2018/19 NBA Team Analysis – Western Conference’s Southwest Division

By Michael Wynn
Published on October 11, 2018
NBA Western Conference Southwest Division Preview

It’s going to be a fascinating year in the Western Conference’s Southwest Division, as some new faces have arrived to keep an eye on.

Aside from LeBron signing in LA, the most notable offseason transaction in all of the NBA was Kawhi Leonard getting dealt to Toronto. It was clear that R.C. Buford and the San Antonio front office had had enough of this whole aberration, and parting ways with their superstar was the only way to move forward peacefully.

The Spurs wound up with the services of DeMar DeRozan, who Gregg Popovich hopes will play as well as or better than he did for the Raptors over the past few years.

But what about the Rockets? And how about the Mavs?

Houston brought in Carmelo Anthony, which I wholeheartedly disagreed with, as I think he will only disrupt what James Harden and Chris Paul have going on in “Space City.”

On the other hand, the Mavericks signed DeAndre Jordan and drafted Luka Doncic, proving that Mark Cuban wants to win now. Dirk Nowitzki is aging and doesn’t have much left in the tank, so perhaps this is the final year the German sharpshooter is in uniform.

As you can see, there is a whole lot to talk about when discussing this division. I’ve organized my preview by segmenting each team individually. That way, you can see exactly what each of the 5 squads can expect during the 2018/2019 NBA season.

Let’s start with Dallas!

Dallas Mavericks

  • 2017/2018 Record: 24-58 (13th in the West)
  • Key Additions: DeAndre Jordan (free agent), Luke Doncic (via draft), Jalen Brunson (via draft)
  • Key Losses: Nerlens Noel (signed with Oklahoma City), Yogi Ferrell (signed with Sacramento),  Seth Curry (signed with Portland)

Look at the additions and subtractions this roster endured, and you’ll see why Mark Cuban is excited for the first time in a while. With Dirk Nowitzki not getting any younger, Cuban knew he needed to make a splash in order for the 40-year-old to return for a 21st season in Dallas.

A splash was made indeed, as the acquisitions of DeAndre Jordan and Luka Doncic immediately turn this team around in a big, big way.

Wesley Matthews and Harrison Barnes won’t be relied on so heavily, as this new mix of players figures to take a big load off their shoulders. Dennis Smith Jr. is a bigtime player, and don’t sleep on Jalen Brunson, the Mavs’ second pick in this summer’s draft.

The reigning Wooden Award winner – college basketball’s player of the year – is a fundamentally sound guard who will provide sufficient depth for Rick Carlisle’s second unit. If Dirk can turn back the clock just a little and hit some clutch shots down the stretch, Dallas could surprise a lot of folks around the league.

Season Outlook

The team is going to make huge strides this year, but will it be enough for a playoff spot?

It’s certainly within the realm of possibilities, but it won’t be an easy task. It’ll be exciting to see Dennis Smith Jr. gel with Doncic, as this could become one of the most electrifying backcourts in the entire NBA.

Houston Rockets

  • 2017/2018 Record: 65-17 (#1 seed in the West; lost 4-3 in the WCF to Golden State)
  • Key Additions: Marquese Chriss (trade), Carmelo Anthony (free agent), Brandon Knight (trade), Michael Carter-Williams (free agent)
  • Key Losses: Trevor Ariza (traded to Phoenix), Ryan Anderson (traded to Phoenix)

Mike D’Antoni is coming off a stunning year, winning a league-high 65 games during the regular season. If it wasn’t for a Chris Paul injury in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals, we could be singing a much different tune.

But the Rockets decided to bring in Carmelo Anthony, Marquese Chriss, and Brandon Knight, while giving up on Trevor Ariza and Ryan Anderson. With that being said, James Harden is an MVP candidate year in and year out, and Clint Capela is now locked in for the next five years.

We’ll see how it all pans out in Houston, but regardless, they should finish as a top-4 seed out West. However, I’m not ready to buy into them being a serious challenger to Golden State until I see if Carmelo can accept his role as a potential 6th man.

Season Outlook

Has the window closed on the Rockets? The way the Warriors roster is shaping up, that could be the reality. The West is loaded with terrific teams, and Houston will be among that group. Having enough firepower to take down the Warriors in 2019?

Now that’s a different question.

Memphis Grizzlies

  • 2017/2018 Record: 22-60 (14th in the West)
  • Key Additions: Jaren Jackson (via draft), Kyle Anderson (free agent), Garrett Temple (trade)
  • Key Losses: Tyreke Evans (signed with Indiana)

The Memphis Grizzlies had a tumultuous 2017/2018 campaign, and it might not get much better in the immediate future.

Everything in Memphis comes down to the health of their two stars, Mike Conley and Marc Gasol. If these guys get hurt and miss ample time again, then this year could get chalked up to a lost season once again.

The bright spots in Memphis are 4th overall pick, Jaren Jackson Jr., and Dillon Brooks, the wing player out of the University of Oregon who played well during his rookie season.

Both of these guys will have a chance to shine in “Grind City,” but that won’t necessarily amount to winning a bunch of games.

J.B. Bickerstaff is back after taking over for David Fizdale 19 games into the year, but his chances of lasting long here aren’t looking very promising.

Season Outlook

It’s difficult to imagine things falling into place right away, so the postseason likely won’t be a reasonable goal.

Hopefully the Grizz can at least win 30 games and be a bit more competitive than they were a season ago.Otherwise, look for things to be seriously shaken up in Elvis’s hometown.

New Orleans Pelicans

  • 2017/2018 Record: 48-34 (6th in the West; lost 4-1 in the second round to Golden State)
  • Key Additions: Julius Randle (free agent), Elfrid Payton (free agent), Jahlil Okafor (free agent)
  • Key Losses: DeMarcus Cousins (signed with Golden State), Rajon Rondo (signed with the Los Angeles Lakers)

After a successful season in which the Pelicans swept the Portland Trail Blazers in the opening round of the Playoffs, New Orleans will head into the upcoming season with a new-look lineup.

You already know about Boogie Cousins bolting for Golden State, but Elfrid Payton and Julius Randle now get inserted into a starting lineup that features one of the best players in the NBA, Anthony Davis.

“The Brow” has the skill set to be among the short list of MVP candidates, and we’d be shocked if anything less than that transpires.

Season Outlook

Given how many legitimate teams there are in the West, we can’t automatically say this team is a lock to be in the Playoffs.

While “AD” is likely to be commanding double teams all year long, guys like Jrue Holiday and Julius Randle are really going to have to step up if this team is going to make a dent in this conference.

San Antonio Spurs

  • 2017/2018 Record: 47-35 (7th in the West; lost in the first round 4-1 to Golden State)
  • Key Additions: DeMar DeRozan (trade), Jakob Poeltl (trade), Lonnie Walker IV (via draft), Marco Belinelli (free agent)
  • Key Losses: Kawhi Leonard (traded to Toronto), Danny Green (traded to Toronto), Manu Ginobili (retired), Tony Parker (signed with Charlotte), Kyle Anderson (signed with Memphis)

Talk about a new-look squad; the San Antonio Spurs will look nothing like they have in the past when they take the court in 2018/2019.

I guess the saving grace is that the Kawhi Leonard saga is finally behind them, and they can move on without all the uncertainty and question marks.

How DeMar DeRozan fits in with what the Spurs have in place will be interesting to follow, but I’m sure Gregg Popovich will get things sorted out rather quickly.

Not only is Kawhi out of the picture, but so are Danny Green and Kyle Anderson.

Tony Parker moved on, and Manu Ginobili hung it up for good, so it’s almost as if this team is starting from scratch.

However, LaMarcus Aldridge remains as a dependable presence down low,and San Antonio is high on Dejounte Murray as an up-and-coming star.

So perhaps there is hope after all.

Season Outlook

I don’t want to bet against Coach Popovich, and this team still has plenty of talent. But trying to replace Kawhi Leonard, who I believe is a top-3 player in this league, is going to take time.

This team shouldn’t have any issues getting to the Playoffs, but doing any damage once they get there is probably a bit of a reach.

Final Remarks

I really can’t wait for the NBA season to start.

The Southwest Division is one that I especially have my eye on, as I’m really excited to see how good Luka Doncic can be. I love his size, I love his creativity, and most importantly, I love his demeanor and will to win.

It looks like Dallas most certainly drafted a special player, but only time will tell to see how he develops.

Houston will be gunning for the Warriors once again, while the Spurs and Pelicans will each have plenty to prove in their own rights.

The bottom line is that the NBA season is about to begin, and we won’t have to just predict and project how things will play out anymore. Once the action officially gets underway, all the previews go out the window.

That’s when it’s time to take a step back and just let these guys play ball.

2018/19 NBA Team Analysis – Western Conference’s Southwest Division
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2018/19 NBA Team Analysis – Western Conference’s Southwest Division
There is a lot to be excited about when you look at the Western Conference’s Southwest Division. I dive into all 5 teams here.
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