NBA Southwest Division betting preview: Question marks all around

NBA Southwest Division betting preview: Question marks all around

We’ve covered four divisions so far:

Atlantic Division
Central Division
Southeast Division
Northwest Division

We’re wrapping up the final two this week, starting with the Southwest Division.

Zion Williamson, Ja Morant, Kyrie Irving, and their respective teams have a lot to prove both on and off the court in 2023-24. Question marks surround these three players’ availability over the course of a full season, which could hinder their teams’ success. As a result, there’s no clear favorite in the division.

Futures odds

Team
division
conference
championship

Mavericks
+155
+1200
+2000

Grizzlies
+155
+1200
+2500

Pelicans
+285
+2500
+5000

Rockets
+4000
+10000
+10000

Spurs
+5000
+15000
+20000

Mavericks win total and odds to make playoffs

Win total
Odds to make/miss playoffs
Implied prob. to make playoffs

44.5
-200/+160
66.7%

Projected starting lineup:

Kyrie Irving
Luka Doncic
Grant Williams

Maxi Kleber/Olivier-Maxence Prosper

Dereck Lively II

The Mavericks capped off a disappointing 2022-23 season by blatantly tanking the final games of the regular season to miss the play-in tournament. Dallas won just 38 games last season, so oddsmakers expect a six-game win increase.

The Mavericks are in a much better position this year than last. For starters, they have Doncic, an undeniable top-five player in the NBA who should be in MVP contention.

Dallas traded for Irving last season, although many questioned his fit alongside Doncic. The pair played in just 16 games together, and while they went 5-11, various factors contributed to those losses. Dallas signed Irving to a three-year contract this summer.

The Mavs were turning into a one-man show that relied too heavily on Doncic. They needed Irving. For all the headaches he can bring an organization off the court, he’s still unbelievably talented, and he can take some pressure off Doncic as a ball-handler and shot-creator.

Dallas also signed Grant Williams in free agency. Williams is coming off the best year of his career as a tough-nosed 3-point threat. I’m not sure this team is equipped to make a run to the Western Conference finals like it did in 2022, but it should return to its status as a perennial playoff squad.

Bet: Pass

Grizzlies win total and odds to make playoffs

Win total
Odds to make/miss playoffs
Implied prob. to make playoffs

45.5
-250/+200
71%

Projected starting lineup (without Ja Morant):

Marcus Smart
Desmond Bane
John Konchar
Jaren Jackson Jr.
Steven Adams

The Grizzlies will be without Morant for the first 25 games of the season. That’s 30% of the season without their best player and an unquestioned superstar – and that’s how a team that won 50-plus games in consecutive seasons gets such a low win total.

The good news for Memphis is its supporting cast is capable of bearing more of the load in Morant’s absence, and that includes Jackson, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year.

Memphis went 11-10 without Morant last season. If the Grizzlies can stay around .500 while he serves his suspension, they’ll be in good shape to make a push in the latter part of the season.

The addition of Smart also helps their cause. Memphis lacked maturity and toughness last season, two traits Smart has made a career out of. Despite back-to-back seasons as the 2-seed in the West, the Grizzlies are getting no respect as a threat in the conference. As long as Morant stays out of trouble – and off Instagram Live – Memphis will be just fine when he comes back.

Bet: Grizzlies to win the division +155

Pelicans win total and odds to make playoffs

Win total
Odds to make/miss playoffs
Implied prob. to make playoffs

44.5
-150/+120
60%

Projected starting lineup:

CJ McCollum
Brandon Ingram
Herbert Jones
Zion Williamson
Jonas Valanciunas

The Pelicans’ entire season – and future – depends on Willamson’s health.

New Orleans won 42 games last year despite Williamson only playing in 29. He’s played in just 37% of his team’s games since entering the league in 2019, including missing the entire 2021-22 season.

Pelicans president of basketball operations David Griffin made a revealing comment at the team’s media day last week: “This was the first summer where we’ve seen Zion take his profession seriously like that and invest in it off the court on his own in a way that I think is meaningful.”

Griffin indirectly indicated Williamson didn’t prioritize basketball or his body during his first few years in the league.

A healthy Williamson can make New Orleans a serious threat in the West. In his 29 games last year, the Pelicans went 17-12, and Williamson averaged 26 points per game. They were 25-28 without him.

Ingram also dealt with injuries that kept him out for nearly half of last season. Even with Williamson in the lineup, Ingram is the primary scorer and offensive facilitator. Add McCollum to the equation and this team can do serious damage – if the players can stay on the floor.

Bet: Over 44.5 wins

Rockets win total and odds to make playoffs

Win total
Odds to make/miss playoffs
Implied prob. to make playoffs

31.5
+600/-900
14%

Projected starting lineup:

Fred VanVleet
Jalen Green
Dillon Brooks
Jabari Smith Jr.
Alperen Sengun

The Rockets have the perfect mix of budding stars and veteran pieces.

Starting with the youth movement, Green and Smith have shown glimpses of their potential. Smith entered the NBA as a prolific shotmaker with a deep bag of tricks. His rookie season was a roller coaster, but that’s to be expected. He had a dominant Summer League and is poised to take a leap this season. Green made a noticeable jump in his second year, particularly in scoring out of the pick-and-roll. If he continues to progress, he could become one of the NBA’s premier scorers.

The Rockets signed VanVleet and Brooks in free agency, and both complement the team’s young pieces well. Add rookies Amen Thompson and Summer League MVP Cam Whitmore and the Rockets have a solid squad.

They may still be a year or two away from making the playoffs, but coach Ime Udoka will get this rocket ship ready to launch sooner than later. Houston will be one of the surprises of the NBA.

Bet: Over 31.5 wins

Spurs win total and odds to make playoffs

Win total
Odds to make/miss playoffs
Implied prob. to make playoffs

29.5
+1100/-2500
8%

Projected starting lineup:

Tre Jones
Devin Vassell
Keldon Johnson
Victor Wembanyama
Zach Collins

The Spurs are both appointment television and one of the worst teams in the NBA. When the most-hyped prospect in NBA history is playing, fans should be watching.

Expectations for Wembanyama are so astronomical that if he lives up to even a fraction of them, he should be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. The 7-foot-3 do-it-all unicorn should turn the Spurs into a contender in a few years.

With such a gifted player, the Spurs are on an accelerated timeline to surround him with talent and complementary pieces – but they won’t get there this season. His inevitable rookie growing pains alongside other young and inexperienced teammates will shine through in a lot more losses than wins.

San Antonio lacks depth in numerous areas, especially point guard, which could make it hard for the Spurs to get Wembanyama the ball in the right spots.

The Spurs have the fourth-lowest win total but maybe the most excitement for the future.

Bet: Pass

Sam Oshtry is a sports betting writer at theScore. You can follow him on X, formerly known as Twitter, @soshtry for more betting coverage.

Copyright © 2023 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.


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