The Spurs and Rockets will likely duke it out to see who wins the Southwest division this year. Who will take the title in the Texas shootout?
1. Houston Rockets
16-17 Record: 55-27
Major Additions: Chris Paul, P.J. Tucker, Luc Mbah a Moute, Zhou Qi, Tarik Black, possibly Carmelo Anthony…..
Major Losses: Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell, Kyle Wiltjer, possibly Ryan Anderson….
The Rockets already made one of the biggest blockbuster trades of the summer in acquiring Chris Paul from the Rockets in exchange for Lou Williams and several young players. The move gives Houston two elite ball-dominant guards who can spread the floor and distribute the ball in Paul and Harden, but they’re likely not done yet. H-town is also currently looking to acquire Carmelo Anthony from the New York Knicks, though will most likely have to give up Ryan Anderson or in a less likely case, 6th man of the year Eric Gordon. This trade would give the Rockets even more shooting and could also revive Melo’s career, as he’s currently in a mess in New York City. Playing Anthony at the 4 could make him one of the best stretch 4’s in the game and help him on defense, where guarding power forwards will make defending an easier job for him, as his lack of quickness on D has always been a liability for him guarding small forwards. If Houston is able to keep young rim protector, Clint Capela, while acquiring Anthony via trade, I see them easily surpassing 60 wins and disrupting the Spurs Southwest reign.
17-18 Record Prediction: 63-19
2. San Antonio Spurs
16-17 Record: 61-21
Major Additions: Rudy Gay, Derrick White, Joffrey Lauvergne, Jaron Blossomgame
Major Losses: Jonathan Simmons, Dewayne Dedmon, Possibly David Lee
The Spurs look to again be one of the top teams in the Western Conference. The team replaces C Dewayne Dedmon with Frenchman Joffrey Lauvergne. This change could hurt San Antonio’s inside D but now gives them another stretch bigman alongside Davis Bertans. The team could lose veteran forward, David Lee, as he recently declined his player option for the 17-18 season, though could sign him or another bigman to a minimum deal. The team will also be without energetic G, Jonathan Simmons next season. In my opinion, Simmons was the 2nd most important player for the Spurs in the playoffs this past season, only behind Kawhi Leonard. His slashing ability and relentless defense was seemingly always there for San Antonio. The team will surely miss Simmons’ duties, though they were able to sign former Kings F, Rudy Gay, with the extra money and roster spot. The Spurs will likely have no problem getting these new players to adapt to the team play style. I predict they’ll post 60 or more wins again this year.
17-18 Record Prediction: 62-20
3. New Orleans Pelicans
16-17 Record: 34-48
Major Additions: Frank Jackson, Rajon Rondo
Major Losses: Donatas Motiejunas, Tim Frazier, Quinn Cook, Axel Toupane
The Pelicans have without a doubt the most dominant frontcourt in the NBA heading into next season. The All-Star duo of Anthony Davis and Demarcus Cousins will give teams problems in the post, nightly. With solid PG, Jrue Holiday, and newly acquired floor leader, Rajon Rondo, the Pels backcourt looks better than it has in years. Their real issue in years past and most likely this year as well is shooting on the wing. The team finished 19th in the NBA in 3pt percentage last season, and didn’t really ever find a solid wing player to play alongside their three cornerstones. Unless Solomon Hill, Quincy Pondexter, or Dante Cunningham do enough to showcase their value at the 3 for New Orleans, the Pels should look to make a move for a solid “3 and D” small forward. If the shooting problem is eliminated and they find a reliable wing, the Pelicans will challenge for a late seed in the West.
17-18 Record Prediction: 43-39
4. Dallas Mavericks
16-17 Record: 33-49
Major Additions: Dennis Smith Jr., Josh McRoberts
Major Losses: Jarrod Uthoff, possibly Nerlens Noel
The Mavs added two new rotation players this Summer, only losing young benchwarmer, Jarrod Uthoff. 1st round draft pick, Dennis Smith Jr., will come in and compete with other young guard, Yogi Ferrell, for the starting PG job in Dallas. Both will get significant playing time this year next to Seth Curry in the backcourt. Josh McRoberts brings frontcourt playmaking ability to play behind Dirk Nowitzki and round out the team. SF Harrison Barnes is coming off his best season in the league and is quite possibly the best player on the Mavs, at just 25 years old. The Nerlens Noel situation is the most complicated in Dallas right now. The team is apparently at a crossroads right now in determining whether or not he’s truly worth the amount of cash he’s asking for. If the Mavericks are able to keep Noel and he shows his potential as an elite rim protector and athletic big man on offense, Dallas could be primed for Western competition in the future. As of now, the team will find it tough to rack up wins in the loaded West.
17-18 Record Prediction: 32-50
5. Memphis Grizzlies
16-17 Record: 43-39
Major Additions: Ivan Rabb, Dillon Brooks, Mario Chalmers, Ben McLemore, Tyreke Evans, Rade Zagorac
Major Losses: Zach Randolph, Vince Carter, likely Tony Allen, possibly JaMychal Green
The Grizzlies have an impressive streak of 7 straight playoff appearances going for them right now. Unfortunately for them, it’s likely the streak ends this season. With the loss of long time PF, Zach Randolph, and veteran sharpshooter, Vince Carter, the Griz’ roster looks weaker than last year heading into 17-18. The team will also in all likelihood lose elite defensive guard, Tony Allen, in free agency. The biggest question so far this offseason for Memphis is the status of breakout forward, JaMychal Green. The 27-year old is coming off his best professional season and is looking for heaps of cash this summer. A team has yet to sign Green to a contract, which would force Memphis to match the contract. The team does however have a qualifying offer of 2.8 million dollars extended to Green. If no other organization sees enough value in the forward to give him big money, it’s likely Green plays on the qualifying offer this year before hitting the unrestricted market next summer. Unless Mike Conley or Marc Gasol turns into superman before the start of the season, its likely Memphis sits out the postseason this year.
17-18 Record Prediction: 31-51