Alright, I’m back at it with my season previews of the 2019-20 NBA season. Up next is the Southwest division. As always, follow me on Twitter (@onpointayden) and let me know how little I know about the NBA. And away we go…
2018-19 Season Finish: 3rd in division, 12th in conference
2019-20 Predicted Finish: 5th in division, 14th in conference
Ceiling: The Grizz have a VERY bright future but there is undoubtedly going to be growing pains. If EVERYTHING went perfectly, the Grizz could push for a playoff spot and 40-42 wins, but being realistic, that won’t happen
Realistic Finish: There will be times when everything clicks and we get a glimpse of the future in Memphis and it’s going to be very pretty. However, there are always roadblocks when it comes to youngsters development and I expect as much here. I think if Memphis get to 25 wins, they’ll be doing something right
Star In The Making: This is quite obviously Jaren Jackson Jr. Probably needs to become a better rebounder for his size, but everything else is there. Averaged 14 points, 5 boards, 1.5 blocks and 1 steal a game while shooting 35% from 3 in only 26 minutes a game. His minutes should go up to around 32-34 with him playing a lot of C as well so no reason why JJJ can’t be a 20/10/2/1 guy while shooting 35%+ from deep this season. Also worth mentioning, apparently he grew 2 inches in the offseason, putting him at a whopping 7’1″
Under The Radar: I’m really surprised that Tyus Jones didn’t receive more interest this offseason. He is a very smart playmaker, evidenced by his crazy 6.96 assist-to-turnover ratio last season. Add to that that he has gotten better defensively each season and was amongst the top point guards in Real Defensive Plus Minus last season, if you buy into that sorta thing. I could see him playing alongside Ja for stretches and if he can get a consistent shot going, could be one of the better lowkey pickups of the offseason.
Make Or Break: A 9th man, at best, on a rebuilding team should be the last one causing trouble. Grayson Allen never lets something like that get in the way of his dirty play though. With all the attitude and mannerisms of a “do you know who my father is” type of player, Allen has constantly proven to temperamental and just plain dirty on the court. I mean, who gets ejected from a Summer League game? If Allen doesn’t pull his head in this season, the Grizz may find he isn’t worth the trouble.
Anything Else?: I love what the Grizz are doing
and I hope their front office doesn’t cave to those petulant Lakers fans who are crying conspiracy when they don’t land every single player they want by buying out Andre Iguodala and kudos to them for playing it smart with their trade assets.
2018-19 Season Finish: 5th in division, 14th in conference
2019-20 Predicted Finish: 4th in division, 12th in conference
Ceiling: If other teams had crazy injury woes or whatever, I could see Dallas pushing for an 8th spot but it’d take an extreme amount of luck.
Realistic Finish: They are better than last season but so is the rest of the conference. I think yet again, they will finish around the 35 win mark.
Star In The Making: This might be the most obvious choice yet. Luka Doncic had been killing it in Europe since being a wee teen, yet when it came to draft time, he still had doubters, most notably the Kings, Hawks and Suns. The reigning Rookie of the year then went on to average 21 points, 8 boards and 6 assists a game. Swaggy L (that’s the worst nickname in the entire NBA) is only going to get better and with Kristaps Porzingis coming aboard, defenses will have somebody else to focus on as well.
Under The Radar: During his Raptors tenure, Delon Wright was a servicable backup PG/SG, hitting from 3 at a decent clip and not much else. Fast forward to him being traded to Memphis and all of a sudden, he is averaging 30 minutes a game and putting up 12 points, 5 boards and 5 assists per game. It was enough to net him a 3 year, $29m contract offer from Dallas, where those minutes should stay around that. With Jalen Brunson biting on his heels, maybe Delon will take his game to the next level.
Make Or Break: While with the Kings, Justin Jackson averaged 20 minutes a game. During that time, he averaged around 5-6 points a game; hardly noteworthy. In a small sample in Dallas, his numbers actually went up in LESS minutes with Dallas. It’s fair to say that Jackson will need to really carve out a role for himself here or risk being jobless.
Anything Else?: The Mavs have a lot of guys who can light it up. Like, real flamethrowers. The likes of Tim Hardaway Jr, Delon Wright, Seth Curry etc. If these guys can all click, the Mavs could be one of the more high-scoring and fun teams to watch next season.
New Orleans Pelicans
2018-19 Season Finish: 4th in division, 13th in conference
2019-20 Predicted Finish: 3rd in division, 9th in conference
Ceiling: If Zion is as good in the NBA as some media outlets are already saying he is, the Pels could find themselves climbing the West standings. A 1-2 punch of Jrue + superstar Zion with a solid supporting cast? Good for 50 wins in the West for sure. I just happen to think there will be some teething issues.
Realistic Finish: 48 wins is what it took to get the 8th seed last year although I think it will be much tougher in the West all around this season, so look for the Pels to finish around .500 and just miss the playoffs.
Star In The Making: I’ve avoided putting rookies here because they’ve yet to play a second of NBA basketball (Summer League doesn’t count) but it’s Zion…yeah.
Under The Radar: To be honest, I was one of the many that thought this dude was washed but Jahlil Okafor really took advantage of his time when the traitor who shall not be named went down with a sprained monobrow last season. In just 15 minutes a game, Okafor averaged 8 points and 5 boards, which translates to a whopping 21 points and 12 boards per 40 minutes. If you buy into the hype of offseason workout videos, Okafor is looking great as well.
Make Or Break: It depends on who you talk to but Lonzo Ball ranges anywhere on the spectrum from “the worst draft bust of all-time” to “DPOY who was robbed for not being DPOY.” These are obvious extremes and I believe he falls somewhere in the middle. Now, I don’t think that Lonzo is at risk of being out of the league or anything. I do think he has a really negative stigma, through no fault of his own, that he needs to shed. Lonzo (I do refuse to call him Zo) has a chance to lead one of the more exciting teams in the entire league and lob city to Zion could be a fun thing, but it’s up to Lonzo to make the most of this situation and prove the haters wrong.
Anything Else?: Jrue Holiday remains the most underrated player in the NBA and that’s a hill I’m willing to die on.
San Antonio Spurs
2018-19 Season Finish: 2nd in division, 7th in conference
2019-20 Predicted Finish: 2nd in division, 7th in conference
Ceiling: The wise philosopher Ghandi once said “Never bet against Pop and the Spurs.” I wouldn’t be surprised to see them win the division and finish as high as fourth in the West.
Realistic Finish: The 45-48 win range seems about right.
Star In The Making: I don’t know how Pop keeps getting stud players from seemingly outta nowhere. The next of those players is Derrick White. True, he may never be an all-star but knowing the Spurs philosophy, I doubt they give a shit. White really came on during the playoffs last season, averaging nearly double his season average on the same amount of minutes. But even during the season, White averaged 10, 4 and 4 on 25 minutes a game while also getting a steal and just under a block a game. Watch for him to develop even further in Pop’s system.
Under The Radar: If you look at Jakob Poetl’s numbers, they’re fairly modest. 5 points, 5 boards and a block a game; respectable for a backup center. Now realise that he does this in only 15 minutes and that transfers to about 12 points and 12 boards with about 3 blocks per game over 40 minutes. Poetl is also an underrated passer, getting nearly 1.5 assists in those 15 minutes while rarely turning the ball over.
Make Or Break: It feels weird to put Pop here, but we know the end of his coaching career is approaching. I’d imagine the Spurs ownership will keep him there as long as he wants but we also know, for a fact, that Pop holds himself to an incredibly high standard. So if the Spurs fail to make the playoffs as many are predicting, will we finally see the sun set on the career of the greatest coach in NBA history?
Anything Else?: I think it’s amazing that Pop basically says “fuck yo 3 pointers” and almost strictly employs non-shooters as a way of flipping the NBA and basketball in general the bird. It’s literally one of my favourite things in the NBA.
2018-19 Season Finish: 1st in division, 4th in conference
2019-20 Predicted Finish: 1st in division, 6th in conference
Ceiling: If D’Antoni figures out how to make Russ and Harden work together, they are gonna be very hard to stop and 1st in the West is definitely within the realm of possibility.
Realistic Finish: I don’t necessarily think the Rockets are going to be bad. But the Clippers and Lakers, two teams who finished below them last season, got much better, as did the Jazz. I could see the Rockets sneak into the top four but I think the top of the West is so good that 6th is more likely.
Star In The Making: Yeah, he had a terrible playoffs and yeah, there is the video of him chucking up bricks like his new teammate for the Swiss national team, but people are quick to forget that during the season, Capela was putting up all-star level numbers. I think his numbers will go down with Russ onboard but he should find more easy looks underneath with the defense collapsing on Russ driving or focusing on Harden at the 3 point line.
Under The Radar: I don’t really have a good answer for this so I just want to acknowledge how Gerald Green turned a benchwarmer career into a stint into the Russian league into a role as “the flashy dunker” and nothing else into a valuable piece off the bench for Houston. This will be his 14th season in the league so kudos to him.
Make Or Break: Gotta be D’Antoni. He needs, NEEDS, to make this work. Last season, he pushed Harden into the ground and maybe earned him an undeserved record or two by playing him in garbage time but that’s besides the point. If D’Antoni doesn’t deliver a title this year, having two of the most explosive scorers in the entire NBA, then he won’t have a job in Houston next season, book it now.
Anything Else?: I was very surprised to learn Ben McLemore was on the Rockets roster. I would have sworn he was out of the league by now. Good for him I guess, but yikes for the Rockets bench.
And that’s another division down. Make sure to give me a follow on Twitter (@onpointayden) so I get more interactions than just 12-year olds saying LeBron is the GOAT and Rodman sucked because he averaged like 4 points a game.
Until next time…Peace!