The Southwest Division has built a reputation of excellence in the past several years. For seven straight seasons, the division has had the best combined record of all six groupings in the NBA.
The San Antonio Spurs have been the gold standard of the Southwest for a long time. In those seven seasons facing all that stiff competition, they have six division titles. In the year they missed out on that distinction (2014-15), they were just one game behind the first-place Houston Rockets.
Are the Spurs destined for their seventh division title in eight years? There’s definitely a chance of it, but the Rockets look awfully strong, too.
Let’s examine the odds on offer from the top American sports betting sites for the Southwest division and we will preview all five squads. We’ll then decide our predictions & picks.
Houston Rockets (Best Odds of +110 at Bovada)
Houston addressed its biggest weaknesses from last season’s 55-win squad very well during the offseason. Chris Paul will ensure James Harden doesn’t have to do everything on offense again, and now the Rockets can have 48 minutes of elite point guard play. P.J. Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute give this team some much-needed defensive versatility, too.
Keep an eye out for young big man Clint Capela. He emerged as a strong two-way center last season, and he will catch a whole bunch of alley-oops lobs with both Paul and Harden handling the ball. On the other end, he should anchor a much-improved defense, continuing the development he showed on that end in the playoffs.
- Projected record: 59-23 (55-27 in 2016-17)
San Antonio Spurs (+120 at Bookmaker)
We know the Spurs will be great. The question every season, though, is just how great they’ll be. San Antonio has won at least 50 games for 18 straight years.
Kawhi Leonard is the best individual player San Antonio has had since Tim Duncan in the mid-2000’s. He’s the head of this snake, along with mastermind head coach Gregg Popovich. The Spurs also possess a talented bench and talented new forward Rudy Gay, though he is recovering from Achilles surgery.
A concern for this year’s squad is a lack of frontcourt depth and point guard play. Tony Parker says he’ll be ready to return from offseason surgery in late November, but he has been just average for the last few seasons. Behind him are two decent players in Patty Mills and Dejounte Murray, but none of these three holds a candle to the elite floor generals in the Western Conference.
- Projected record: 55-27 (61-21 in 2016-17)
New Orleans Pelicans (+2000 at Bovada)
The Pelicans are not doing a good job of surrounding arguably the two best big men in the league with quality talent. Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins just need shooters and perimeter defenders around them, but it has been a struggle for the squad to acquire players who do both.
In a time where versatile wings are all the rage in the NBA, New Orleans doesn’t really have any quality ones. Recently acquired Tony Allen is the squad’s best player who plays the 2 or 3 position, which is a problem.
However, it’s hard to be too bad for a full season when Davis and Cousins are manning the middle.
- Projected record: 39-43 (34-48 in 2016-17)
Memphis is a team that has been gradually declining the past couple of years, and it looks like it will finally drop out of the playoffs in 2017-18. Without Zach Randolph, Vince Carter and Tony Allen, who were key to the identity of the squad, there just isn’t enough veteran toughness or depth of offensive talent to thrive in a strong Western Conference.
Because of Mike Conley and Marc Gasol, the Grizzlies won’t be terrible. Those two have excellent chemistry and are both fringe All-Star talents. Other X-factors include how Chandler Parsons returns from knee surgery and whether Ben McLemore can finally show that he’s not a bust at the shooting guard position.
- Projected record: 39-43 (43-39 in 2016-17)
Dallas Mavericks (+5500 at Bookmaker)
Dallas is missing the top-end talent to truly contend in this division. Every other Southwest squad has at least two players better than the Mavericks’ best player, which is probably Harrison Barnes right now.
This is a squad full of decent role-playing veterans and Dallas would certainly benefit from another high draft pick next season. The team’s first-round pick from 2017, point guard Dennis Smith Jr., will start from Day 1 and handle a big portion of the offensive load. He looks like a future star, but he’ll take some lumps in his first year.
- Projected record: 32-50 (33-49 in 2016-17)
Our Preview’s Southwest Division Betting Picks & Predictions
Looking at the bookies’ odds for the Rockets and the Spurs, the betting companies believe it is near certain that one of those two squads wins the division. There are still three other teams in the division, but certainly they are up against it.
The Rockets will have to make some adjustments early in the season, but you could say the same for the Spurs as they have to start the year with a recovering Rudy Gay and without Tony Parker at point guard.
New Orleans doesn’t have a high ceiling without any good wings, Memphis doesn’t have a diverse enough offensive attack and the Mavericks may tank. None of these teams have long enough odds for you to take a flier on them.
- So our one bet to win the Southwest Division is the Rockets (best odds +110 at Bovada). That is a standout price with that oddsmaker, with one firm as short as -140, and so may not last.
Jared is a lifelong sports fan and writer whose specialist subject is NBA. A 2015 graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, Jared has been a sought-after freelance sports writer. In addition to his valuable USA Betting contributions, he has also written for other top media outlets.