WESTERN CONFERENCE: SOUTHWEST DIVISION

  1. San Antonio Spurs — 57-25
  2. Houston Rockets — 46-36
  3. Dallas Mavericks — 39-43
  4. Memphis Grizzlies — 37-45
  5. New Orleans Pelicans — 36-46

Tim Duncan retired, but the Spurs will keep on rolling. They didn’t get better or worse. San Antonio remains clearly the second-best team in the West.

Houston made a drastic change to their culture when they hired Mike D’Antoni. Dwight Howard bailed (mercifully), and James Harden has moved to point guard. The Rockets will lead the league in scoring, and they’ll be better on defense than expected. This year they’ll be in the playoffs.

It’s difficult to pick against a Rick Carlisle-Dirk Nowitzki team. Since the legendary head coach took over the Mavs, they’ve missed the playoffs just once in eight seasons. But Nowitzki is 38-years-old and entering his 19th season with a weak supporting cast around him. This will be the season when that finally matters.

Memphis gambled on an injury-prone Chandler Parsons with a max contract this summer. They hired a new head coach, re-signed Mike Conley, also to a max deal, and moved Zach Randolph to a sixth man role.

Parsons has already been ruled out for the opener. It’s not surprising considering he’s played 70 games only twice in five seasons. Not a good sign at 28-years-old.

Memphis will struggle while they adapt to the changes in their identity as a team.

The Pelicans have been a sleeper pick for some people to make the playoffs. I don’t see it. Anthony Davis has already hurt his ankle (although he expects to be ready for the opening game) and Tyreke Evans is out until December.