We saw a changing of the guard in the Southwest Division during the 2017-18 season. The San Antonio Spurs had 50 wins in 18 consecutive campaigns and traditionally dominated the five-team group, but they won just 47 games last season. The Houston Rockets exploded for 65 wins and came just points away from making the NBA Finals.
By the looks of things, the Rockets are the class of the division yet again. But what do the odds look like at 5Dimes, and how will the Rockets, Spurs, New Orleans Pelicans, Dallas Mavericks and Memphis Grizzlies fare this year? Let’s dive into it and give our preview’s Southwest Division predictions with picks.
Houston Rockets (-440 at 5Dimes)
The Rockets had one of the worst offseasons in the entire Western Conference. This is unfortunate, because they were clearly the top threat to the star-studded Golden State Warriors before the summer.
Thankfully, Houston was able to retain its three most important players: James Harden, Chris Paul and Clint Capela. That trio will keep the Rockets near the top of the Western Conference again. The rest of the roster will make it difficult to reach the 65 wins they had last year.
Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute were two very key three-and-D wings for the squad who could match up well with any elite opponent. Both are gone now, and the team brought in Carmelo Anthony, James Ennis and Michael Carter-Williams. Anthony is a shell of his All-Star self, Ennis has never played a significant role on a good team and Carter-Williams was statistically one of the worst players in the NBA last season.
The Western Conference won’t be as forgiving this season, with all the teams that got better during the offseason. Paul’s health is always a question mark, too. Houston will be really good, but not the juggernaut it was in 2017-18.
- Projected record: 54-28 (65-17 in 2017-18)
San Antonio Spurs (+775 at 5Dimes)
The Spurs are not a legitimate title contender anymore. The Kawhi Leonard fiasco ended in the team reluctantly trading him (and Danny Green) to the Raptors for a package that wasn’t great. New Spur DeMar DeRozan is very good, but he has a lot of money and years left on his contract and isn’t nearly the player Leonard is. Jakob Poeltl is a nice young center prospect, but he needs quite a bit more seasoning.
All that to say, San Antonio will still be a good team. DeRozan gives the team a playmaking punch the team severely lacked last season. LaMarcus Aldridge, a healthier Rudy Gay and a blossoming Dejounte Murray at point guard will form the core of this squad.
The Spurs are also deeper than a season ago and still have arguably the best coach in NBA history, Gregg Popovich. San Antonio has some ill-fitting offensive and defensive pieces and mediocre shooting, but the talent, depth and coaching form the makings of a winning squad.
- Projected record: 48-34 (47-35 in 2017-18)
New Orleans Pelicans (+875 at 5Dimes)
The Pelicans have a fantastic top four players on their roster: Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday, Julius Randle and Nikola Mirotic. What they need around them is steady wings who can shoot and play some defense and a secondary ball-handler next to Holiday.
Instead, there are mostly one-dimensional players who will struggle to support the stars. E’Twaun Moore is a good outside shooter, but his lack of size and length on defense and inability to create his own shoot are minuses. Elfrid Payton doesn’t play good defense or shoot the ball well at point guard. Solomon Hill defends well at small forward, but he is a major offensive liability.
New Orleans could be a top-four seed if everyone stays healthy and the role players find their groove. If the team suffers more injuries than the average team, it could fail miserably with its below-average depth.
- Projected record: 45-37 (48-34 in 2017-18)
Dallas Mavericks (+7500 at 5Dimes)
The Mavericks will be an entertaining team this season. Young point guard Dennis Smith Jr. is an athletic freak with a penchant for fancy finishes at the rim. Rookie wing Luka Doncic is dazzling as a ball-handler and playmaker. DeAndre Jordan adds a vertical threat to the team with his ability to catch alley-oop passes. Finally, 40-year-old Dirk Nowitzki still gets off his high-arcing jump shot from time to time.
Unfortunately, all that doesn’t mean the Mavericks will be good. Any squad relying heavily on two perimeter creators age 20 (Smith) and Doncic (19) is going to struggle against the titans of the Western Conference. Jordan will help the Mavs’ defense inside, but the rest of the roster has difficulty keeping offensive players in front of them.
The Mavs have a bright future. It could be one or two more seasons until they have a legit shot at making the playoffs in the West, though.
- Projected record: 34-48 (24-58 in 2017-18)
Memphis Grizzlies (+6500 at 5Dimes)
The Grizzlies still have two main members of their “Grit and Grind” squad from the early-to-mid 2010s: Marc Gasol and Mike Conley. However, both guys are now on the wrong side of 30 and have a mediocre cast of players supporting them.
Memphis will be better than in it was in its disastrous 2017-18 campaign. Conley likely won’t miss 70 games again, and Kyle Anderson, Garrett Temple and Shelvin Mack were nice veteran additions to a team lacking much experience. Rookie big man Jaren Jackson Jr. should be a nice defensive player from the get-go.
However, Memphis’ offensive firepower is severely lacking overall. Gasol and Conley are great, but they aren’t huge stars who can carry a team by themselves.
- Projected record: 33-49 (22-60 in 2017-18)
Our Preview’s 2018-19 Southwest Division Predictions & Betting Picks Recommendations
Houston’s odds are a little too short for my liking. The Rockets are the obvious favorite with the U.S. bookies, but is their probability of winning the division approximately four times more than the Spurs and Pelicans combined? It doesn’t seem so.
Put your money on the Spurs, who have the best coach in the division, a great history of success and a pretty good roster still. They’re definitely not going to be a below-average team, and at +775 odds, it’s a low-risk, moderately high-reward situation. The Pelicans are a slightly worse bet, but still a decent use of your money.
Dallas and Memphis shouldn’t be factors in this division. When it comes to the rest of the Western Conference and this division specifically, their level of talent and depth just don’t stack up.
So our Southwest Division Predictions and value pick at the odds is:
- Bet on the San Antonio Spurs to win the division @ +775 with 5Dimes.