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NBA team profiles for 2015/16 season: Southwest Division

Daniel Coyle, American Sports Correspondent | October 27, 2015

2015/16 Southwest Division NBA team profiles

San Antonio Spurs will be looking to avenge their early playoff loss, and have the firepower to contend for their fifth NBA title since 2003, but face stiff competition in the NBA’s most talented division.

With James Harden in MVP form and Dwight Howard looking towards free agency, Houston Rockets will look for a second straight division crown, while a young and healthy New Orleans Pelicans squad appear ready to seriously contend for the first time in a decade.

San Antonio Spurs

  • NBA Championship futures betting odds: 4/1
  • Southwest Division futures betting odds: 5/6
  • 2014/15 record: 55-27

Pistons Spurs Basketball

After winning 33 regular season home games, including 15 of their final 16, the Spurs qualified for the playoffs for an 18th straight campaign in 2015. But the defending NBA champs were upset in seven games by the LA Clippers, handing them just their second opening-round exit since 1988.

The veteran Spurs return to action as championship contenders once again, led by the ageless duo of Tim Duncan and Tony Parker. Armed with a new contract, Kawhi Leonard hopes to repeat as NBA Defensive Player of the Year, while free agent power forward LaMarcus Aldridge adds another offensive weapon to an already stacked arsenal.

San Antonio remains the team to beat in the Southwest, and will be a dangerous playoff opponent after last season’s disappointment.

Houston Rockets

  • NBA Championship futures betting odds: 12/1
  • Southwest Division futures betting odds: 9/4
  • 2014/15 record: 55-26

Rockets Grizzlies Basketball

The Rockets look to build on last season, when they won 56 games, earning their first division title since 1994. But after overcoming a 3-1 series deficit against the LA Clippers in the Conference semis, the team was schooled by the eventual champion Golden State Warriors in a lopsided Conference Finals.

Shooting guard James Harden finished second to Steph Curry in MVP voting, but will need some help if the Rockets are to contend. That help could come from new arrival point guard Ty Lawson, who averaged 15.2 points and nine assists in Denver last season.

Big man Dwight Howard missed significant time with knee injuries, and has been battling back problems throughout the current pre-season. But with free agency coming this summer, Howard should be highly motivated to play.

Memphis Grizzlies

  • NBA Championship futures betting odds: 25/1
  • Southwest Division futures betting odds: 5/1
  • 2014/15 record: 55-27

Timberwolves Grizzlies Basketball

The Grizzlies cracked the 50-win mark for a third straight year, but turned in another disappointing playoff performance, exiting the second round in a six-game loss to Golden State.

Memphis were the second-lowest scoring team to earn a playoff berth, but also owned the NBA’s second-best defense, forcing the point total UNDER in 52 regular season and playoffs. However, their dismal three-point game, ranked 29th in the NBA, is a cause for concern in a league quickly moving to the long ball.

The lunch-pail Grizzlies are again led by veteran grinder Tony Allen. Marc Gasol and Zach Randall will be fixtures in the paint, while underrated point guard Mike Conley has vowed to play a more aggressive game this year.

Expect the playoff-bound Grizzlies to again lead in defensive categories, but struggle to create offense.

New Orleans Pelicans

  • NBA Championship futures betting odds: 33/1
  • Southwest Division futures betting odds: 12/1
  • 2014/15 record: 45-37

Hawks Pelicans Basketball

Powered by MVP candidate Anthony Davis, the Pelicans emerged as a legitimate threat last season, edging out Oklahoma City for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. That’s quite an achievement considering the number of injuries the team faced, with Davis, point guard Jrue Holiday, and forward Ryan Anderson, each missing at least 20 games each.

Small forward Quincy Pondexter performed well after joining the club mid-season, but is also coming off summer knee surgery.

Health will be key to the Pelicans’ continued progress, while new coach Alvin Gentry has placed greater emphasis on faster pace and tighter defense. Tyreke Evans will also play a key role this season.

The former fourth-overall pick can play anywhere on the court, and has the talent to run with superstar Davis. New Orleans have the makings of an intriguing dark horse.

Dallas Mavericks

  • NBA Championship futures betting odds: 66/1
  • Southwest Division futures betting odds: 50/1
  • 2014/15 record: 50-32

Mavericks Bulls Basketball

The Mavs won just six of their final 13 regular-season contests, but still tallied 50 wins last season, good for seventh place in the Western Conference. However, the club made a quick first-round playoff exit for the third time in four years, a clear signal that the window of championship opportunity for this current group is closing quickly.

Dallas was also a massive betting disappointment last season, going 7-16 ATS in their final 23 regular-season games, including a 4-7 ATS mark at home.

NBA’s off-season provided no relief for the Mavs. The team had a verbal agreement with free agent DeAndre Jordan on a four-year deal, but were jilted by the franchise big man, who just days later elected to remain with the LA Clippers. Dirk Nowitzki continues to drive the Mavs offense, but the 37-year-old showed signs of slowing down last season.

Repeating as 50-game winners and returning to the postseason in 2016 will be a tall order for Mark Cuban’s boys.

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