2022-23 Southwest Division Preview

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Key Offseason Additions – Danny Green, Jake LaRavia (R), Santi Aldama (R)

Key Offseason Subtractions – Kyle Anderson, De’Anthony Melton

Despite a slow start that left them just 11-10 at the end of November, the Memphis Grizzlies turned things around completely and had one of the better regular seasons of any team. They finished 56-26, over 14 more wins than their preseason RSW, and Ja Morant made the jump onto list of the top 5-10 players in the league and was rewarded with the Most Improved Player award. Desmond Bane stepped in as a rookie and made an immediate, positive impact. Jaren Jackson Jr. competed for defensive player of the year. The rest of the roster improved throughout the season and were key to the team’s success. They were the 2 seed and beat the Timberwolves in 6 games in round 1. Unfortunately, the eventual champion Warriors were waiting in the second round. The Grizzlies got a taste of playoff basketball and this young team took the first step towards potentially being a title contender.

It was a quiet offseason, but that’s ok for a young team coming off a strong season. Danny Green is unlikely to pay until the end of the season due to a torn ACL during last postseason. Losing Anderson and Melton will hurt the bench, but it could be good to simplify the roster and create more minutes for the next generation of younger players. The Grizzlies acquire 5 rookies and although none are household names, the organization has a history of good player development. Jaren Jackson Jr., who has had injury trouble in the past, will be out until at least Christmas, but should be back in time to get in form for the playoffs. That’s the only real fly in the ointment. Memphis is primed to be great again and if Ja Morant can get even better, might make it to the Western Conference finals.

My projections like the over, but the margin is only 2.5 games. I’m concerned about JJJ’s injury and his ability to get back to playing good basketball. He can do just about everything, but he has to be on the court to do that. I was also disappointed this team made no moves to add a veteran or proven player to the roster. That signals to me they think they’re another year away from title contention. Perhaps they’ll make a deal midseason, but for now, I’ll wait and see how they look after their first real taste of success.

Bets – None 🙁

Key Offseason Additions – Christian Wood, JaVale McGee, Jaden Harvey (R)

Key Offseason Subtractions – Jalen Brunson, Trey Burke, Bob Marjanovic

For the first time since winning the title in 2010-11 the Mavericks returned the Western Conference finals. Luka Doncic is arguably the best player in the league and is still getting better. Jalen Brunson competed for the Most Improved Player award. They finally ended the Porzingis era and brough in Spencer Dinwiddie and Davis Bertans who both fit well the team in place. Even Jason Kidd behaved himself all season and did an admirable job coaching. They finished 4th in the conference, put away the Jazz in 6, won 4 of the last 5 games to beat the Suns in round 2, and then ran into the Warriors. The series was closer than the 4-1 result would lead you to believe. The Mavericks played well and got to see first hand what a championship team looks like.

The loss of Brunson is hard to quantify. He was a strong defender and a good shooter, but his short stature always made him a tough fit on this roster. Kidd prefers to put as many big, long bodies on the floor as possible to clog up passing lanes on defense. Brunson was good on the perimeter and will be missed, but I think it was a good idea to let him go. The acquisitions of McGee and Wood should help Luka in the pick and roll while the former will help the team in general on defense and the latter on offense. I’m not sure there’s enough firepower here for them to win the title as constructed, but Mark Cuban has never been shy to make a big move and the pieces for one are still here. It should be another very good year in Dallas, but could there be a move to make it a great year? Or maybe Luka Doncic will finally show up in peak physical condition (Not that I’m mad that Embiid gets crap all the time for this and Luka almost never does. NOPE, that’s not why I just wrote that).

My numbers lean to the over, but just barely. That said, this is a team to bet to win the Western Conference and the Title if we see 12 to 1 or better and 25 to 1 or better at some point. Unfortunately for that plan, their early season schedule is easy and this numbers may never materialize. Grab them if you can, but I don’t see them anywhere.

Bets – None 🙁

Key Offseason Additions – Dyson Daniels (R)

Key Offseason Subtractions – Tony Snell

Last season had a rough start at the Pelicans knew they would be without their star, Zion Williamson, and they didn’t know for how long. He struggled to rehab his fractured foot and didn’t play a single game. New Orleans had the worst record in the Western Conference as of December 21st last year, but the team rallied and made the postseason. Brandon Ingram & Jonas Valanciunas were a strong core to which the team added CJ McCollum at the deadline. They found a way to make the play in tournament as the 9th seed and won 2 games in a row to get to the first round. New Orleans beat the Phoenix Suns twice in that series, but only twice. The Pelicans showed they have a talented roster beyond Zion and their willingness to make moves to win now. Imagine how good they could have been with their star?

That question is exactly what we need to answer to figure out what this season will look like in New Orleans. Will Zion mess up the chemistry Ingram, Valanciunas, and McCollum created as he works himself into shape off injury and eats up usage? Remember folks, there is only one ball and so many shots available per game. Or will Zion be an easy plug in easily? He’s exactly what this team needed last season if he can be what we saw 2 seasons ago. Zion has played well in the preseason with good movement, but I will always worry about players with heavier frames in the NBA, especially ones with foot problems. If Zion gets back to 80%+ of ZION by Christmas, then this team will scare their opponents. If Zion struggles physically or messes up the chemistry, then things could ugly.

This is by far the projection I have the least confidence in of any team. I have no clue what to expect from Zion. It’s the same team from last year plus a potential interesting rookie and Zion. I was glad my numbers were close to market so I can pass on any bets. That said, if you have an opinion strongly about under or over I would advise you look into betting alternate win totals. If they’re good, they’re going well over that number and if they’re bad, they’re going well under that number.

Bets – None 🙂

Key Offseason Additions – Jabari Smith Jr. (R), Tari Eason (R), TyTy Washington (R), Derrick Favors         

Key Offseason Subtractions – John Wall, Christian Wood, Dennis Schröder

They Rockets wanted to be bad and boy, howdy, they were downright terrible. They even went 6.5 games under a win total of 26.5. They had the worst record in the Western Conference for 4 MONTHS. They paid John Wall over $40,000,000 to not play basketball. Poor Eric Gordon had to play 57 game. Their high draft picks from the previous season, Jalen Green & Alperen Şengün, showed flashes of their potential brilliance, but that was pretty much the only positive note. The Houston Rockets tanked as well as any team has ever tanked.

The reward for all that hard work was the #3 pick which was Jabari Smith Jr. He fits nicely with Houston’s young core, but is most certainly not enough to turn this team into a winner in 2022-23. The Rockets will be better IF they want to be better. Green, Şengün, and Smith Jr. make up a potential intriguing core, but they need a season or two to grow together. Here in lies the tough decision. Is it better to tank and get another talented youngster, possibly an all time great prospect, or will another season of losing poison the talented core already in place? It’s a topic often debated, but rarely proven either way. If the Houston front office thinks they have potential stars, then I expect the Rockets to try to win basketball games for the first time in years. On the other hand, with Victor Wembanyama & Scoot Henderson in the draft and the West already loaded with good teams why not do what they’ve already proven they can do and lose as many games as possible. This inflection point will decide Houston’s season.

My projections land right within half a game of the current RSW. I tend to think this team will tank again this season. I think they’re a year behind a team like Detroit that will try to win games and the rewards for tanking this season are as good as they’ve ever been. I think you’re nuts to bet an over, but I’m not betting the under either. You’re an adult, so bet the under if you want. Who am I to tell you what to do?

Bets – None 🙁

Key Offseason Additions – Jeremy Sochan (R), Gorgui Dieng      

Key Offseason Subtractions Dejounte Murray, Lonnie Walker

For the first time in the Spurs’ short history, they missed they playoffs for a 3rd season in a row. In fact, San Antonio has never missed the playoffs more than one season in a row until last season and the year prior. The front office as yet to find a way to win since ending the DeMar DeRozan & LaMarcus Aldridge Midrange Mania era. Dejounte Murray has a good season in what turned about to be an exhibition for his eventual trade. They dumped Derrick White at midseason. Keldon Johnson & Devin Vassell improved, but neither showed the ability to be a star. They somehow managed to make the play in tournament as the 10th seed and lost immediately in the first game. It’s a season that will happily be forgotten by all involved.

Unfortunately, this season looks even worse and for some reason I am more excited than I’ve ever been to watch a team that might not win 20 games. To start, Gregg Popovich has set the table for a bad year. He’s made several bad jokes in press conferences about how not one should bet on this team to win. This has me not only excited for his appearances in those awful coach interviews at the end of the 1st and 3rd quarters, but to see what he might try. There may not be a single coach on planet Earth who is less likely to be fired than Popovich and he knows it. Will this kind of freedom lead to crazy small ball lineups with Keldon Johnson at center? Could he somehow find a way to revive the potential of Zach Collins? Yes, that Zach Collins who was the 10th pick after just one season playing off the bench at Gonzaga. Maybe Pop goes the other way and plays a huge lineup with Collins, Poeltl, Sochan, Vassell, and Johnson? Literally anything is possible other than this team being good and winning games.

My projections are 3.5 games below the current RSW total and I’m not sure they’re low enough. We’ve seen what Popovich can do when he wants to lose like the Spurs did in 1996-97 to win the Tim Duncan contest. This season could easily be on par with that. I’ll happily bet the under.

Bet – Under 22.5 Regular Season Wins

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Categories: NBA