The Houston Rockets are the most publicized team in the NBA’s Southwest Division at the moment, because they drew the most attention in the offseason. However, will the Rockets’ acquisition of Dwight Howard translate into a big season that will catapult the franchise to the top echelon of the NBA? That very much remains to be seen in what should be a fascinating divisional race.
1. San Antonio Spurs
Odds To Win Southwest Division: +147
The Spurs will finish first because, to be brutally honest, Memphis and Houston have more deficient teams. Sticking with an analysis of the Spurs themselves, however, San Antonio might have one more really big run left in the tank – not because the old guys will be fresh (they won’t be), but because this might be the last year in which the old guys (Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker) can effectively coexist with young bucks such as Kawhi Leonard, who are turning into the next generation of stars for San Antonio. The Spurs still have a really good mix of young and old, with the younger players picking up more of the slack. If Leonard, Danny Green, Tiago Splitter, and other developing performers can play more minutes so that Duncan-Ginobili-Parker can get more rest during the regular season, this team might yet have a big playoff run left. Gregg Popovich gives the Spurs a coaching edge that Houston and Memphis lack. This is the team that should be trusted more than any other in the Southwest Division for basketball betting purposes.
2. Memphis Grizzlies
Odds To Win Southwest Division: +450
The Grizzlies, unlike Houston, have proven low-post players. Dwight Howard once was a proven low-post player with Houston, but he has not been a net plus for the teams he’s played on over the past two seasons. He must re-prove himself in the 2013-2014 season. Memphis has Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, two bangers at the five and four spots who are going to make life difficult for most of the Western Conference. The Grizzlies can throw so much size and power at other teams that they’re going to win most rebounding battles while providing the kind of rugged interior defense that’s going to separate them from lower-tier teams in the league. Head coach Lionel Hollins was pushed out, meaning that the Grizzlies might regress at least a little bit under new boss David Joerger, but this should still be a top-five team in the West when all is said and done.
3. Houston Rockets
Odds To Win Southwest Division: +128
There is certainly a lot of NBA betting potential in Houston. James Harden is a legitimate star who has the potential to be a superstar in the league. Jeremy Lin can be a dynamic point guard, but he was a liability last season. He must improve in order for Houston to become a true title contender in the West. Dwight Howard faces even more of a burden than Lin to become an elite player once again. Howard has been dogged by injuries in recent seasons, but his approach to the game has not been what it could or should be. Head coach Kevin McHale has to get Howard’s attention, and he has to win Howard’s trust. Another problem, though, is that Howard really doesn’t fit with the rest of the Rockets’ small-ball approach. Houston likes to spread the floor and shoot threes, especially from the corners. How Howard fits in with this offensive plan of attack will be a major question for this team. It’s hard to see how the Rockets will pull everything together.
4. Dallas Mavericks
Odds To Win Southwest Division: +1750
The Mavericks acquired Monta Ellis from the Milwaukee Bucks, in one of the more puzzling offseason moves in 2013. Dallas is not a very tough defensive team and will find it hard to get enough stops to make the playoffs.
5. New Orleans Pelicans
Odds To Win Southwest Division: +1700
This could be a surprise team in the West. It will win at least 35 games after winning only 25 last season. However, can the Pelicans win 41 or 42 games, which is what will be required for a playoff spot? That will be the challenge. Anthony Davis might be one year away from becoming everything this franchise wants him to be.