Are the Rockets the real deal again this season, or will Melo bring about their downfall?? What next for the Spurs? Can Memphis recover? Do that Mavs have the Rookie of the Year? Will Davis still be a Pelican at seasons end? Interest and quality in the Southwest is high so read on…
PG: Chris Paul, Michael Carter-Williams
SG: James Harden, Eric Gordon
SF: James Ennis, Gerald Green
PF: P.J. Tucker, Carmelo Anthony
C: Clint Capela, Nene
After 65 wins and a whisker (or a CP3 hammy) of a Warrior take-down last season, I think the Rockets have reached and passed their peak. Ariza and Anderson were aware, and it was especially clear once Morey made Melo the Rockets big offseason acquisition. We saw how terrible he made the Thunder last season in the series vs the Jazz. OKC was +32 in the series when Melo was on the bench – they lost in 6. Houston adding him after losing the other parts they have unfortunately put them worse off than last season for me. Melo is a genuine star with a solid career in the NBA, but way past his prime now and lets hope the Rockets can see that, utilising him for the value he can bring and not rely on him to be the third option.
CP3 will have a chip on his shoulder after the sad end to last season. And The Beard will also be keen to push this squad one better and make the Finals. Unfortunately I think they come up short unless something can be worked out to land Jimmy Butler, and/or some other parts from teams elsewhere before the trade deadline.
Prediction: 53-29, first in the Southwest.
San Antonio Spurs
PG: Derrick White, Dejounte Murray (ACL – season)
SG: DeMar DeRozan, Patty Mills, Bryn Forbes
SF: Rudy Gay, Marco Belinelli
PF: LaMarcus Aldridge, Dante Cunningham
C: Pau Gasol, Jakob Poeltl
What to make here? DeRozan in, Leonard (who played just 9 games last season) out. Murray set for a big year, then blows his ACL. No Parker, Green (although good luck finding him the past 3 years!) or Ginobili. With the loss of Leonard, the biggest gap could be losing Kyle Anderson too when he landed in Memphis. Instead there’s 3 heavily expereiced guys in the front court (Gay, Aldridge and Gasol), but with the experience come age and injuries.
Last season they cobbled together 47 wins. With Murray in the fold, the addition of DeRozan probably had them matching that total, maybe pushing for 50. But he’s such a big loss and with so little PG help, it could be a tough year. Pop will pull something out of his bag of tricks though and I still see the Spurs possibly creeping into the playoffs on the back of some DeRozan heroics. But they will be a long way back this time.
Prediction: 42-40, fourth in the Southwest.
PG: Mike Conley, Shelvin Mack
SG: Dillon Brooks, MarShon Brooks
SF: Kyle Anderson, Omri Casspi
PF: JaMychal Green, Jaren Jackson Jr., Chandler Parsons
C: Marc Gasol, Ivan Rabb
Memphis somehow only won 22 games last season – that’s right, massive injuries throughout the season stopped them in their tracks. The prize for the bad season was Jaren Jackson Jr., who – all being well – could grab the starting PF spot from Green not too long into this season. He looks NBA ready, has Gasol to teach him the finer points of NBA post play, and a reasonable lineup around him to get going in this rookie campaign.
Mike Conley played just 12 games last season and at age 31, this is a critical season in my opinion. Gasol is 34 in January so the Grizzlies appear to have one good push at it again this season behind these two. Kyle Anderson crossing from the Spurs is a great add and means the experiment with the wafer man Chandler Parsons can stop now. It could go bad again if fitness is an issue, I just feel like the injection of Jackson addition of Anderson and the threat of blowing up this roster if it doesn’t work will make for one final playoff push. Second round at best though.
Prediction: 44-38, third in the Southwest.
PG: Dennis Smith Jr., J.J. Barea
SG: Wesley Matthews, Ryan Broekhoff
SF: Harrison Barnes, Dorian Finney-Smith
PF: Luka Doncic, Maxi Kleber
C: DeAndre Jordan, Dirk Nowitzki
One more playoff series for Dirk?? Or is that too great to ask for a 24 win team from a year ago?? The in’s are quality – DeAndre Jordan at C and one of the most hyped Euro players in years in Doncic at PF. Smith Jr. gets another year and a full off season and preseason in the NBA under his belt.
There is no doubting some of the talent on this roster, however I just feel it’s a year too soon for a team which will be anchored by Smith Jr. and Doncic in a very tough division and conference. Will Dirk go around for one more next season as maybe then they are seriously in the hunt??
Prediction: 35-47, last in the Southwest.
New Orleans Pelicans
PG: Elfrid Payton, Frank Jackson
SG: Jrue Holiday, Ian Clark
SF: E’Twaun Moore, Darius Miller
PF: Nikola Mirotic, Julius Randle
C: Anthony Davis, Jahlil Okafor
Perhaps the surprise packet of last season, as once Cousins went down the play of Mirotic alongside Davis and Holiday accrued 48 wins and a first round sweep of the Blazers. That core is back, with the addition of Julius Randle and Elfrid Payton. Generally, I like these additions but before predicting even greater things for the Pels, lets just reset some expectations here. Rajon Rondo was also a part of the Pels unit last year and now he’s a Laker. He will be a big loss for this team and someone I just can’t see Payton filling the shoes of.
Overall, this looks about a ‘status quo’ roster to last season. They lose a bit with Rondo out for Payton. They gain a bit by having Randle rather than Cousins on the IL. No doubt they overachieved last season, 48 wins was a great effort and with that in mind I think they move back to the post season again, just with a slightly lower win column. Things change immediately if the whispers about AD leaving town in free agency next season grow – and they will grow if this team drops a little behind expectations early on.
Prediction: 45-37, second in the Southwest.