Most of the Southwest Division welcomed a lot of notable talent this offseason.
The Houston Rockets got Russell Westbrook for Chris Paul. The New Orleans Pelicans basically have a brand-new roster after trading Anthony Davis and drafting Zion Williamson first overall in the draft. The Dallas Mavericks will welcome Kristaps Porzingis and some new role players to the roster this fall. The Memphis Grizzlies had a great draft, grabbing Ja Morant and Brandon Clarke as first-round picks that will make an immediate impact.
Of course, the San Antonio Spurs were the exception, staying consistent and bringing a very similar roster in the 2019-20 season.
How will these rosters affect the Southwest Division’s results in 2019-20? Let’s preview the teams and then discuss some advice for betting on each team’s odds at winning the division.
Southwest Division Team Previews
Houston Rockets (Best odds: -250 at BetOnline & SportsBetting)
The Rockets have averaged 58.3 wins per year over the past three seasons with James Harden as their leader. Harden has finished top two in MVP voting for three straight years. Now, the team is adding Russell Westbrook in place of Chris Paul. Westbrook won the 2016-17 MVP award and gets a chance to join his former Oklahoma City Thunder teammate again.
So why do I have them regressing a bit to 51 wins? The West is deeper this year, and the Harden/Westbrook fit is just not ideal. Harden and Westbrook are two of the most ball-dominant players not just in the NBA right now, but in league history. Both take a lot of shots and stay most engaged when they have the ball in their hands. How is that balance going to work? Also, Westbrook’s dominance has subsided in the past two years, especially as a shooter, where he will need to be effective this year in the Rockets’ three-happy offense.
Houston does, however, have a solid supporting cast that will have the benefit of continuity. Players like Clint Capela, PJ Tucker, Eric Gordon, Austin Rivers and Danuel House help set a strong defensive identity for the squad.
- Record prediction: 51-31
San Antonio Spurs (Best odds: +400 at BetOnline & SportsBetting)
If you have the Spurs missing the playoffs this year, shame on you. San Antonio didn’t have the flashiest offseason in the league, but the squad did get better and should be solidly in the West’s top eight for the 23rd straight season. Legendary head coach Gregg Popovich continues to get the most out of his players.
The move from Davis Bertans to DeMarre Carroll is basically a lateral one. Elsewhere, though, the Spurs essentially added two very talented young guards in Dejounte Murray and Lonnie Walker. Murray missed all of last year with an ACL tear and Walker spent basically the entire season in the G-League. Both guys look great this summer and will join a fun young core that surrounds veterans LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan.
The Western Conference getting deeper is the only reason I have them winning one fewer game this season. San Antonio still doesn’t have the superstar talent to hang with some of the conference’s top teams.
- Record prediction- 47-35
New Orleans Pelicans (Best odds: +1400 at BetOnline & SportsBetting)
It’s safe to say that New Orleans fans should be thrilled with the team’s offseason. I mean, the Pelicans ended last year with a starting lineup of Elfrid Payton, Ian Clark, Kenrich Williams, Christian Wood and Jahlil Okafor after Anthony Davis made his trade demand.
This year, they can run a group of Lonzo Ball, Jrue Holiday, Brandon Ingram, Zion Williamson and Favors with J.J. Redick, Josh Hart and two exciting first-round picks in Jaxson Hayes and Nickeil Alexander-Walker off the bench.
New Orleans still needs more experience and shooting to scare the rest of the West. But winning the draft lottery to get Williamson and getting a bunch of assets in return for Davis was huge for this franchise.
- Record prediction: 39-43
Dallas Mavericks (Best odds: +700 at BetOnline & SportsBetting)
The Mavericks are on the rise. Luka Doncic was a sensation in his rookie year in 2018-19, and 7’3” All-Star Kristaps Porzingis is returning from his ACL tear. Both guys are young and could form the core of a very competitive team for years to come.
This year, I worry about Porzingis’ health as he makes his return. A supporting cast of Maxi Kleber, Dwight Powell, Tim Hardaway Jr., Justin Jackson, Seth Curry, Delon Wright, Dorian Finney-Smith and Courtney Lee is deep, but is it actually good? There are a lot of decent players, but few players who really move the needle in a significantly positive way.
- Record prediction: 38-44
Memphis Grizzlies (Best odds: +10000 at BetOnline & SportsBetting)
The Grizzlies are young and fun. Next year, we are going to see a lot from rookies Ja Morant and Brandon Clarke, as well as rising 19-year-old big man Jaren Jackson. Those three will provide all the highlight dunks, blocks and passes you’ll ever want.
Unfortunately, winning games is not going to be the priority this season for a young Memphis squad. Even in the tough West, the Grizzlies have enough veterans, like Jonas Valanciunas, Tyus Jones, Kyle Anderson, Jae Crowder and Andre Iguodala (if he stays), to win a somewhat respectable chunk of contests before they start to prioritize their youth at the end of the year.
- Record prediction: 25-57
NBA Southwest Division Betting Suggestions
The Spurs are a good team to bet on here with the American offshore sports betting companies, given the odds. The pairing of James Harden and Russell Westbrook is getting a lot of hype, but Harden’s Rockets have fared so well in the past three years because it has basically been him running the offense with shooters and defenders around him. Adding Westbrook may help the team’s ceiling, but its regular season success could suffer a bit and I would consider the Rockets a riskier wager.
San Antonio is certainly the top option given its continuity from last season and having Gregg Popovich, the best coach in the NBA. The other teams in this division are getting more attention due to more active offseasons, but Popovich and the Spurs have mastered the science of succeeding in the regular season throughout the past 23 years.