2017 Fantasy Basketball Preview: NBA Southwest Division

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The season is starting next week! You may have already drafted your fantasy team or you may still be drafting this weekend.  Either way, we only have a few more days to kill before there's real basketball.

To pass the time, we'll be running through the different divisions in the NBA with high level overviews of all 30 NBA teams and the fantasy value coming out of those teams. This is the one chance for the divisions in the NBA to actually be relevant for anything, and a nice refresher course about what they're called and who's in them, which are facts so irrelevant to the outcome of the NBA season that even die-hard NBA junkies start to forget them.

Now, we turn to the Southwest Division in the NBA's Western Conference. This is one of the toughest divisions in recent years with all five of the teams making the playoffs in the 2014-15 season and four out of five in the following season. The San Antonio Spurs are once again the favorites to win the division title, but Houston Rockets are closer than ever to challenging them for the throne. Memphis Grizzlies and Dallas Mavericks have taken a slight step back this year. Memphis could still make the case for a playoffs berth, but Dallas will probably look to say farewell in the nicest possible way to their franchise legend Dirk Nowitzki and start over by building around their #9 draft pick Dennis Smith Jr. And the New Orleans Pelicans have a brand new approach compared to the start of previous season. So, let's get cracking.

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2017 Fantasy Basketball Preview: NBA Southwest Division

San Antonio Spurs

Not too much has changed in San Antonio with the team's core staying together and Manu Ginobili sticking around for another year. Only notable departures are David Lee, Jonathon Simmons, and Dewayne Dedmon, and none of them had played a key role with the Spurs to the point where they couldn't be replaced.

Rudy Gay is the biggest addition to the squad, and if he can stay healthy he can really make a difference. Although he will be no where close his fantasy value from his days in Sacramento. The Spurs also brought in Joffrey Lauvergne, who should see some minutes behind Pau Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge, but nothing too major.

Gregg Popovich is once again West Conference's biggest hope of putting a dent into Golden State's dominance, but with his key players getting older and his star Kawhi Leonard being sidelined with injury to start the season, it doesn't seem that the Spurs will be enough to challenge the Warriors this year. Another Conference Finals appearance seems pretty possible though.

Houston Rockets

Rockets seem to be in "Win now" mode and made it abundantly clear with the addition of Chris Paul. Houston departed with plenty of assets, nothing too major though, to acquire him and it remains to be seen if the move will pay dividends.

At least on paper, Houston seems more equipped than ever to battle it out with San Antonio for the Division title and latter for the trip to the Western Conference Finals. If the new superstar duo of Paul and James Harden gels well together they will be extremely hard to stop. Golden State still seems to far away, but the playoffs are a long way away, and as always in Houston "In Morey We Trust".

From the fantasy perspective we could see a dip in usage, field goals and assists for both the Beard and CP3, but with the space they will open up for each other, and other teammates, Houston should be in line for a major step forward in TO and FG%. Clint Capela seems to be the biggest beneficiary of Paul's arrival as Lob City has just come to Clutch City.

New Orleans Pelicans

The Pelicans made a trade last season that brought in one of the most talented, but also most misbehaved and controversial centers in the NBA, DeMarcus Cousins. He combined him with Anthony Davis to create what is now the most talented and feared front court duo in the NBA.

Both Cousins' and Davis' fantasy owners were glad to see that the trade didn't affect their stats too much. Unfortunately for the Pelicans' fans, it didn't affect their win total either. At least not yet.

Nothing major happened during the summer in New Orleans. They brought in Rajon Rondo, but he got injured so, for the next 4-6 weeks, Jrue Holiday is back to the PG spot. Tim Frazier's departure was countered by the signing of Ian ClarkSolomon Hill injured his hamstring and is probably out for the season so that is a blow for the Pelicans, but as if they knew that this is coming, they secured the services of veteran Grit-n-Grind founder Tony Allen.

All in all if their superstar frontcourt duo takes a step forward this season, Pelicans could make the playoffs. If not, they won't.

Memphis Grizzlies

As mentioned above, Tony Allen has left Memphis and the Grizzlies will reportedly retire his jersey. It's officially the end of the true Grit-n-Grind era. Zach Randolph is also out and only Tyreke Evans seems worth mentioning from the newcomers.

Memphis had the 7th seed in the playoffs last year, and they will consider it a success if they managed to repeat that this year, with other teams in the West getting stronger and them getting seemingly weaker.

Marc Gasol and Mike Conley will be asked to shoulder the major load on offense and JaMychal Green will probably see an increased role with Z-Bo in Sacramento. Fantasy-wise, these three will be your most valuable players from Memphis. There may also be some value in the later rounds of the draft to be found here, since the starting SG and SF spots haven't been nailed on yet, and the favorites to claim them are Tyreke Evans and Chandler Parsons, two of the least durable players on the roster.

Dallas Mavericks

The biggest question in Dallas right now is "Will this be Dirk's last season?" It's followed closely by "Will Dennis Smith Jr. win the Rookie of the Year?" They finished 33-49 last season and, except for the addition of DSJ, made no big efforts to improve upon that. This season will be about potentially saying goodbye to Dirk and seeing if DSJ has the potential to become their new franchise player.

Nerlens Noel is still with the Mavericks, so it will be interesting to see how he plays this year and if he will finally live up to his potential, at least in fantasy basketball. Harrison Barnes and Wesley Mathews are also still in Dallas, and can be useful to their fantasy owners. Seth Curry is injured to start the season so his minutes will be divided by the front court and backup guards like Yogi Farrell.

Generational change is in the works in Dallas at the moment.

 

The Highlight: Can the high-octane Rockets finally overcome the Spurs?

The battle for the Southwest Division title will most likely decide who will have the home advantage in the West Conference Semifinals of the playoffs and it will be extremely interesting to watch how well the Chris Paul experiment goes for the Rockets and will it be enough to finally beat the Spurs.

Stay tuned!

 

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