The Dallas Mavericks were on top of the Southwest division last year, but will Luka Doncic and the Mavericks stay there? Or, will an exciting young Rockets climb the ranks? Let’s examine the Southwest division and what to expect from its young (and rebuilding) teams.
The Dallas Mavericks had a solid 2020-21 season. They finished with a record of 42-30 and had the best record of the Southwest division. They were also the fifth seed of the Western Conference and faced the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round of the playoffs. While the Mavericks lost, they put up a fight in a seven-game series.
The Dallas Mavericks have agreements to hire Hall of Famer Jason Kidd as their new head coach and longtime Nike executive Nico Harrison in a lead basketball operations role, sources tell @TheAthletic @Stadium. — Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) June 25, 2021
The Mavericks have an exceptional player in Doncic. He averaged 27.7 points and 8.6 assists last season, and somehow he keeps getting better. As long as the Mavericks follow his lead (without him doing all the scoring), they have a chance to succeed.
Doncic and the Mavericks have some things good for them. A new coach and youth (considering their oldest player, Boban Marjanovic, is 33) are great things to have. But the Mavericks have a few weaknesses as well. The Mavericks aren’t a great defensive team, and last season, they ranked dead last in steals per game. Their defense isn’t great, and even Doncic isn’t a credible defender, but if the Mavs can improve defensively, they’ll be stronger.
One of the ways they can avoid overusing Doncic is utilizing his supporting cast. The player to keep an eye on is Kristaps Porzingis.
I think Kristaps is ready for the season. #Mavs — Dorothy J. Gentry (@DorothyJGentry) October 13, 2021
Porzingis joined the Mavericks in 2019. They acquired him in a trade with the Knicks, and since then, his time in Dallas has been underwhelming. There were even reports of a feud between Doncic and Porzingis, but with a new season approaching, they have a fresh start. If Porzingis stays healthy and contributes on a consistent basis, he could be the key player the Mavericks need.
The Memphis Grizzlies reached the playoffs last season, and they did it in style. They made the playoffs through the NBA’s new play-in tournament. They were the ninth seed of the West (with a 38-34 record) and beat both the San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors for the final playoff spot.
new szn. new motto. let’s get it. pic.twitter.com/2tMpTryls1 — Memphis Grizzlies (@memgrizz) October 14, 2021
The Grizzlies are a young team, but they have a great young talent in Ja Morant. Morant averaged 19.1 points and 7.4 assists. He is an exciting, explosive guard that can create his own shots. Which is ironically something the Grizzlies can improve on. Memphis has trouble getting their own shots. They also could use some work on their 3-point shooting. But those issues can be resolved.
Memphis is headed in the right direction. They have a young core in Morant, Dillon Brooks and Jaren Jackson Jr. And if Jaren Jackson Jr. remains healthy, he’s a player to keep an eye on.
San Antonio Spurs
The San Antonio Spurs aren’t what they used to be. They were once a contender, and now they are rebuilding. But they still have Gregg Popovich.
The Spurs managed to make the play-in tournament but lost to the Grizzlies. This marks their second straight season where they missed the playoffs after making them every year since 1998. And with the loss of several veterans, the Spurs are officially in a rebuild.
Over the summer, the Spurs lost DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay and Patty Mills. But they did add a few players like sharpshooters Doug McDermott and Bryn Forbes. Both McDermott and Forbes give the Spurs floor spacing, which helps someone like Dejounte Murray.
KJ was right back in the gym putting in work after last night’s Silver & Black Open Scrimmage 💯 pic.twitter.com/VbUN4l1OCu — San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) October 14, 2021
Like most of the teams on this list, the Spurs are young. They have some talent in players like Murray and Keldon Johnson (a player to watch) to build around, and the additions of McDermott and Forbes help one of their weaknesses. The Spurs were 24th in 3-point percentage last season, and now they have two credible shooters. So, that works in their favor.
New Orleans Pelicans
The New Orleans Pelicans are in a tricky situation. They have great talent in Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson, but what lies ahead for Williamson?
There have been rumors that Williamson isn’t happy in New Orleans. This means the Pelicans need to progress and do so as soon as possible.
The Pelicans have a young core to build around, but there are some areas they could work on. New Orleans was 24th in blocks last season. So, they could use rim protection.
.@Devonte4Graham for three 👌👌 📺: livestream on https://t.co/4QdSbs2hH2 (in-market fans only) 📻: @ESPNRadioNOLA pic.twitter.com/fMEFzPMdEp — New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) October 12, 2021
New Orleans could have a decent season, and despite the loss of Lonzo Ball, they added a few solid players (like Devonte’ Graham). And if Graham and Nickeil Alexander-Walker take on playmaking duties, they’ll be players to watch.
The Houston Rockets lost their best player last season. They traded James Harden to the Brooklyn Nets, and instantly, it put them in a rebuild.
The Rockets won’t be good this year, but they could be exciting. Of all the teams on this list, the Rockets are the newest rebuilding team. Their rebuild started in the middle of last season, where other teams started earlier. Houston has a few pieces in place, but it’s establishing an identity and building a core.
“Jalen Green won’t be ROTY” 🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩 — Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) October 13, 2021
The Rockets were 28th in the 3-point shooting last season. They could use reliable shooters and scorers, and their 2021 pick fits the mold. Jalen Green will be a key player, and with players like Kevin Porter Jr. (a possible sleeper) and Christian Wood, the Rockets are on the right track.