NBA Offseason Preview: Southwest Division

NBA Offseason Preview: Southwest Division

This article is part of our NBA Offseason series.

This is the second in our series of offseason preview articles. Over the next several days, we'll take a division-by-division look at the roster decisions and draft considerations all 30 teams will need to make over the summer. The 2022 NBA draft and free agency are just weeks away, so let's examine the Western Conference Southwest Division.

Southwest Division

Memphis Grizzlies: Superstar Ja Morant was hobbled down the stretch and missed time in multiple playoff series. Memphis returns as a young powerhouse.

Dallas Mavericks: Led by Luka Doncic and Jalen Brunson, Dallas suffered a grueling defeat to the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. 

New Orleans Pelicans: After acquiring CJ McCollum at the trade deadline, New Orleans was revitalized and earned a playoff spot. Zion Williamson missed all of the 2021-22 season recovering from a foot injury. 

San Antonio Spurs: San Antonio lost in the play-in tournament last season. The Spurs are beginning to emerge from a rebuild. 

Houston Rockets: Owners of the No. 3 pick in the upcoming 2022 NBA Draft, Houston is a gunning unit with abundant youth.

Houston Rockets

Potential departures: John Wall

Jalen Green was a dangerous scorer from February onward. Connecting on nearly 40 percent of his three-point attempts, the 20-year-old is shaping up to be a dynamic offensive stud. Christian Wood averaged a double-double amid another strong scoring campaign. The 26-year-old joins Kevin Porter as additional effective creators on Houston's roster. Both players' contracts end after the 2022-23 season. Longer-term, bargain

This is the second in our series of offseason preview articles. Over the next several days, we'll take a division-by-division look at the roster decisions and draft considerations all 30 teams will need to make over the summer. The 2022 NBA draft and free agency are just weeks away, so let's examine the Western Conference Southwest Division.

Southwest Division

Memphis Grizzlies: Superstar Ja Morant was hobbled down the stretch and missed time in multiple playoff series. Memphis returns as a young powerhouse.

Dallas Mavericks: Led by Luka Doncic and Jalen Brunson, Dallas suffered a grueling defeat to the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. 

New Orleans Pelicans: After acquiring CJ McCollum at the trade deadline, New Orleans was revitalized and earned a playoff spot. Zion Williamson missed all of the 2021-22 season recovering from a foot injury. 

San Antonio Spurs: San Antonio lost in the play-in tournament last season. The Spurs are beginning to emerge from a rebuild. 

Houston Rockets: Owners of the No. 3 pick in the upcoming 2022 NBA Draft, Houston is a gunning unit with abundant youth.

Houston Rockets

Potential departures: John Wall

Jalen Green was a dangerous scorer from February onward. Connecting on nearly 40 percent of his three-point attempts, the 20-year-old is shaping up to be a dynamic offensive stud. Christian Wood averaged a double-double amid another strong scoring campaign. The 26-year-old joins Kevin Porter as additional effective creators on Houston's roster. Both players' contracts end after the 2022-23 season. Longer-term, bargain contracts are in place for youngsters Alperen Sengun, Usman Garuba and Kenyon Martin.

Eric Gordon is a veteran presence who still can heat up from deep. His contract not expiring until 2024 makes him difficult to move, but the 33-year-old may draw real interest eventually. The Rockets have just $30 million on the books for 2024-25 – signifying a smooth rebuild orchestrated by GM Rafael Stone and his team. 

Garrison Mathews and Jae'Sean Tate graded decently as defenders, but nobody on the roster plays much defense. The Rockets averaged the fewest rebounds, the worst defensive rating and the most turnovers of any team in the league. 

If he's the selection at No. 3 overall, Paolo Banchero is a shoo-in to become a point forward of this offense. He'd bring a polished offensive repertoire and the ability to make things easier for teammates. Turnovers should decrease and an offensive identity can begin to form in Houston. 

Drafting again with the 17th pick, the Rockets should be in upside-stockpiling mode – swinging for starpower. A traditional floor general is also possible here, but taking a flier on an exciting 3 or 4 would align with the rebuild. 

Draft considerations: Paolo Banchero, Ousmane Dieng, Tari Eason, Nikola Jovic, Marjon Beauchamp  

Offseason considerations: Let the squad grow together.

San Antonio Spurs:

Potential departures: Lonnie Walker

Dejounte Murray is officially the star. After a slow start to the season, 22-year-old Keldon Johnson put forth an encouraging shooting season. Ditto for 21-year-old Devin Vassell. Tre Jones and Joshua Primo are young pieces. Jakob Poeltl has been an underrated presence on the interior – he's a defensive anchor who logged a top-six field-goal percentage in the league last season. However, soon turning 27 years old and entering the final year of his contract, Poeltl could witness the drafting of his replacement in the generationally-built Jalen Duren

This is worthy of a deep dive. Poeltl is a moderately agile, fringe top-10 defensive center coming off a career-best season offensively. His next contract would run through the end of his prime. He'll be seeking a sizable raise – it would be expensive, but maybe not disastrously expensive. An argument for Duren replacing Poeltl is that he aligns better with the Spurs' plans to compete multiple years from now.

If that's the case, Murray would be reaching the same age Poeltl is now and multiple years of his prime would be squandered. Additionally, focusing contention around Duren is an inherent gamble. Everyone wants him to be the next Dwight Howard, but look at the 2022 playoffs and see the mass grave of centers from which Kevon Looney and Al Horford are the featured survivors. If Duren falls short of the Howard tier, but is an upgrade over Poeltl, how valuable is that? Likely not valuable enough to feel confident extending a huge contract to him four years from now. 

Admittedly, Robert Williams is another survivor, so the traditional center hasn't vanished completely. Nonetheless, Duren would have to pan out and overcome the league seemingly transitioning away from his type.

Duren being the best player on the board at pick No. 9 is super plausible. There's an abundance of trade scenarios here. Other teams could be fighting to move up to this spot. Poeltl will be on the block if San Antonio is thinking Duren

Possessing three 2022 first-round picks (9, 20, 25), and another in the early second round (38), the Spurs have flexibility to slide around the draft board. Outside of a potential upgrade at center, adding a modern power forward and another shot at wing depth would fill some holes.

With a do-it-all point guard, targeting players with high ceilings on either end of the court is the mission. Looking specifically at style, excellent cutters to join the passing-oriented Spurs (top-five in assist percentages last season) or quality contributors in the pick-and-roll would boost San Antonio. 

Draft considerations: Jalen Duren, Jeremy Sochan, Johnny Davis, A.J. Griffin, Malaki Branham, Jaden Hardy, Jalen Williams, E.J. Liddell, Patrick Baldwin, Wendell Moore

Offseason considerations: Poeltl evaluation, Miles Bridges, Bobby Portis

New Orleans Pelicans:

Potential departures: None

The Pelicans are on fire. All signs point to the upstart contenders getting the coveted Zion Williamson back, joining CJ McCollum and Brandon Ingram in the league's newest big three. Herbert Jones and Jose Alvarado are household names for true NBA fans – defensive stalwarts who are joined by Jonas Valanciunas and Larry Nance as chess pieces to take pressure off of New Orleans' stars. Trey Murphy is coming off a promising rookie season. Devonte' Graham, Jaxson Hayes and Willy Hernangomez can bring the juice occasionally.

New Orleans has a deep roster that rode momentum down the stretch. The season-long metrics aren't indicative of the final product, but the Pelicans finished with a bottom-five ranking in three-point percentage and a bottom-10 ranking in field-goal percentage. Carrying an unimpressive defensive rating, New Orleans is reliant upon its top defenders to carry the unit. The return of Williamson, a year of chemistry building and a fresh lottery pick headline the offseason.

Draft considerations: Jeremy Sochan, Bennedict Mathurin, A.J. Griffin, Justin Lewis, Trevion Williams

Offseason considerations: Shed Garrett Temple's salary, Nemanja Bjelica 

Dallas Mavericks

Potential departures: Jalen Brunson

Jalen Brunson is an unrestricted free agent and his future is very much unsettled. Dallas is nearly hard-capped financially. Re-signing him will prove costly and will come at the discretion of the franchise's taxpayers. Brunson averaged 20.4 points, 7.5 assists and 3.9 rebounds in 17 games without Luka Doncic this season, while forming an impressive inside-out duo when they shared the court. The question is ultimately a simple one: is Brunson good enough to lock in as the No. 2 next to Doncic long term?

Spencer Dinwiddie will return and could fill a large void if Brunson leaves. Dorian Finney-Smith is everything a franchise could ask of a 3-and-D wing. Reggie Bullock is heavily utilized and his pick-and-roll numbers with Doncic were off the charts. Maxi Kleber and Dwight suffice as a solid big man tandem. 

Tim Hardaway isn't going anywhere. He's owed around $17 million annually through 2025. He's another source of offense when he returns from foot surgery. 

Dallas had a top-seven net rating fueled by a top-seven defensive rating. The Mavericks shifted to deliberate over-reliance from beyond the arc in the playoffs, and will operate with a similar shooting-heavy approach around Doncic next season. 

Draft considerations: Jaden Hardy, Ochai Agbaji, Dalen Terry, E.J. Liddell

Offseason considerations: Hunt for second round picks, general activity/cap maneuvering in the trade market

Memphis Grizzlies

Potential departures: Tyus Jones, Kyle Anderson

Jones served admirably whenever called upon, whether it was off the bench or filling in for an injured Ja Morant. He commands a raise this offseason and it's unclear if Memphis will be able to swallow it. 

Luckily for the Grizzlies, talent abounds. Morant and backcourt partner Desmond Bane are a top duo in the league. Jaren Jackson is the perfect modern big – that is, when he can stay out of foul trouble. Steven Adams and Brandon Clarke anchor the center position. De'Anthony Melton and Ziaire Williams are exciting pieces for the future. Dillon Brooks is an underrated defender and will be returning. 

Reigning NBA Executive of the Year Zach Kleiman serves as the Grizzlies' GM/EVP. He and his team have done an excellent job drafting while keeping the books flexible. This team doesn't have any holes. Featuring the fourth-best offensive rating, the sixth-best defensive rating and the top rebounding percentage in the league, Memphis is fundamentally sound, although overall three-point shooting could be improved.

Selecting at 22, 29 and 47 in the upcoming draft, Memphis traded up to draft Williams a year ago, so a similar move to strike on a preferred prospect is possible again. Two-way backcourt depth or a combo forward could be the direction. Blake Wesley returning to Notre Dame may have been in his best interest developmentally, but the idea of him honing his craft in the shadow of Morant is alluring.

Draft considerations: Jalen Williams, Ryan Rollins, Blake Wesley, Andrew Nembhard, Christian Braun, Dereon Seabron, Caleb Houstan, Matteo Spagnolo

Offseason considerations: Pat Connaughton

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Henry Weinberg
Henry is a sports writer and analyst, specializing in NBA analysis, CBB coverage and draft prep. He's a freelance scout, passionate baseball fan, elite fantasy football player and former Butler Bulldog.
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