Southwest Division Shaping Up to be Scary Good in 2015-16


The Southwest division, comprised of Dallas, San Antonio, Houston, Memphis, and New Orleans, was without question the best in basketball last season.

The worst team in the division, 8th-seed New Orleans, won 45 games for crying out loud. No other division had more than two teams with 45+ wins on the season… and the Southwest had five.

And the Southwest dominated the Eastern conference.

It’s not that shocking; some of the league’s best players, most successful coaches, and winningest franchises in the last 20 years reside in the division.

But what is shocking is that the group will be even better in 2015-16.

Let’s start with the Mavericks, who upgraded by addition at two key positions and by subtraction at another.

DeAndre Jordan and Wesley Matthews were big acquisitions. Jordan figures to make a bigger impact on the boards and defensively than Tyson Chandler last year, which isn’t easy to do, and Matthews has some high-scoring shoes to fill at shooting guard but will serve as the “3-and-D” player the Mavericks coveted for the position.

The point guard spot hasn’t been filled just yet but no matter who it is – Jeremy Lin? –  they’re almost assured to be a better fit than Rajon Rondo.

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Then there’s the Rockets, who finished 2nd in the loaded Western conference last season behind an MVP-worthy season from James Harden. Dwight Howard missed 41 regular season games with knee issues last year but his back appears to be healthy once again and the knees looked good in the postseason where he averaged 16.4 points and 14.0 rebounds in 17 games.

The Rockets have some competition from the Sacramento Kings for Josh Smith, but with Howard back healthy along with the re-signed Patrick Beverley and Donatas Motiejunas, and Harden still ascending to his prime, the Rockets are poised to again be a force in the west.

Speaking of still getting better, Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans could be a problem as early as next season. The team has a new coach in Alvin Gentry, fresh off his championship with the Golden State Warriors, and has worked to solidify their front court for the foreseeable future in free agency this summer. Davis signed a five-year, $145 million contract, starting center Omer Asik a five-year, $58 million contract, backup big Alexis Ajinca a four-year, $20 million contract and forward Dante Cunningham a three-year, $9 million contract.

And they still have stretch-four Ryan Anderson, to boot.

There could be some shuffling in the back court before the season opener but even if there isn’t the Pelicans have some solid young talent there in Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans, and Eric Gordon if the trio can stay healthy and in the lineup.

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The Memphis Grizzlies, winners of 55 games last season, went the same route as New Orleans in free agency by concentrating on their big free agent Marc Gasol. He has agreed to stay in Memphis on a five-year, $100 million contract. They also added Brandan Wright, a fan favorite in Dallas capable of finishing above the rim and serving as a stout help defender protecting the basket.

The Grizzlies also added Matt Barnes and will retain backup point guard Beno Udrih.

Finally we come to the Spurs, who have no doubt been the biggest winners of free agency. Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobli are putting off retirement for one more year, Kawhi Leonard is back on a max deal, Danny Green re-upped at a bargain price, David West is coming on the veteran’s minimum…oh, and they landed this guy named LaMarcus Aldridge over the Knicks, Lakers, and just about everyone else.

The Spurs are loaded, and though their trademark depth has taken a slight blow it was a necessary sacrifice to get a player of Aldridge’s pedigree.

Get ready for one heck of a division race in 2015-16.

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