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Road To A Championship: NBA Southwest Division Predictions

The last NBA division. Ruled by the state of Texas, the Southwest division showcases some of the NBA’s best and loyal fan bases. Whether it’s the Grizzlies Grindhouse or the Pelicans Blender, these fans have been through the ups and downs with their teams. However, for some, there haven’t been many downs. Yes, this glorious division also contains the San Antonio Spurs who have made the playoffs for an astonishing 20 straight seasons. The longest streak in NBA history. So Let’s dive into the Spurs franchise and see what has made them so successful.

San Antonio Spurs

Obtaining the best win percentage out of any NBA franchise, The San Antonio Spurs are in some ways, the NBA’s golden team. There has hardly been any drama leaked out of the closed doors of their team’s facility while they also seem to produce the NBA’s most soft-spoken superstars. In the past, it has been Tim Duncan, but now the Spurs feature former MVP runner up, Kawhi Leonard. San Antonio also won an NBA championship just four years ago. However, the Spurs fell to the powerhouse Golden State Warriors last year in the Western Conference finals due to the loss of forward, Kawhi Leonard. Power Forward, LaMarcus Aldridge has also voiced his displeasures with his role on the team following their disappointing season finale. The Spurs did acquire, professional scorer, Rudy Gay this summer hoping he will bring a veteran presence off the bench. Gay, who averaged 18.7 points per game and 6.3 rebounds last season, will be coming off a torn ACL. With that said, let’s check out the San Antonio Spurs 2017-18 starting lineup.

PG- Tony Parker (When back from injury)

SG- Danny Green

SF- Kawhi Leonard

PF- LaMarcus Aldridge

C- Pau Gasol

Tony Parker will be entering the NBA season in January coming off of a quad injury. Parker is also 35 years old, making it that much harder for him to come back from a season ending injury. However, Parker did average over 10 points a game on 46.6% shooting. Parker is aging though, and will not be the Spurs starter for long before his flaws begin to seriously show. Danny Green is a solid “D and 3” guy who averaged 7.3 points per game last season on under 40% shooting. However, Green is a former all defensive team honorary and NBA champion. Kawhi Leonard, as we know, is an NBA superstar on both ends of the ball. Kawhi, a two-time Defensive Player of The Year winner and NBA Finals MVP, averaged 25.5 points last season on 48.5% shooting while leading San Antonio to yet another 60 win season. All in the span of a six season career. LaMarcus Aldridge just can’t accept the fact that he will never be the number one option on an NBA team. Despite Aldridge’s delusional dreams, he still averaged 17.3 points per game along with 7.3 rebounds on 47.7% shooting from the field. Whether or not Aldridge will be a Spur to start out next season is beyond me, but I would not rule out a potential trade. Pau Gasol recently signed a three-year contract with the Spurs in hopes of retiring with the franchise. Gasol, a seven-foot center, averaged an efficient 12.4 points on over 50% shooting despite his lackluster defense. So although San Antonio has some aging pieces, they also have the young stars to keep this organization competing for years to come.

Season Prediction: 54-28

Image result for spurs team kawhi leonard

Houston Rockets

After making one of the offseasons biggest moves, the Houston Rockets are back and better than ever. Although Houston did acquire Chris Paul, they lost Montrezl Harrell, Patrick Beverly, and Sam Dekker who were solid contributors to their team last season. However, it is always a good trade when you get one of the best point guards in the NBA. This blockbuster deal was ultimately due to James Harden’s complete breakdown in game six of the Western semis last year. The Rockets front office saw that he was gassed late in the season and knew they had to get a real facilitator in at Point Guard. There are concerns though, that Paul and Harden won’t play well together due to the fact that they are both ball dominant players who want the ball in their hands at all times. Despite these doubts, Houston will still improve as an overall team and might just make a run at the Western Conference Finals. Houston will also return sharpshooters Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson who had bounce back seasons last year and proved they are still solid role players. Gordon is coming fresh off of winning the Sixth Man of The Year award and will look to continue his dominance off the bench. With all of this said, Let’s take a look at the lineup the Houston Rockets will take into their experimental opening night.

PG- Chris Paul

SG- James Harden

SF- Trevor Ariza

PF- Ryan Anderson

C- Clint Capela

As I discussed, Chris Paul is one of the leagues best point guards, and he’s coming off one of his best NBA seasons. Paul averaged over 18 points a game along with 9.2 assists. Chris Paul also shot over 40% from behind the arc and led the Clippers to the fifth seed in a tough Western Conference. James Harden was last years MVP runner up nearly averaging a triple double. Harden averaged 29.1 points per game, 11.2 Assists per game, and 8.1 Rebounds to pair along with his fifth all star selection and second, first team All-NBA appearance. Trevor Ariza, much like Danny Green, is known as a “D and 3” guy, averaging 11.7 points a game to pair with 5.7 rebounds. A solid starting Small Forward, Ariza may not be capable of carrying a team, but he will hold his own on the court. Ryan Anderson bounced back from an injury ridden career and played 72 games while still averaging 13.6 points per game on over 40% shooting from three. Clint Capela is in the starting lineup to basically finish alley oops, and rebound. Last season Capela averaged 12.6 points and 8.1 rebounds on 64.4% shooting from the field. Although this Houston team may not have reached the Warriors pedal stool yet, they could be on their way to competing for a championship in the next few seasons.

Season Prediction: 58-24

Image result for rockets team chris paul

Memphis Grizzlies

The Memphis Grizzlies are doing their best to keep the Grit-‘N’-Grind play style alive. However, their Grindfather, Tony Allen is still a free agent and it is strongly believed he will be heading out of Memphis for a more luxurious city. Tony Allen is in a way a metaphor for this Grizzlies team. Once an irritating grind it out, type of player who would find a way to win, but now as the games evolved, it has left him behind struggling to find his place in a fast pace league. However, some how it seems that he will still find a way to contribute. Despite the absence of Tony Allen, Memphis still features their franchises premier players in Mike Conley and Marc Gasol. Conley, once the highest paid player in NBA history, is possibly the most underrated player in the NBA as he has yet to be selected to an NBA all star game despite his superb 10 years in the NBA. Marc Gasol has been widely recognized as one of the NBA’s elite centers the past few years of his career, earning three all star appearances, two All-NBA selections, and one Defensive Player of The Year award. Although not too many bright young up and comers currently on the Memphis roster, their immediate future remains optimistic as they will look to compete for years to come. However, for now, the 2017-18 Memphis Grizzlies will sport the following starting lineup.

PG- Mike Conley

SG- Ben McLemore (when back from injury)

SF- Chandler Parsons

PF- Jamaychal Green

C- Marc Gasol

As I mentioned before, Mike Conley is one of the most underrated players in the NBA and a top 10 NBA point guard. Last season alone, Conely averaged 20.5 points per game to pair along with 6.3 rebounds on 40.8% shooting from behind the arc. However, Conley also plays in the Western Conference which is gifted with some of the best point guards this game has to offer. Memphis recently signed Ben McLemore to a 2 year, $10.6 Million dollar contract. This was originally seen as a risky signing and it proved to be. McLemore fractured his foot and is expected to miss up to 12 weeks. Memphis is hoping that McLemore will be able to bounce back from injury and become a good contributor for their playoff team. Now onto Chandler Parsons. I have nothing but respect for this man. To be that bad of an NBA player and still get a max contract is a skill of its own. Parsons averaged just 6.2 points a game last year while playing just 34 games. Jamaychal Green, who is coming off his best NBA season averaging 8.9 points per game along with 7.4 rebounds. Although not the sexiest stats, Green is a tough defensive player who might fit better off the bench for this team. Marc Gasol, as we discussed is one of the leagues best centers averaging 19.5 points a game on 46% shooting. Also a three-time all star, Gasol has earned the respect of his peers and coaches across the league.

Season Prediction: 42-40

Image result for grizzlies team'

New Orleans Pelicans

The New Orleans Pelicans will be in the running for a playoff spot next year. Despite the strengthening Western Conference, the Pelicans may have the best frontcourt in the NBA. Anthony Davis, a 4x all star has made just one playoff appearance in his short five-year career. Cousins, a 3x all star, has not made a playoff appearance yet and has only won 30+ games once throughout his career. However, he has displayed a winning mentality which is a big part of the reason he left Sacramento in the first place.With the acquisition of Cousins, the Pelicans were still lacking guards along with a veteran presence coming off the bench. New Orleans was so desperate for a solid point guard, that they signed Jrue Holiday to a 5 year/$131,100,000 million dollar contract. However, the Pelicans did sign Rajon Rondo to a one year contract. Rondo should be great at getting the ball to Cousins and Davis in the post and through alley-oops. However, Rondo has shown his terrible attitude when it comes to dealing with other stars and has even quit on his team during a playoff game. Despite these concerns, the New Orleans Pelicans will surge into the 2017-18 season with the following starting lineup.

PG- Jrue Holiday

SG- E’Twuan Moore

SF- Solomon Hill

PF- Anthony Davis

C- Demarcus Cousins

Jrue Holiday, although he struggled to find his place with the addition of Demarcus Cousins, he still averaged over 15 points a game and 7.3 assists. Holiday also shot 45.4% from the field and over 35% from downtown. E’Twuan Moore is a classic NBA journeyman. Over the past six years, Moore has played for four different NBA teams and will probably never be a second or third option on an NBA offense. However, E’Twuan Moore did average nearly 10 points per game last season and averaged a career high in two point field goal percentage. Solomon Hill is yet another weak spot in the Pelicans starting lineup. Hill averaged 7.0 points per game last season on 38.3% shooting from the field. This is another example of why the Pelicans cannot break through that playoff barrier. Their starting five is riddled with sub par fringe NBA players who should be the 13th and 14th men on a roster. However, the Pelicans frontcourt is anything but sub par. Anthony Davis, an NBA superstar averaged 28.0 points a game along with 11.8 rebounds. Davis also averaged 2.2 blocks a game and 1.3 steals proving him as an elite NBA defender. Demarcus Cousins has continued to improve his game and alter it to fit the modern NBA play style. Cousins shot a career high, 36.1% from three and 45.2% from the field. However, those were not the only way Cousins filled the stat sheet, as he averaged 27.0 points per game to pair with 11.0 rebounds and 4.6 assists. A true all around player, the only thing lacking with Demarcus Cousins is his attitude and temper towards officials. However, if he can keep that in check and continue to improve as a player, the Pelicans are on track for one of their best seasons in a long time.

Season Prediction: 44-38

Image result for pelicans team demarcus cousins

Dallas Mavericks

One can only hope that this Mavericks season is not a recreation of the Kobe Bryant “Farewell” tour because although everyone has his final 60 point game engraved in their mind, that season was a complete waste for their growing young core. However, throughout his career, Dirk Nowitzki had made it clear that he wants to compete. Even this summer, Nowitzki signed a 2 year/$10 million dollar contract rather than going for the huge lifetime legacy deal. It doesn’t seem that discount will pay off though, as Dallas was unsuccessful in luring any big name free agents and will look to build through the draft. Although, Dallas is still in possession of Seth Curry, who has proved himself as a solid NBA player. Last year was Seth’s first season where he played over 50 games and averaged 13 points per game in the process. Although looked at as the disappointing one of the two brothers, Seth has had no problems holding his own in Basketballs most competitive league. Dallas is also the home of young NBA sharpshooter, Yogi Ferrell. Ferrell, an undrafted point guard out of Indiana was signed by Dallas last year and quickly showed out scoring 32 points in a February game against the Trail Blazers. These are just a few of the bright stars who call Dallas Home in the 2017-18 Mavericks starting lineup.

PG- Dennis Smith Jr.

SG- Yogi Ferrell

SF- Harrison Barnes

PF- Dirk Nowitzki

C- Nerlens Noel

Dennis Smith Jr. was the Mavericks 9th overall draft pick this summer and has the potential of a young Russell Westbrook. Smith who averaged 18.1 points per game last season to pair with 6.2 assists had an explosion that is very rare among point guards. Although the most accurate comparison is Russell Westbrook, I have also seen comparisons drawn to a young Derrick Rose. Yogi Ferrell, I touched on earlier, but last season, Ferrell averaged 10.0 points a game but shot just 40.6% from the field. However, he is a young player who should develop and become more consistent as his career wears on. Harrison Barnes, a former NBA champion, led the Mavericks in scoring last year averaging a great 19.2 points and 5.0 rebounds a game while shooting 46.9% from the field. Although maybe not worthy of a max contract, Barnes made it clear he is a preliminary all star who commands attention defensively. Dirk Nowitzki is one of the best power forwards of all time and by far the greatest Maverick of all time. Coming up on his 20th season with the organization, it is widely believed he will hang them up at this coming April. Although Nowitzki has a career average of 21.7 points, last season he put up just 14.2 points a game on 43.7% shooting. Nowitzki has already accepted the fact that he isn’t the number one option on a team anymore and has to transfer into that veteran mentor for the franchises younger players. Nerlens Noel joined Dallas mid season last year via trade with the 76ers. During his 22 games with the organization, Noel averaged 8.5 points along with nearly 6 rebounds a game. Despite the underwhelming stats, however, the Mavericks organization has great faith in Noel’s progression and hope that he can one day be a top 5 NBA center.

Season Prediction: 34-48

Image result for mavericks team

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5 thoughts on “Road To A Championship: NBA Southwest Division Predictions Leave a comment

  1. I’m probably crazy, but I’m just not buying the Rockets this year. Pretty much every source has them as a top 3 team in the West, but I think taking the ball out of Harden’s hands will hurt them quite a bit. Further confirmation of my insanity – I think the Mavericks will make the playoffs.

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  2. There are questions about whether or not Paul and Harden can work together, but in my opinion, if you can add another superstar who wants to win, they will find a way to work together. As for the Mavericks, Dennis Smith would need to have a rookie of the year type season, and Harrison Barnes would have to be a consistent 20+ per game scorer while Dirk stays healthy and contributes a solid 15 points a game. Although maybe a bit far fetched, it is definetely possible.

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