Here it is, last but not least, the Southwest.
San Antonio Spurs
Some people may have forgotten that the Spurs won 61 games last season. They seem to constantly defy all expectations and find ways to remain winners; the case should be no different this season.
The core is back. Leonard, Parker, Green, Aldridge, Patty Mills and even Manu! Pau Gasol is also still in the mix and should not be overlooked as an elite big man.
The Spurs did a great job to improve over the offseason by picking up Rudy Gay and Joffrey Lauvergne. Whether he fills in off the bench or starts at PF, Gay could find new life under Pop and be a massive boost to this already great defensive team. Meanwhile, Lauvergne has yet to find a true home, but is just the type of player that could flourish in the Spurs system.
Kyle Anderson, Dejuante Murray and Davis Bertans round out the second unit and should each be nearing the next step in their progress.
The Spurs are still a super power, like it or not.
The new-look Rockets are one of the most anticipated of the upcoming season. They improved in a couple of ways but most notably by picking up Chris Paul.
With Paul now at the point analysts no longer have to struggle with whether to call Harden a PG or SG. Paul’s presence will improve the Rockets’ ball movement and help spread the work load through the lineup.
The Rockets added a couple of solid defenders in the off season by picking up P.J. Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute. They will join the other core members, Nene, Clint Capela, Trevor Ariza and Ryan Anderson.
The Rockets shot about 30 three-pointers per game last year but do not be surprised if that number rises this season.
The Rockets look like a top-5 team in the West no problem.
The Grizz pride themselves on Grit’n’Grind but things are getting ridiculous with the competition increasing all around them. The Grizzlies did what they could to improve in the offseason, while also they parted ways with cornerstone guys, ZBo and Tony Allen.
The Grizz picked up Ben McLemore, Tyreke Evans and Mario Chalmers in the offseason. McLemore still has untapped potential and could be a great addition, while Evans is a versatile player that can stabilize the second lineup. Chalmers is a bit of a question mark after missing last season due to injury, but sure has valuable experience.
Mike Conley and Marc Gasol will be back at it, along with JaMychal Green, James Ennis and Dayonta Davis.
REMINDER: Chandler Parsons is still in the NBA and is a member of the Grizzlies. If he can stay healthy, Parsons could be the x-factor in this teams success.
The Grizz will need to fight wire-to-wire in order to grab one of those scarce playoff spots.
New Orleans Pelicans
The 17/18 season will be the first opportunity for the Fire and Ice/Boogie and the Brow combo to go to work from start to finish.
The Pelicans made a bold move last season by imagining that DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis could work together on the court. From the small sample last season, it looked like there was definitely potential, with them both absolutely stuffing the stat sheet on more than one occasion.
The Pelicans signed Rajon Rondo in the offseason, and while they still have Jrue Holiday, Rondo could end up fitting into the chemistry forming in New Orleans. They also picked up Ian Clark and Tony Allen to add depth in the back court. Not to mention, Allen is a priceless addition for what he could do to the culture (look what he did in Memphis).
Jordan Crawford, Dante Cunningham, Solomon Hill, Cheick Diallo and E’Twaun Moore will be back.
The Pelicans will likely be in the thick of things fighting for a spot in the post season.
The work “Tank” is not in the Mavericks’ dictionary. They have done a fantastic job doing everything to bounce back into relevance as soon as possible.
The “Big Mummy” Dirk is back for another go and has already shown in preseason that he’s still got it. The rest of the core consists of Nerlens Noel, Devin Harris, Harrison Barnes, Wesley Matthews and Dorian Finney-Smith, while they also added versatile big Josh McRoberts to help solidify the crew.
The Mavs got one of the biggest steals of the draft when the selected Dennis Smith Jr. ninth overall. Smith is a super athletic PG, whose game looks more like Westbrook’s than anyone else. Smith could easily take over the starting PG role, while J.J. Barea and Yogi Ferrell back him up, especially considering Seth Curry has been ruled out for an extended period with injury.
The Mavericks definitely have a nice young core with guys like Barnes, Smith Jr., Noel and Finney-Smith, but it might be another season or two before they are ready to compete with the big dogs.