The Dallas Mavericks are favourites to win a weak Southwest division, led by MVP favourite Luka Doncic.
But it’s the Rockets that The Wolf has some serious concerns with, are they the NBA’s worst team this season? Here’s The Wolf’s preview of the NBA Southwest Division.
NBA Best Bets – Southwest Division
This will be an interesting watch under new coach Jason Kidd. The legendary Point Guard returns to Dallas where he won a title in 2011, and is once again a Head Coach after four and a half years in the system from 2013-2018.
But Kidd’s record as a coach is a bit of a concern. His best record was in his first season at Brooklyn with a 44-38 record, but flopped in his three and a half years at the Bucks – they would go on to record two 70+% win season under Coach Bud, and eventually a Championship last season.
Former coach Rick Carlisle built his gameplan around Luka Doncic, who had the second-highest usage in the NBA last season at 35 – slightly behind Joel Embiid. This will change under Kidd as he looks to improve Kristaps Porzingis’ output, but will this impact their performance during the regular season? No doubt there will be some growing pains along the way.
Luka is currently the MVP favourite and will be the reason the Mavericks once again feature in the post-season, but it won’t be all smooth sailing adjusting to Kidd’s gameplan.
Prediction – 47 wins
Another team in the West that has the opportunity to take the next step. Memphis’ win percentage line was set at 43.8% last season in which they easily covered, finishing last season with a win percentage of 52.8% and making the playoffs.
Their progression stems from what level Ja Morant can get to. The Point Guard started and finished the season strong, but will need to do more than averaging 19.1 points and 7.4 assists for Memphis to secure a top-6 playoff spot.
Jaren Jackson Jnr barely played last season and is an important piece to this Grizzlies’ team, but how will trading away Jonas Valanciunas come back to haunt them? The Lithuanian had a great season, but will be replaced by Steven Adams in the five-spot.
Adams has had a couple of quiet seasons now, and will need to get back to his best if Memphis is to take the next step as a franchise.
Even with the loss of Valanciunas though, it’s hard to see the Grizzlies getting worse and falling below .500. Expect them to cover their wins line once again and feature in the play-in tournament for the third consecutive season.
Prediction – 42 wins
New Orleans Pelicans
New Head Coach Willie Green has his work cut out for him! The Wolf has enormous concerns with the Pelicans this season.
There’s plenty of warning signs surrounding Zion Williamson’s injury, with it reported that he’s yet to start running since off-season foot surgery – with his physique that does not sound promising. Even if Zion is right to go though, the acquisition of Valanciunas doesn’t seem like a great fit with both players like playing around the rim.
Both Lonzo Ball and Eric Bledsoe have departed, with that hole to be filled by Devonte Graham and Nickeil Alexander-Walker – which is potentially a double-downgrade in their back-court. If Zion isn’t healthy, it will be Brandon Ingram that will consume majority of the usage and will likely average 25+ points per game, but looking at this depth chart on paper it’s hard to figure out how their 10 best players can co-exist and make it work.
Their win percentage line was set at 46.5% last season which they didn’t cover, and it’s jumped to 47.6% this season with a line-up that looks worse. Another poor season on the cards for the Pelicans.
Prediction – 34 wins
San Antonio Spurs
The rebuild started last season at San Antonio – DeRozan and Aldridge have moved on, and they’re now all-in. But we’re talking about the Spurs and Coach Pop, which makes this win-line far too low.
Their line was set too low last season requiring to cover a 41% win record, in which they did finishing with a 45.8% win percentage. This season they just need to win 36.6% of their games which they’re more than capable of doing.
The Wolf is expecting a big season from Point Guard Dejounte Murray, currently listed as an $18 chance of taking home the Most Improved. Averaging 15.7 points, 7.1 rebounds and 5.4 assists last season, we should see these numbers take a significant jump taking up the usage left from DeRozan.
Keldon Johnson comes back to the roster as an Olympic Gold Medalist, with the 21-year-old a long-term prospect for the Spurs.
Don’t forecast a playoff run from Pop’s men, but they’re better than a 29-win team.
Prediction – 34 wins
They’re bad – there’s a realistic chance the Rockets are the worst team in the NBA season this. Houston started the season 4-6 with James Harden, but once he departed they went 13-49 with a 21% win percentage post Harden trade.
Victor Oladipo and Kelly Olynyk were two of Houston’s best players last season – they’re both out the door as well.
Despite this, their line for this season is 25.5 wins equating to a 31.1% win record – so how do they improve by 10% to cover their win line this season?
In short – they don’t. Kevin Porter has the keys to this Houston team alongside rookie Jalen Green, while Christian Wood will once again be a focal point – but they’re simply role players in most other teams, and won’t lead the Rockets to wins.
Potentially the worst team in the NBA this season.
Prediction – 21 wins