Southwest Division NBA Preview 2020-21
Let’s take a look at the five teams in the Southwest Division now!
The Dallas Mavericks are based on the elite European talents of Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis. The team lacks a lot of its punch outside of this tandem, though Tim Hardaway Jr and Josh Richardson are both good and capable swingmen. Maxi Kleber, Dorian Finney-Smith, and Dwight Powell fill out the rotation of bigs with Porzingis, and this could be a weak spot on the team. The Mavericks also, however, have Willie Cauley Stein and James Johnson, both of whom provide a lot more defensive presence but neither is consistent on the offensive end.
The Mavericks need Porzingis to remain healthy and Doncic’s stardom to continue to proceed, but it also needs a few other parts before it can line up with the contending teams in the West.
Projected Record: 45-27
The Houston Rockets are said to be exploring trade talks with the Miami Heat involving James Harden. This would change the entire prospectus of Houston basketball, but we will proceed for the moment as though that certainly does NOT happen. The target seems to be Miami’s Tyler Herro–if it ever comes to fruition.
In the meantime, this is James Harden’s team, and John Wall now joins him as yet another running mate in the backcourt. Wall has looked great this preseason, and the Rockets have a 6’4” small forward in Eric Gordon who provides a quick trigger and good outside shot. PJ Tucker and DeMarcus Cousins hardly seem to fit together at the 4/5 spots, but stranger things have worked before and Cousins is at least a very skilled big man to add some talent to the roster.
Overall, it is unclear how this mishmash of players could really equate to a true contending team, but Harden’s also arguably the most-efficient scoring shooting guard in NBA history and he will at least secure a lot of wins for this team with his offensive exploits.
Projected Record: 49-23
Reigning Rookie of the Year Ja Morant heads a strong collection of young talent on Beale Street. The Memphis Grizzlies are hoping Jaren Jackson Jr recovers fast from injury because he is the clear second-best player on this roster behind Morant. In the meantime, expect Dillon Brooks to shoot, and a lot. He is a good volume scorer whose shot selection lacks at times, but with Kyle Anderson and Jonas Valanciunas being mostly role players, expect Brooks to take on a heavy scoring role with Morant early in the season.
This team could be better than the sum of its parts with Morant’s leadership and Justise Winslow, Brandon Clarke, and Grayson Allen all add great depth in the second unit. Clarke could start while Jackson recovers, as well.
Projected Record: 44-28
New Orleans Pelicans
Stan Van Gundy should help this team reach its potential. How high that is, is unclear. Zion Williamson will be healthy for the start of this season, which should give us an idea of just how legitimate his superstar status is. Even if he is more a star than a superstar, Brandon Ingram could be equally as good as Kevin Durant on the offensive end this season. He broke out last year, and Lonzo Ball has shown enough improvement that alongside Eric Bledsoe the Pelicans have a strong 2-way backcourt.
New Zealand’s Steven Adams joins to play center, and he should provide the same steady presence he did his entire time in Oklahoma City, with Jaxson Hayes providing a much more exciting dunk-filled option behind him off the bench. Josh Hart is a useful player at three positions and JJ Redick is necessary for court spacing. All the things seem intact with New Orleans, and the NBA noticed by putting the Pelicans on National TV a lot.
Projected Record: 46-26
San Antonio Spurs
The San Antonio Spurs are rebuilding, and that sounds strange after its two-decade run of dominance. Its future lies mostly in the hands of Dejounte Murray and possibly even Keldon Johnson, while DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge keep the team competitive with their consistent scoring efforts. It is a strange amalgam of veterans crossed with youth, and the backcourt has Patty Mills for the leadership and Murray for the elite defense.
The Spurs cannot ever really be counted out of playoff contention, but this roster is a strange mix even for Popovich. It also is really in the air how good Jakob Poeltl can become, though he did make great strides last season as a Spur.
Projected Record: 37-35