In the wild Western Conference, the Southwest Division has always been one of the most competitive groups in the NBA. The San Antonio Spurs have not claimed a division title since 2017, and while they might not accomplish that goal this season, their future is looking brighter than ever. With a promising young core in Victor Wembanyama, Devin Vassell, Keldon Johnson, and Jeremy Sochan, this talented squad should be able to hold their own against the toughest teams in the league.
But what about the ball clubs in their division? The Memphis Grizzlies, Dallas Mavericks, New Orleans Pelicans, and Houston Rockets have loaded up on centerpieces like Luka Doncic, Jalen Green, Zion Williamson, and Ja Morant over the last few years, and each of them is eager to keep the Silver and Black from returning to the top of the association. However, there is at least one advantage the Spurs have over all of these teams, even after their sluggish start to the season.
The Memphis Grizzlies have won the Southwest Division and have been the second seed in the Western Conference for the past two seasons. Ja Morant, their superstar point guard and one of the faces of the league has been the catalyst for that impressive success. He has averaged 26.8 points and 7.4 assists per game on 47.9% shooting from the field during their ascent to contender status.
However, his off-court troubles might hurt their chances at a high playoff seed, as the NBA suspended Morant for 25 games. Last season, the Grizz went 11-10 without Morant, and their offense sputtered to a standstill. Even with capable shooters in Desmond Bane and Luke Kennard, Memphis was the eighth-worst three-point shooting team in the league (35.1%).
The Spurs already fell to the Grizzlies in a late-game implosion last week, but that embarrassing loss may not matter if Memphis continues dropping in the standings without their world-class floor general. That matchup will be the only time these clubs face off while Ja serves his suspension, but having Wembanyama should open the floor and create better looks for San Antonio in round two.