May 2, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers forwardBlake Griffin
(32) defends San Antonio Spurs centerBoris Diaw
(33) in the first half of game seven of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at Staples Center. Clippers won 111-109. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
The San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets, New Orleans Pelicans, Dallas Mavericks, and Houston Rockets all in one division? I know that doesn’t seem fair, but that’s the way it is. Last year the four teams made the playoffs.
The division had four 50-plus win teams and the Pelicans, the last place team won 45 games. The division was one of the more loaded divisions in recent memory. The division was reminiscent of 2010-11, when the Southwest Division had four playoff teams with at least 45 wins. The Rockets barely missed the postseason that season, as they had 43 wins. The numbers show that the Southwest Division has had the two strongest divisions as a whole in the last 10 years.
The additions of LaMarcus Aldridge and David West to the Spurs make them a top team in the league. The Rockets adding Ty Lawson can turn them into a contender. The Grizzlies and Pelicans didn’t make any significant moves but they will be good teams. The Mavericks are expected to decline as they lost Monta Ellis and Tyson Chandler in the offseason.
Who has the best starting lineup in the division? (This article is based off of projected starting lineups)
Next: 5. Dallas Mavericks
Apr 18, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks forwardChandler Parsons
(25) in game one of the first round of the NBA Playoffs against the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
SF Chandler Parsons
The Mavericks lineup last season of Rajon Rondo, Monta Ellis, Chandler Parsons, Dirk Nowitzki, and Tyson Chandler was arguably the best. Things have changed as they lost Rondo, Ellis, and Chandler. Rondo was surely unproductive as a Mavericks player, but he might still be an upgrade over Deron Williams.
Wesley Matthews is one of the best “3 and d” players in the league without question. The problem is that he is coming off an achilles injury. If Matthews is healthy he will make up for the loss of leading scorer Ellis. At small forward Parsons will hold down the fort, he is a terrific all-around small forward. Nowitzki is back as well. The 37-year old power forward has 17 years of experience under his belt, but he is still productive. Nowitzki averaged 17.3 points and 5.9 rebounds last season.
The big downgrade comes at center. The Mavericks replaced Chandler with Pachulia. Pachulia isn’t a bad player by any means, but he isn’t the rim protector and the impact player that Chandler was for Dallas. The 31-year old center averaged 8.3 points and 6.8 rebounds with Milwaukee last year.
The Mavericks won’t match last seasons 50 wins total, but they will be a borderline playoff team.
Next: 4. Memphis Grizzlies
Apr 22, 2015; Memphis, TN, USA; Memphis Grizzlies forwardTony Allen
(9) Memphis Grizzlies guardCourtney Lee
(5) Memphis Grizzlies centerMarc Gasol
(33) Memphis Grizzlies forwardZach Randolph
(50) and Memphis Grizzlies guardMike Conley
(11) during the game against the Portland Trail Blazers in game two of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports
PG Mike Conley
SG Courtney Lee
SF Tony Allen
PF Zach Randolph
C Marc Gasol
The Grizzlies didn’t make any changes to their lineup in the offseason. The Grizzlies have as good of a one-two punch as anyone down low with Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. The problem is their wing play, as they lack firepower at shooting guard and small forward. Courtney Lee and Tony Allen can be counted on to lock down on defense, but on offense they’re limited. Allen is only good for clean up baskets and layups on cuts, while Lee excels at hitting open shots. Allen will beat out Jeff Green as the starting small forward, Green is better off as the sixth man.
Mike Conley is one of the most underrated players in the league. He is a lockdown defender that can also provide some offense for a team that needs it. Conley averaged 15.8 points and 5.4 assists last season. In order for the Grizzlies to take the next step as a contender, Conley will have to put up more points. Defense is never the problem in Memphis. Last season the Grizzlies finished second in the league in points allowed a game (95.1).
Next: 3. New Orleans Pelicans
Apr 15, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forwardAnthony Davis
(23) celebrates with guardTyreke Evans
(1) during a game against the San Antonio Spurs at the Smoothie King Center. The Pelicans defeated the Spurs 108-103 and earned the 8th seed in the Western Conference Playoffs. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
New Orleans Pelicans
PG Jrue Holiday
SG Eric Gordon
SF Tyreke Evans
PF Anthony Davis
The New Orleans Pelicans have tremendous talent in their lineup. Individually when healthy they can matchup with most teams starting fives. The problem is that they can’t seem to stay healthy. For two straight seasons, Ryan Anderson, Jrue Holiday, and Eric Gordon missed significant time in the season.
At point guard Holiday, when healthy is one of the better all-around players at the position. He can score, distribute, and most importantly defend at a high level. Eric Gordon when healthy is a valuable scorer, even though he’s not the player he once was with the Clippers. Tyreke Evans will likely start at small forward. Evans had a terrific season last year as the Pelicans point guard when Holiday went down. Evans averaged 16.6 points, 6.6 assists, and 5.3 rebounds.
At power forward the Pelicans have MVP candidate Anthony Davis. The man can do it all, he is a terrific scorer, rebounder, and defender. Davis had a season to remember, as he posted averages of 24.4 points, 10.2 rebounds, 2.9 blocks, and 1.5 steals. He is ready to lead the Pelicans this season.
The hole for the Pelicans comes at center, where they start the at times ineffective Omer Asik. Asik is a good rim protector, but with Davis defending at a high level, he is sometimes useless. The Pelicans are more effective when they play Ryan Anderson at power forward and Davis at center.
The Pelicans aren’t ready to contend just yet, but they should grab one of the bottom two playoff spots in the Western Conference.
Next: 2. Houston Rockets
Mar 27, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets centerDwight Howard
(12) is congratulated by guardJames Harden
(13) and teammates during a Minnesota Timberwolves timeout in the second half at Toyota Center. Rockets won 120 to 110. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports
PG Ty Lawson
SG James Harden
SF Trevor Ariza
PF Terrance Jones
C Dwight Howard
James Harden and Dwight Howard are without question one of the leagues best duos. Harden finished second in MVP voting last season after a tremendous season. The 25-year old guard averaged 27.4 points, 7 assists, and 5.7 rebounds. Harden is as good as any guard in the league right now. Howard on the other hand has to stay healthy, he missed half the season last year with a knee injury. When healthy Howard is one of the best centers and he is a walking double-double.
The Rockets made a big splash, when they traded for Ty Lawson. I’m assuming Lawson will edge out Patrick Beverley at the starting point guard spot. Beverley is a better defender, but Lawson is much better overall. Lawson averaged 15.2 points and 9.6 assists last year.
At small forward the Rockets will start Trevor Ariza who is a solid two-way player. Ariza is known as one of the premier wing defenders, he is a good three-point shooter as well. Last season Ariza averaged 12.8 points and 5.6 rebounds. The power forward spot is interesting to keep an eye on. The Rockets can choose between Terrence Jones and Donatas Motiejunas. I believe the Rockets will go with Jones, the better defender. Motiejunas is a better perimeter player, but Jones can rebounds and blocks shots better.
Regardless of who the Rockets start at power forward, they will be ready to contend with the league’s best.
Next: 1. San Antonio Spurs
Apr 15, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; San Antonio Spurs forwardTim Duncan
(21) and guardTony Parker
(9) during a game against the New Orleans Pelicans at the Smoothie King Center. The Pelicans defeated the Spurs 108-103 and earned the 8th seed in the Western Conference Playoffs. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
San Antonio Spurs
PG Tony Parker
SG Danny Green
PF LaMarcus Aldridge
C Tim Duncan
The Spurs have not only the best team in the Southwest Division, but the best starting five. Tony Parker and Danny Green won’t be in the mix for an elite backcourt, but their frontcourt is incredible.
Kawhi Leonard is quickly becoming one of the best two-way players in the league. The Defensive Player of the Year is coming off a season, in which he averaged a career high 16.5 points and 7.2 rebounds. LaMarcus Aldridge will start at power forward for the Spurs. The four-time All-Star has averaged at least 23 points and 10 rebounds in consecutive seasons.
One can’t forget the 39-year old legend, Tim Duncan. Duncan averaged 13.9 points, 9.1 rebounds, and 2 blocks. Duncan turns back the clock here and there, which makes the Spurs surely unbeatable.
If Tony Parker is healthy they have the best lineup in the NBA. Green should continue to emerge as a terrific “3 and d” player. Last year Green broke Chuck Person‘s franchise record of 190 threes in a season, by making 191.
The Spurs are ready to make a run at the 2016 NBA title.