their action on their new teams remains to be seen. The Memphis Grizzlies reign as champions in the Southwest Division, but the Dallas Mavericks went on a deep playoff run that almost saw them reach the NBA Finals.
Meanwhile, the New Orleans Pelicans look to make more noise, even with the return of a seemingly improved Zion Williamson. The Southwest Division will be brimming with competition and storylines to follow throughout the season.
San Antonio Spurs
San Antonio are a far cry from their solid days of dominance with Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker, but everyone kind of knows that. Last season saw Dejounte Murray become an all-star for the Spurs and manage to reach the play-in. However, Murray would join the Atlanta Hawks in the free agency period.
In the NBA Draft, San Antonio selected Jeremy Sochan from Baylor, Malaki Branham from Ohio State, Blake Wesley from Notre Dame, and Kennedy Chandler from Tennessee (whose draft rights were sent to the Memphis Grizzlies). While the Spurs celebrate their 50th season in the league, they must look toward the future.
Predictions: San Antonio aren’t going to make a push for the postseason, but instead will have to build through the draft. Among their young roster, Keldon Johnson and Devin Vassell have the potential to be a star. While I believe that the Spurs will be in the draft lottery, tanking isn’t something you would regularly associate with a team like San Antonio, but then again, tanking and rebuilding through the draft did land them Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili. San Antonio can do it again and can possibly land Victor Wembanyama.
Starting Lineup: Tre Jones, Devin Vassell, Keldon Johnson, Zach Collins, and Jakob Poeltl
Welcome to the Jabari Smith Jr. era, Houston! The Rockets have a young and promising core that comprises Jalen Green, Alperen Sengun, Kenyon Martin Jr., Kevin Porter Jr., and universally loved veteran Boban Marjanovic, but they still have a ways to go. Last season saw Houston with a record of 20 wins and 62 losses with a win percentage of .244. With a much-added length from Jabari Smith Jr. and a rising primary scoring option in Kevin Porter Jr., Houston has the potential to be a contender for the future.
Predictions: Houston definitely has some good pieces on their team, but I feel like they are one draft piece away from being complete and ready to contend. They will be in the draft lottery, but won’t win the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes. The Rockets are brimming with potential and the future can’t get here enough sooner.
Starting Lineup: Kevin Porter Jr., Jalen Green, Eric Gordon, Jabari Smith Jr. Alperen Sengun
Dallas managed to reach the Conference Finals for the first time since the Dirk Nowitzki era. Despite losing in five games to the eventual NBA Champion Golden State Warriors, Luka Doncic and company still have more work to do. In the free agency period, Jalen Brunson, who had breakout performances in the playoffs, left the Mavs for the Big Apple to play for the New York Knicks. In the NBA Draft, Dallas selected Wendell Moore Jr. from Duke but would trade him to the Sacramento Kings for Jaden Hardy.
Predictions: As long as Luka Doncic is still in Dallas, the Mavericks’ playoff aspirations are still abundant. Dallas managed to reach the conference finals last season but given the current state of the Western Conference, it’s anyone’s guess just how far they will go, especially with Golden State, Phoenix, and the L.A. Clippers labeled to be the favorites to win the West. Christian Wood will have a breakout season for the Mavs, along with Spencer Dinwiddie and Tim Hardaway Jr.
Along with Doncic being named an all-star for Dallas, Wood’s name should also be mentioned in that same aspect.
Starting Lineup: Luka Doncic, Tim Hardaway Jr., Reggie Bullock, Dorian Finney-Smith, Christian Wood
Memphis made quite an impression in the playoffs as Ja Morant, Dillon Brooks, Jaren Jackson Jr., and Desmond Bane showcased just how much of a threat the Grizzlies are to the West. Despite being eliminated in the second round by Dallas, Memphis still believes that they can take the crown and more. The Grizz are already the defending Southwest Division champions, but with Dallas and possibly New Orleans looming around again, there will be some competition to be had. When it comes to the grit and grind, Memphis are always molded by the dark and shining in the light.
Predictions: I believe the Grizzlies will repeat as Southwest Division champions, even with Dallas and New Orleans posing as threats. Ja Morant will be an all-star for Memphis, but the big concern with him is keeping him away from injuries. Morant has drawn comparisons to Chicago Bulls era Derrick Rose before the injury, so if the Grizzlies want to keep Morant for the long-term, they will have to monitor his time and progress.
While on the subject of time and progress, Jaren Jackson Jr. can become another star for Memphis. Jackson Jr. recorded 16.3 points and 5.8 rebounds per game, but if he can elevate the rebounding production, while being slightly consistent with the points, Jackson Jr. will definitely be a star.
Starting Lineup: Ja Morant, Desmond Bane, Dillon Brooks, Jaren Jackson Jr., and Steven Adams
New Orleans Pelicans
New Orleans managed to reach the playoffs, despite not having Zion Williamson play a single game last season. It was quite an accomplishment for the Pelicans to make it in the postseason, but now that Zion is back in the lineup for the Pels, New Orleans seem like they could make a statement to win the Southwest Division. On the flip side, another potential injury to Zion could spell disaster for the Pelicans. If anything, all of New Orleans’s fortunes depend of Zion’s health, but also the leadership of Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum. That will be much of the story in the Big Easy.
Predictions: The Pelicans have all the tools to reach the postseason, but the health of Zion will be the most vital. If New Orleans can find a way to monitor his minutes and keep him healthy all season, they will surely be contenders. The Pelicans do have a young core, but keep an eye on Jose Alvarado, who can be vital as a sixth man coming off the bench.
Starting Lineup: C.J. McCollum, Devonte’ Graham, Brandon Ingram, Zion Williamson, Jonas Valanciunas
The Southwest Division will be a three team race between Memphis, Dallas, and New Orleans. For Memphis, it’s all about developing their young core and continue to compete in the West. The same goes for Dallas. As for New Orleans, Zion is their centerpiece and will do whatever it takes to keep him on the floor with Ingram and McCollum.
Houston and San Antonio will certainly be at the bottom of the division, but the difference is that the Rockets will be slightly ahead of the Spurs, that is until the draft lottery comes about.
NBA Southwest Division Predictions
New Orleans Pelicans
San Antonio Spurs