3. San Antonio Spurs
That's right. The San Antonio Spurs fight, claw, scratch, and somehow manage to find their way into a third-place division finish. The youth movement is on for the Silver and Black, and this club has the ingredients to surprise the league this season.
Dejounte Murray is set to have a breakout campaign, and with Coach Gregg Popovich at the helm once again, this club will be in the thick of this division race before folks notice it. The Spurs finish with 39 wins and secure a spot in the playoffs, against all odds.
2. The Dallas Mavericks
I give credit where credit is due. Dallas is good. They were good last season and the season before that. All the pieces are in place for the Mavs to enjoy some real success now. Headlined by Slovenia’s pride and joy in 22-year-old Luka Doncic, Dallas should get back to the playoffs and make some noise in the ever-so-competitive Western Conference.
Dallas is another team with a talented young core that gained playoff experience from last season. That will prove to be the difference-maker when compared to the other youth movements in this division. The Mavericks go a couple of rounds deep in the playoffs after a second-place finish in the Southwest.
1. New Orleans Pelicans
The Pelicans have something that other teams do not, and that something is a once-in-a-generation player who can take a franchise to the Promised Land starting now. If Zion Williamson can stay healthy, he will undoubtedly navigate the unchartered waters of a deep playoff run and championship hype this city typically only has for its NFL team.
Opinions on this timeline vary, but I believe 2021-22 is the year the world bears witness to the next great one. Move over LeBron James, because Zion's reign begins now with an MVP season where he leads the Pelicans to a division crown and an epic first-round playoff series battle with a divisional foe, according to recent predictions at least.
Regardless of how the division shakes out, the potential story lines going into the new season are enough to get any fan fired up and excited for what may be in store. So, to each fan, including the ones from Houston, may the odds ever be in your favor. Let’s enjoy the ride.