In the last of Hoops Prospects’ series of 2022-23 NBA division previews, I take a look at the Southwest Division in the Western Conference, summarizing each teams’ key additions, key departures, and other developments. The teams are listed based on my predicted order of finish within the division.
The projected depth charts come directly from Hoops Prospects, and are based on who is likely to play the most minutes this season. We update the depth charts regularly throughout the year. Click here for an explanation of the various depth-chart notations.
1. Dallas Mavericks
- Record last season: 52-30 (4th in the West)
- Offensive Rating: 112.5 (14th)
- Defensive Rating: 109.1 (7th)
- Net Rating: 3.5 (7th)
Key Departures: Jalen Brunson, Boban Marjanovic, Sterling Brown, Trey Burke, Marquese Chriss
Key Additions: Christain Wood, JaVale McGee, Facundo Campazzo
Key Rookies: Jaden Hardy (pick 37)
Projected Depth Chart
|Luka Doncic||Spencer Dinwiddie||Tim Hardaway Jr.||Dorian Finney-Smith||Christian Wood|
|Frank Ntilikina||Josh Green||Reggie Bullock||Maxi Kleber||JaVale McGee|
|Facundo Campazzo||Jaden Hardy||Theo Pinson||Davis Bertans||Dwight Powell|
|McKinley Wright **||Tyler Dorsey **|
After an improbable Western Conference Finals appearance, the Dallas Mavericks looked forward to the offseason when they could add pieces to support superstar Luka Doncic. The biggest offseason story in Dallas was the team losing their star playoff performer Jalen Brunson, who signed a lucrative free-agent deal with the New York Knicks. The Mavericks are attempting to build upon their playoff success by acquiring different types of players, as opposed to trying to directly replace Brunson with a similar player. Houston Rockets forward Christian Wood was acquired before the NBA draft, pairing Luka with versatility on offense. The Mavericks also drafted G-League Ignite guard Jaden Hardy and signed center JaVale McGee early in free agency to round out their roster for the 2022-23 NBA season.
Because of their loss of Brunson, many have already written off the franchise from making another playoff run. If Coach Jason Kidd approaches this season with the same offensive scheme, it could be a down year for the Mavericks. The franchise excelled in the playoffs with their shot creation and spacing, giving their guards freedom to get to the basket. The loss of Brunson prevents the Mavericks from doing this efficiently again, but the additions of Wood and McGee will give Doncic more versatile options. Doncic excels playing with rolling big men and has shown that he is one of the best pick-and-roll players in the league. Wood’s production in the preseason showed what he could bring to the team, averaging 17 points in only 22.5 minutes a game. The new bigs will present many more pick-and-roll opportunities, and the added length will help fix the rebounding flaws shown in last year’s playoff series vs. Golden State. If the Mavericks commit to a pick-and-roll system combined with efficient three-point shooting, they have the talent to finish atop their division and could exceed their 2022 playoff success.
2. Memphis Grizzlies
- Record last season: 56-26 (2nd in the West)
- Offensive Rating: 114.3 (4th)
- Defensive Rating: 108.9 (6th)
- Net Rating: 5.3 (5th)
Key Departures: De’Anthony Melton, Kyle Anderson, Jarrett Culver
Key Additions: Danny Green
Key Rookies: Jake LaRavia (pick 19), David Roddy (pick 23), Kennedy Chandler (pick 38), Vincent Williams (pick 47)
Projected Depth Chart
|Ja Morant||Dillon Brooks||Desmond Bane||Jaren Jackson Jr.||Steven Adams|
|Tyus Jones||Danny Green||Ziaire Williams||Santi Aldama||Brandon Clarke|
|Kennedy Chandler||John Konchar||Jake LaRavia||David Roddy||Xavier Tillman|
|Vincent Williams **||Kenneth Lofton Jr. **|
One of the top young and upcoming franchises in the NBA, the Memphis Grizzlies will look to build upon their 56-win season last year. Led by star point guard Ja Morant, the Grizzlies lost in the second round to the eventual-champion Golden State Warriors. The Grizzlies added many young pieces in the draft, including sharpshooter Jake LaRavia, speedy Kennedy Chandler, and versatile David Roddy. The Grizzlies did not add any notable players in free agency; instead, they lost free agent Kyle Anderson to the Minnesota Timberwolves and traded away De’Anthony Melton. To make matters worse, forward Jaren Jackson Jr., and wing Danny Green will miss significant time this season due to injuries.
The Grizzlies did not add any proven players to their roster, besides the injured Green, who might miss the entire season, and the loss of Jackson Jr. will limit the team at the beginning of the season. The versatile Jackson provides floor spacing and rim protection on a nightly basis; the team will try to replace him with Brandon Clarke, Santi Aldama, Xavier Tillman, and possibly Roddy. Clarke was a successful bench piece last year as a lob threat but was not a significant factor on defense or as a floor spacer. Aldama, a 2021 first-round pick, appears to be the choice to start at the power forward position, following a strong preseason performance, averaging 12.2 points and 7.2 boards with very impressive shooting splits (.575/.400/.818). The Grizzlies do not have much proven front-court depth behind Jackson and center Steven Adams, and Aldama, Clarke, or Tillman will have to step up to maintain their sixth overall defensive rating from last season.
With the improvement in the West, the Grizzlies’ lack of depth will be an issue, and they will very likely struggle to repeat the success from last season. Morant will likely have an amazing individual year, and his offensive gravity will create opportunities for others, but it likely will not be enough to finish first in their division.
3. New Orleans Pelicans
- Record last season: 36-46 (9th in the West)
- Offensive Rating: 111.2 (19th)
- Defensive Rating: 112.0 (18th)
- Net Rating: -.8 (21st)
Key Departures: None
Key Additions: None
Key Rookies: Dyson Daniels (pick 8)
Projected Depth Chart
|CJ McCollum||Brandon Ingram||Herb Jones||Zion Williamson||Jonas Valanciunas|
|Jose Alvarado||Devonte Graham||Trey Murphy||Larry Nance Jr.||Jaxson Hayes|
|Kira Lewis||Dyson Daniels||Garrett Temple||Naji Marshall||Willy Hernangomez|
|Dereon Seabron **||E.J. Liddell **|
A healthy Zion Williamson, the development of their young core, and a solid starting five make the New Orleans Pelicans potentially one of the surprise teams in the NBA this season. Last year, the club dealt with Williamson’s injury all season and still managed to make the playoffs. Their trade deadline acquisition CJ McCollum helped the Pelicans make it to 8th seed, slipping into the playoffs. McCollum’s offensive output (24.3 PPG and 5.9 APG) was a necessity for the playoff run. The surprise emergence of Herbert Jones, Jaxon Hayes, and Trey Murphy should highlight the quality of the team’s development staff and Coach Willie Green, giving them the chance to be successful over the long haul. Entering his second season as a pro, Murphy has already started off strong and could have a bigger scoring role; he averaged 15 points on 54 percent shooting in the preseason.
The Pelicans have all the talent to make noise in the West, assuming the big guy stays healthy. Williamson has proven in spurts that he can be an All-NBA player, though his defense has yet to live up to expectations. With Zion and center Jonas Valanciunas, the Pelicans have one of the most potent inside-outside offensive frontcourts. There are some concerns with the guard position, however. The Pelicans do not have a true point guard, which is arguably the most important position in the NBA. McCollum, who is projected to start at the point, is a player accustomed to playing with star guard Damian Lillard on playoff teams. Brandon Ingram has many ball-handling responsibilities, though he is a natural scorer. Guard depth is a concern as well, as both Jose Alvarado and Devante Graham have notable deficiencies. Jones, who was a defensive standout as a rookie and had a solid preseason, is capable of running the offense, but the team doesn’t appear inclined to change his role. A mid-season trade would make sense for this team to ensure the offense runs smoothly. The Pelicans have talent, but consistency, communication, health, and ball movement will be the keys to success.
4. Houston Rockets
- Record last season: 20-62 (15h in the West)
- Offensive Rating: 108.1 (26th)
- Defensive Rating: 116.4 (30th)
- Net Rating: -8.3 (29th)
Key Departures: Christian Wood, Dennis Schröder, John Wall, David Nwaba
Key Additions: Boban Marjanovic, Bruno Fernando
Key Rookies: Jabari Smith (pick 3), Tari Easton (pick 17), TyTy Washington (pick 29)
Projected Depth Chart
|Kevin Porter||Eric Gordon||Jalen Green||Jabari Smith||Alperen Sengun|
|Daishen Nix||Josh Christopher||Jae’Sean Tate||Tari Eason||Bruno Fernando|
|TyTy Washington||Garrison Mathews||Kenyon Martin Jr.||Usman Garuba||Boban Marjanovic|
|Trevor Hudgins **||Darius Days **|
After promising individual seasons from their young prospects, the Houston Rockets came into the offseason looking to add more young pieces, thinking long term. Last season, Jalen Green showed All-Star potential with his scoring instincts. Alperen Sengun is a promising center who played very well in Eurobasket this summer. There are other young assets, mainly Kevin Porter and Jae’Sean Tate, who have proven to be viable NBA starters. Porter just re-signed to a team friendly four-year, 82.5-million extension, with only the first season guaranteed. Additionally, the Rockets had arguably the best NBA draft this offseason, selecting Jabari Smith Jr., Tari Eason, and TyTy Washington, all in the first round.
The Rockets are approaching this year with the same points of emphasis as last season. The best aspect of this team is its young assets and potential. The undeniable versatility of Eason, Smith, and Sengun on both ends is impressive and should excite the front office for the future. Eason is a player who could make an impact immediately for the Rockets. In the preseason, he averaged 17.8 points and 9 rebounds per game, with off-the-charts shooting splits (.636/.455/.833). If the Rockets want to eventually return to the playoffs, these players need NBA possessions and minutes. Eric Gordon is still on this team as a veteran to help point the young players in the right direction, though he has been in trade discussions for years now. The combination of Green, Smith, Sengun, Eason, and Porter will be exciting to watch develop, and the Rockets have players who will be on highlight tapes on a nightly basis. However, there should be no expectations for this team to win many games this season.
5. San Antonio Spurs
- Record last season: 34-48 (10th in the West)
- Offensive Rating: 111.9 (17th)
- Defensive Rating: 111.7 (16th)
- Net Rating: .2 (17th)
Key Departures: Dejounte Murray, Lonnie Walker, Jock Landale, Joe Wieskamp
Key Additions: Gorgui Dieng, Isaiah Roby
Key Rookies: Jeremy Sochan (pick 9), Malaki Branham (pick 20), Blake Wesley (pick 25)
Projected Depth Chart
|Tre Jones||Devin Vassell||Keldon Johnson||Doug McDermott||Jakob Poeltl|
|Joshua Primo||Malaki Branham||Josh Richardson||Isaiah Roby||Zach Collins|
|Blake Wesley||Romeo Langford||Keita Bates-Diop||Jeremy Sochan||Gorgui Dieng|
|Jordan Hall **||Dominick Barlow **|
Coach Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs had an intriguing offseason as they tried to retool their team for the 2023 NBA season. Well, they actually are retooling for future seasons. The most surprising move was trading Dejonte Murray, an athletic defensive combo guard who the Spurs developed themselves, to the Atlanta Hawks. The Spurs roster on paper is not oozing with star power to say the least, but in the past, Popovich’s basketball genius has put the team into the play-in round or better, with limited talent. The Spurs had a solid draft, selecting athletic forward Jeremy Sochan with their lottery pick. They also drafted guards Malaki Branham and Blake Wesley, two players who are projects, but under the Spurs development staff could become legitimate NBA players. All in all, this team has long-term potential but severely lacks proven starting-level NBA talent.
Popovich exclaimed what to expect for this team this upcoming season, stating “Nobody here should go to Vegas with the thought of betting on us to win that championship” on media day. This team likely will not reappear in the play-in this season, but the Spurs have exciting pieces that have potential. Keldon Johnson will have a larger role and will have more freedom to develop his offense. Johnson received attention after he played well with Team USA under Popovich in 2021, and has improved each year with the Spurs. Devin Vassell will get more of an opportunity to score, while Wesley, Josh Primo, and Tre Jones will take turns trying to establish themselves as capable starting point guards. Vassell, a 2020 lottery selection, averaged 16.5 points per game on 44 percent form the field in the preseason, but shot only percent from three, causing concern.
Popovich might not be able to lead this team to the playoffs, but the Spurs are in a sustainable position to rebuild their iconic franchise back to where it once was. San Antonio will finish last in the division, and could very well be in the running for top overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft.
Sources, Credits, and Acknowledgements
Statistics used in our scouting reports come from RealGM.com (international and NBA stats), Sports-Reference.com (NCAA and NBA stats), and Synergy Sports Technology (special analytics). Other outside sources are noted with links to the source. Click here to see the statistical abbreviation key.