NBA Predictions: Hypothesizing Win Totals for the Southwest Division

The NBA Southwest Division is set for another competitive year as the Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets, Memphis Grizzlies, New Orleans Pelicans, and San Antonio Spurs are set to compete for a playoff berth. Bookies have Dallas as the favorite to win the most games in the division closely followed by Memphis.

With Luka Doncic leading the way, the Mavericks are set for a big season however other teams in the division will also be looking to prove themselves. Will Memphis take another leap and prove its appearance in the playoffs is a trend, not a fluke? Will the Pelicans at least make the play-in game? Last Word on Sports attempts to predict each team’s Over/Under win totals.

NBA Predictions: Hypothesizing Win totals for the Southwest Division

Luka Doncic in position for MVP Season, Dallas Mavericks set to ascend

The Dallas Mavericks have one piece of the puzzle nailed down for the foreseeable future after signing Doncic to a five-year, $206-million-dollar extension. The 22-year-old is one of the biggest names in the NBA and will likely become the face of the league once LeBron James retires. However, building a contender around the young star is proving to be a challenge.

Despite entering Free Agency with the third most cap space ($33.5 million), the Mavericks were unable to capture another star. They made a nice accessory move adding Reggie Bullock from the New York Knicks, then re-signed guard Doncic and Tim Hardaway Jr.

These are hardly the blockbusting moves many were expecting. Doncic is a phenomenal player but there is only so much he can do as shown in their first-round playoff exit last season. Despite rumors around Kristaps Porzingis, he remains the team’s second-highest player and must emerge as Doncic’s sidekick if they are to make any noise.

Ultimately though, the Mavericks go as far as Doncic takes them. He showed up unfit and overweight to begin last season and took roughly three months to get in shape. As good as Doncic is, every athlete increases their risk of injury if they don’t take care of their body. This time around, I anticipate he comes in fit and gets the Mavericks off to a much better start compared to last season.

There are a few teams taking a step back due to injuries to key players so I expect Dallas to move ahead of them. Despite losing Rick Carlisle in the offseason, they should be fine with Jason Kidd at the helm. If Doncic comes in ready, I expect Dallas to win more than 50 games.

Prediction: Over 48.5
Record: 51-31

NBA Lottery awaits for the Houston Rockets

The Houston Rockets were the NBA’s worst team last year, finishing with a 17-55 record. On the flip side, they had a great draft headlined by Jalen Green, a rookie touted to be a future star. However, the team overall figures to be one of the worst once again and a sure-fire lottery team in 2022.

Houston was quiet during Free Agency with their only signing being former Boston Celtics center Daniel Theis and re-signing David Nwaba.

The Rockets did an intelligent job by ensuring their rookies get a lot of minutes to develop. However, John Wall and Christian Wood are two players who want to win. The pair have expressed their desire to win games and make the post-season. This desire contradicts the developmental strategy Houston is trying to deploy so what happens with the pair will be interesting to monitor.

Still, the developmental path generally equates to a lot of losing and that is what I expect for Houston this year. The line is set at 27.5 and I think this is a bit high for them. I believe they will win around 23-24 games.

Prediction: Under 27.5
Record: 23-59

Memphis Grizzlies out to prove NBA Playoff appearance wasn’t a fluke

The Memphis Grizzlies finally made it back to the playoffs last season, winning both of its play-in games to secure the eighth spot. While the Grizzlies put on a stunning performance to outlast Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors, they were easily dispatched by the Utah Jazz in the first round. Still, this was a stepping stone for a young Memphis squad whose young stars return for another season.

However, the Grizzlies have made some strategic moves this offseason. The club added Steven Adams, Kris Dunn (pending), and Carsen Edwards but moved on from Jonas Valanciunas, Justise Winslow, Grayson Allen, and Tim Frazier.

The impact of Adams will be the talk of the season given Valenciunas’ contributions last year. Adams has been a shell of himself since being traded from Oklahoma City but receives another chance to impact the game alongside star Ja Morant. He is a bruising big man who will undoubtedly create space for Morant to drive, reminiscent of his time with Russell Westbrook. Morant is athletically very similar but has a floater in his arsenal. I suspect his scoring output will increase with Adams as his pick and roll partner.

Betting lines have set Memphis at 41.5 and this should go over. The Grizzlies have the makings of a great team and their defense should jump into the top five this. They are definitely better than a 500 team.

Prediction: Over 41.5
Record: 46-36

New Orleans Pelicans

The New Orleans Pelicans are quickly becoming one of the most polarizing teams in the NBA. Armed with All-Stars Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson, the Pelicans haven’t come close to sniffing the playoffs since 2018. The club attempted to make the playoffs last season but fell well short of expectations, ending the year in 11th position.

New Orleans entered NBA Free Agency with hopes of landing a star. The Pelicans possessed a mountain of picks from the Jrue Holiday trade and attractive young assets entering Restricted Free Agency. Unfortunately, the franchise missed everything and the Pelicans had arguably the most disappointing offseason of any team in the league.

Moving Eric Bledsoe and Steven Adams for Jonas Valanciunas plus re-signing Josh Hart were solid moves. However, letting Lonzo Ball walk for virtually nothing and throwing cash at Devonte’ Graham to replace him is a headscratcher. Graham is a terrific long-range shooter from deep (37.4 percent) on impressive volume (9.0 attempts per game) and a great playmaker but he compounds the Pelicans defensive issues.  New Orleans ranked 24th in defensive rating (113.3) despite solid offensive numbers (11th overall, 113 offensive rating). Graham is a nice player and offers spacing but the Pelicans can’t stop anyone on the other side of the ball.

Of course, this also falls directly on both Ingram and Williamson as well. The pair are a terrible defensive duo and seem more interested in getting numbers than containing their defensive assignments. New Orleans will never break out of its current funk until its stars buy into the defensive side of the ball.

The line is set at 38.5 but I like the Under. New Orleans will be lucky to win 36 games.

Prediction: Under 38.5
Record: 36-46

San Antonio Spurs continue to tread in NBA Mediocrity

If there was a team in the NBA full of second-option players, it’s the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs continue to float in mediocrity, fluctuating between just making or just missing the playoffs. With Greg Popovic at the helm, it appears the club is refusing to rebuild even though it appears to be in its best interest long term. The future is hazy but one thing fans can count on is the team will compete hard and won’t beat themselves.

San Antonio made some nice accessory moves but none move the proverbial needle. Their big offseason acquisition was former Indiana Pacers forward Doug McDermott.

The Spurs did receive a wealth of veteran leadership in Thaddeus Young and Al-Farouq Aminu plus two wait-and-see guys in Zach Collins and Chandler Hutchison. However, coupling these moves with upcoming studs Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, Keldon Johnson and Lonnie Walker makes no sense. The once decorated franchise is in a holding pattern until it decides to rebuild but right now, they appear to be happy with treading water.

It’s likely San Antonio will struggle again this season, especially now that DeMar DeRozan, Patty Mills, and Rudy Gay are gone. Additionally, it’s difficult to see Young and Aminu lasting the year so I suspect there will also be some mid-season moves.

The line is set at 28.5 but I do believe they will just cover that line.

Prediction: Over 28.5
Record: 29-53

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