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NBA

Division Rankings: The Southwest Division is still the Houston Rockets' to lose

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Southwest Division (NBA Canada Illustrations)

After looking at the Atlantic Division and Pacific Division, it's time to shift our attention to the Southwest Division.

It's been an active offseason for the division. Both the Houston Rockets and New Orleans Pelicans pulled off blockbuster trades, while the San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Mavericks made moves around the margins that should help them make the playoffs this season.

The Memphis Grizzlies are still a couple of years away from returning to the playoffs, but they're built for future success.

With that in mind, where does each team in the Southwest Division stand heading into the 2019-20 season?

1. Houston Rockets

Key Additions: Russell Westbrook, Tyson Chandler

Key Losses: Chris Paul, Nene, Kenneth Faried, Iman Shumpert

This offseason was much busier for the Rockets than expected.

While the prevailing thought was that the Rockets would run it back after seeing Kevin Durant leave the Golden State Warriors for the Brooklyn Nets in free agency, they decided to shake things up by trading Chris Paul to the Thunder for Russell Westbrook.

The combination of Westbrook and James Harden gives the Rockets the firepower to finish near the top of the Western Conference again next season. Harden has already proven that he can carry Houston to 50 wins and Westbrook should thrive in head coach Mike D'Antoni's system that's built on pushing the pace and playing in space.

The biggest question for the two superstars is whether or not they can get the best out of each other when they are on the court together, something that'll matter more come the playoffs. They are both at their best with the ball in their hands - complicated by the fact that Westbrook is one of the worst high volume 3-point shooters in NBA history - and neither of them are known for their defence.

It's a risky trade for the Rockets to make considering they also included two future first-round picks and two pick swaps in the deal, but they now have two of the top-15 players in the league. Harden and the Rockets are banking on talent winning out.

MORE: Westbrook's complicated fit with Harden

The Rockets didn't do much this offseason outside of trading for Westbrook. Their most notable move in free agency was signing Tyson Chandler to be Clint Capela's backup, ensuring Westbrook and Harden will have a lob threat whenever they're on the floor.

With the likes of Capela, Eric Gordon, P.J. Tucker and Austin Rivers all returning, the Rockets should benefit from having more continuity than some of the other teams in the conference, namely the LA Clippers and Lakers.

Vegas win projection: 51.5 (No. 4 in the West)

2. San Antonio Spurs

Key Additions: DeMarre Carroll, Trey Lyles, Luka Samanic

Key Losses: Davis Bertans

The biggest signing the Spurs made this offseason didn't work out. After reportedly agreeing two-year, $20 million deal with Marcus Morris, Morris had a change of heart, signing a one-year, $15 million deal with the New York Knicks once the moratorium had ended.

The Spurs quickly pivoted, taking a chance on Trey Lyles instead. The No. 12 pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, Lyles hasn't panned out quite as expected but he's a talented power forward who has the potential to fit in well in Gregg Popovich's system.

The other signing the Spurs made this offseason was DeMarre Carroll for three-years, $21 million. Carroll brings perimeter shooting to a Spurs team that attempted the least amount of 3-pointers per game last season and gives them some much-needed depth behind DeMar DeRozan and Rudy Gay at the forward positions.

The Spurs are otherwise bringing back the same team as last season - DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge both have two more years remaining on their contracts, as do Patty Mills and Derrick White, and they re-signed Gay to a two-year, $32 million contract - only they'll be getting Dejounte Murray back after he missed all of 2018-19 with a torn ACL.

Murray still has a lot of developing to do on offence but he made history as a sophomore by becoming the youngest player in NBA history to make an All-Defensive Team. With him and White leading the way, the Spurs should rank far higher than 20th in defensive rating next season while DeRozan and Aldridge continue to lead the way offensively.

Vegas win projection: 43.5 (No. 8 in the West)

3. Dallas Mavericks

Key Additions: Seth Curry, Delon Wright, Boban Marjanovic

Key Losses: None

With Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis now under contract for the foreseeable future, the Mavericks used this offseason to focus on surrounding the two rising stars with the talent they need to make a playoff push.

The Mavericks didn't make any particularly splashy signings, but the likes of Seth Curry and Delon Wright should put them a step closer to achieving that goal. Curry is an ideal point guard to pair with Doncic in the backcourt, as he's comfortable playing off-ball being a career 43.9 percent 3-point shooter. Wright isn't the shooter that Curry is, but he's do-it-all guard who can take pressure off of Doncic defensively by matching up with the opposing team's best perimeter player.

The Mavericks spent the rest of their offseason taking care of players already on their roster, extending Dwight Powell, Maxi Kleber, Devin Harris and Dorian Finney-Smith to team-friendly deals. Powell and Kleber will allow Porzingis to alternate between playing power forward and centre, and the signing of Boban Marjanovic gives them even more size in the frontcourt.

If Doncic can build off on winning Rookie of the Year and Porzingis can return to the player he was prior to tearing his ACL, the Mavericks could turn it around sooner rather than later.

Vegas win projection: 41.5 (No. 9 in the West)

4. New Orleans Pelicans

Key Additions: Lonzo Ball, Derrick Favors, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram, J.J. Redick, Zion Williamson, Jaxson Hayes, Nickeil Alexander-Walker

Key Losses: Anthony Davis, Julius Randle, Elfrid Payton, Stanley Johnson, Solomon Hill

No team in the Southwest Division was as active as the Pelicans this offseason.

It started with New Orleans trading six-time All-Star Anthony Davis to the Lakers, for which they got a massive haul in return. In addition to Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart and Brandon Ingram - three young prospects with tremendous upside - the Pelicans acquired three first-round draft picks in the Davis deal, including the No. 4 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.

The Pelicans traded that pick to the Atlanta Hawks for picks No. 7, 17 and 35, turning them into Jaxson Haynes, Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Marcos Louzada Silver.

Throw in sharpshooter J.J. Redick, who the Pelicans signed to a two-year, $26.5 million contract in free agency, as well as Derrick Favors, a defensive-minded big man who provides some veteran leadership in the frontcourt, and Zion Williamson has arguably a better supporting cast than Davis ever did during his time in New Orleans.

The Pelicans have the talent and depth to compete for a playoff spot for next season, but a lot of it hinges on how quickly Williamson adapts to the NBA. With how competitive the Western Conference is expected to be, they might have a better chance in 2020-21.

Vegas win projection: 37.5 wins (No. 10 in the West)

5. Memphis Grizzlies

Key Additions: Andre Iguodala, Josh Jackson, Tyus Jones, Ja Morant, Brandon Clarke

Key Losses: Avery Bradley, Mike Conley, Chandler Parsons, Delon Wright

The "Grit and Grind" days in Memphis are officially over. After trading Marc Gasol at last season's trade deadline, the Grizzlies moved on from the final piece from that era when they sent Mike Conley to the Utah Jazz for Grayson Allen, Kyle Korver, Jae Crowder and draft picks.

The Grizzlies are now built around point guard Ja Morant and big man Jaren Jackson Jr. Morant was the team's selection with the No. 2 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft and Jackson is coming off of a rookie season in which he made the All-Rookie First Team despite playing in only 58 games. They're surrounded with a solid group of veterans, from Kyle Anderson and Jonas Valanciunas to Crowder and Miles Plumlee.

The next step for the Grizzlies is finding a home for Andre Iguodala, who they acquired this offseason in a trade with the Warriors. The Grizzlies are reportedly looking for draft compensation in return for the three-time NBA champion, ideally a future first-round pick in the hopes of adding another young prospect to their core.

Even if they can't get a first-round pick for Iguodala, Morant and Jackson give the Grizzlies an opportunity to go all-in on their rebuild, which has been a long time coming.

Vegas win projection: 27.5 (No. 13 in the West)

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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