Hi everyone! I am back from my summer break, and here ready to get started with my sophomore season here on Brew Hoop! As someone who normally does the Extended Forecast, I will be doing a similar version to that, with a preseason prediction sort of twist to it. Similar to my “Who Can Dethrone the Bucks” Series from last year, this one will be doing a team-by-team look to how well they stack up. And yes, I will also be checking the odds from last year, putting the team’s record, and grading myself. Without further ado, let’s start with the Southwest Division, which may or may not have a few surprises in it again this season.
Overall, the Southwest Division has a couple of teams that have a good shot, a couple of really bad teams, and a team that is pretty hard to put a read on. I’m guessing you all have a pretty good idea of which teams I’m referring to, so let’s start out from worst odds to best odds.
2021-22 Record: 34-48
2021-22 Odds: 200-1
I would say that this team didn’t really have a chance against the Bucks. I said that last season was the first time in 30 years or so that the Spurs did not have an All-Star on the roster, and that they would need to figure out who their best player was out of four candidates. Among the four of them (along with Lonnie Walker IV, Derrick White and Keldon Johnson), guard Dejounte Murray fulfilled both roles last season, and had the best, quiet season in NBA history perhaps. He also led them back to the “postseason”.
Unfortunately for the Spurs, Murray has been traded to the Hawks for not a ton of talent this year, but it’s obvious they are tanking. With White and Walker now gone as well, this is now Keldon Johnson’s team! I think that states that it is pretty obvious they are tanking for possible phenom Victor Wembanyama, as their top three highest paid players are making less combined than Giannis is, and two of them will start from the bench. One of them is making less than $10 million next season.
What would have to go right for the Spurs to have any chance this season? Well, Keldon Johnson needs to become LeBron James. Jakob Poeltl needs to become Shaquille O’Neal, and they need to undo the trade that sent away Dejounte Murray and have him become even better. That would put them in the running at least.
Now, before you criticize my odds, I want to state that I think I pretty much nailed my prediction for this team last year. Just saying.
2022-23 Odds: 10,000 to 1
2021-22 Record: 20-62
2021-22 Odds: 5,000 to 1
This was a slam dunk of a pick last season, and they were able to show some internal development while still being a terrible team. John Wall didn’t play like I suggested he needed to, Christian Wood became an All-Star, Kenyon Martin Jr. and other former scrubs were solid, and I even mentioned Dante Exum for some reason. Houston didn’t have a chance, and while they still don’t this year, I’m guessing some of you wonder why I have them ahead of the Spurs.
The Spurs currently don’t have a young player who has the possibility of becoming a franchise-changer. Currently, Houston has two in Jalen Green and Jabari Smith. Both top three picks, they at least have the talent to showcase that maybe they are going to be a good team in the future. They also are finally on that part of their journey where the roster is mostly young players, and not a lot of random veterans like Dante Exum. Sure, they still have Trey Burke and Boban leftover from the Dallas trade, but most of these players are young and/or fliers.
So what needs to happen? Realistically, this team could win a game if Smith and Green are both as good as their draft profiles suggest they could be. They also would need other rookies like TyTy Washington and sophomores like Alperen Sengun to step up. They also have Eric Gordon still (I’d feel bad if he wasn’t making $20 million) and if he could become his Sixth Man self, this team would at least have a foundation of having a chance. With that said, there will be nights when you see that team, but 90% of them will be young, dumb and full of fun.
2022-23 Odds: 1,000 to 1
New Orleans Pelicans
2021-22 Standings: 36-46
2021-22 Odds: 50 to 1
New Orleans made it to the postseason last year, in spite of finishing 10 games below .500. They beat San Antonio and the LA Clippers in the play-in, and actually took the best regular-season team in the NBA, the Phoenix Suns, to six games. For them, that was a massive victory season. My odds about them beating the Bucks last season in a playoff series was 50 to 1, and that was before they had acquired CJ McCollum from Portland. With that said, I also had assumed that Zion Williamson would have played.
So now that they are projected to have both players (I say this because Zion is always hurt) as well as All-Star Brandon Ingram on the team together, this team looks to be possibly formidable. I don’t know how much better they will do compared to last season, but I think the West is finally starting to fall back to the mean compared to the East, and there aren’t as many good teams out there. The starting five is very good, with those three along with Jonas Valanciunas and Herb Jones, and a combination of their size and scoring could cause problems for the Bucks.
However, it just seems like New Orleans is always getting injured or having some sort of malfunction with the organization, so for that reason I will hold back some of my praise for the way this team is going. They have quietly built a quality roster around Zion, but if Zion is not there, they are still solid, but not great. And will Zion actually make this team better or worse?
2022-23 Odds: 30 to 1
2021-22 Standings: 52-30
2021-22 Odds: 10 to 1
Those odds seem to be pretty spot on, since Dallas sort of snuck their way into the Conference Finals last season. I also had some key points that made me look smart, such as trading Kristaps Porzingis would be a good idea and Jalen Brunson might be the third guy on this team (with Porzingis). However, after beating Utah (mostly) without Luka Doncic and then Phoenix, Brunson got paid and now the Mavericks are without two of their three best players going into last season.
They still do have Luka Doncic, and acquiring former Buck Christian Wood for next-to-nothing was a low-key great move, but is this enough around Luka? Are Spencer Dinwiddie and Wood good enough to form a big three? Would you rather have put Dorian Finney-Smith, Reggie Bullock or Maxi Kleber in it instead? These are all nice players, but none of them are better than Middleton or Holiday. That gives the Bucks the edge should we face Dallas. Also, let’s not forget that Jason Kidd is the head coach, and we all know how much he held the Bucks back, so I would think it is safe to assume the Mavs will take a step back this season (that will get blamed on Brunson to buy Kidd time).
2022-23 Odds: 15 to 1
2021-22 Standings: 56-26
2021-22 Odds: 50 to 1
The problem with my New Orleans’ ranking was more in that I had Memphis tied with them. Memphis had a much better season, and essentially they did everything that I said they would need to do to have a chance at the Finals. Ja Morant became a top five point guard (I thought he was the MVP after Giannis). Jaren Jackson Jr. and Dillon Brooks earned their recognition, and players like Desmond Bane, Brandon Clarke, Tyus Jones and Ziaire Williams stepped up to form depth. The only thing I disliked was the Steven Adams trade, and even that turned out okay.
So now, the question is how do they maintain what they did without taking a step back? This team is still plenty young, but Brooks and Jackson tend to deal with injuries. The major move they did in the off-season was trading De’Anthony Melton to Philadelphia for Danny Green and the pick that became David Roddy, so really aside from adding draft picks Memphis didn’t do much. They also let Kyle Anderson walk.
I think all Memphis needs to do is have a rookie step up, stay healthy, and they will be fine. This roster isn’t better than the Bucks’ at this point, but overall they are good enough to challenge them.
2022-23 Odds: 3 to 1
So, the Southwest Division has some teams that are capable of making some noise, but a lot of what happened here is a lot of staying the course. Dallas and Memphis didn’t add much if anything, New Orleans is just trying to get healthy and then you have two bad teams in San Antonio and Houston. Nothing here really scares me when it comes to how they would do against the Bucks.
Please comment what you think below, let me know if you agree with the teams!