Southwest Division Best in the NBA
By George Middleton
Apr 28, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich reacts against the Los Angeles Clippers in game five of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at Staples Center. The Spurs defeated the Clippers 111-107 to take a 3-2 lead. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
The San Antonio Spurs look like the favorites to win the 2016 NBA title. The Spurs did lose Marco Belinelli, Aron Baynes, Cory Joseph, and Tiago Splitter. The Spurs made up for those losses by adding LaMarcus Aldridge, David West, and Ray McCallum.
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The Spurs also resigned Tim Duncan, Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, and Manu Ginobili. Tony Parker, Kyle Anderson, Patty Mills, and Boris Diaw will return as well.
The goal is to win the division as well and it won’t be easy. Last season, the Spurs finished one game behind first place Houston, after losing the season finale against New Orleans.
Other division teams are the Dallas Mavericks, New Orleans Pelicans, Houston Rockets, and Memphis. The Dallas Mavericks look like the worst team on paper, as they lost Monta Ellis and failed to land DeAndre Jordan. The Mavericks lineup appears to be Deron Williams, Wesley Matthews, Chandler Parsons, Dirk Nowitzki, and Zaza Pachulia. The additions of Williams and Matthews will certainly help, but health will be an issue with both. The problem with the Mavericks is age and lack of depth. Off the bench their only talent is J.J. Barea and rookie Justin Anderson.
New Orleans can finish in the middle as they have lots of talent. The last few seasons they have struggled with injuries. The Pelicans have Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon, Tyreke Evans, Anthony Davis, and Omer Asik. There aren’t many holes in that lineup and they also have Ryan Anderson. The problem like Dallas is depth and if Holiday can stay healthy. If Holiday plays at a high level, the Pelicans can be as high as a five seed in the conference, if not their playoff spot is in danger.
The Memphis Grizzlies and Houston Rockets are sure things for the postseason. Both teams made minimal adjustments and didn’t add any big pieces. The Rockets did lose Josh Smith to the Clippers which can hurt them a little. Both teams finished in the top five in the West last season and should do so this season.
There aren’t many divisions that even come close to the Southwest. The Pacific division features Golden State, the Clippers and Lakers, Sacramento, and Phoenix. The Warriors were the champs and should be elite this season. The Clippers will be a top team with Jordan coming back and the additions of Smith, Lance Stephenson, and Paul Pierce. Phoenix, who has a talented backcourt in Brandon Knight and Eric Bledsoe added Tyson Chandler. They also have Markieff Morris, rookie Devin Booker, T.J. Warren, and P.J. Tucker. The Suns are a tricky team they can be a seven or eight seed, or they can be a 30 win team.
The Lakers and Kings are the trickiest teams to evaluate. The Lakers have a talented trio of young players in D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, and Julius Randle. They also have Kobe Bryant, Roy Hibbert, Louis Williams, and Nick Young. If their young trio grows before our eyes, they can make noise if Bryant stays healthy. A playoff spot isn’t out of the question, neither is a 25 win season.
The Kings have talent like the Lakers, but it is established. The Kings added Marco Belinelli, Rajon Rondo, Kosta Koufos, and Caron Butler this offseason. The Kings drafted Willie Cauley-Stein with their sixth pick. I haven’t even mentioned they have elite center DeMarcus Cousins, talented wing Rudy Gay, streaky Ben McLemore, and steady Darren Collison. The Kings have excellent depth and two go-to-guys. Their bench can contain Belinelli, Collison, Koufos, and Cauley-Stein. It wouldn’t surprise me if they were next year’s Pelicans, but they have stunk for the past decade.
The Southwest division is still better.