NBA Southwest Preview: Ja Morant and Memphis Grizzlies Seek Back-to-Back Division Titles

The Memphis Grizzlies were the surprise team in the NBA last season, and Ja Morant and the Grizzlies are the bettering favorite at +105 odds to win back-to-back Southwest Division titles. Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks are not far behind the Grizzlies at +140 odds to win the Southwest.

Ja Morant (left) from the Memphis Grizzlies defends Luka Doncic (right) of the Dallas Mavs during a Southwest Division battle. The Grizzlies and Mavs are the Southwest betting favorites at the start of the preseason. (Image: Getty)

Also, don’t sleep on the New Orleans Pelicans. Zion Williams returns to the team after missing the entire 2021-22 season with a mysterious and lingering foot injury. The Pelicans are +4000 odds to win the Southwest Division, which they last won back in 2007-08 when they were known as the New Orleans Hornets.


Memphis Grizzlies +105
Dallas Mavs +140
New Orleans Pelicans +400
San Antonio Spurs +50000
Houston Rockets +50000

** Odds via DraftKings

Both of the Texas teams are not expected to put up a fight this season. The San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets are trying to finish the season with the worst record to tank for a chance to draft highly-touted French prospect, Victor Wembanyama, with the #1 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft.

Memphis Grizzlies +105

The Grizzlies posted a 56-26 record last season, which was the second-best record in the NBA behind the Phoenix Suns. The Grizzlies were the surprise team in the NBA last season, secured the #2 seed in the Western Conference Playoffs. However, their postseason run fizzled out when Morant suffered a knee injury against the Golden State Warriors in the conference semifinals.

Oddmaskers projected the Grizzlies with a 48.5 o/u win total this season, which is seven fewer than last season’s impressive run.

The young Grizzlies exceeded expectations last season, so they’re being set up this season to potentially fall short of the mark. They might not finish with the second-best record in the NBA this season, or even lock up the #2 playoff seed, but the Grizzlies are the team to beat in the Southwest Conference.

The high-octane Grizzlies averaged 115.6 points per game last season, which was the second-best scoring offense in the NBA behind the Minnesota Timberwolves. Morant put up MVP-like numbers averaging 27.4 points, 6.7 assists, and 5.7 rebounds per game. He leads a starting five that includes Desmond Bane, Dillon Brooks, Brandon Clarke, and Steve Adams.

Bane had a coming-out party averaging 18.2 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 2.7 assists. He also shot a blistering 43.6% from 3-pont range. He flew under the radar last season as the Grizzlies’ second-best scorer, but he will not be overlooked this season.

The Grizzlies are the consensus favorite to win the Southwest at +105 odds, but they have more firepower than Mavs which makes them worthy of a flier to win back-to-back division titles.

Dallas Mavs +140

Luka Doncic is the heart and soul of the Dallas Mavs. However, as much as he’d like to drop a 40-point triple-double every game, the Mavs will not go far in the playoffs without a true all-around team effort. The Mavs lost multiple starters from last season’s roster. They traded Kristaps Porzingis to the Washington Wizards prior to the deadline, and Jalen Brunson bolted to the New York Knicks in free agency.

Spencer Dinwiddie will slide into the starting five alongside sharpshooters Reggie Bullock and Dorian Finney-Smith. The Mavs made a key offseason acquisition with big man Christian Wood, who can provide a double-double very night so long as he remains healthy. Wood struggled with injuries the last couple of seasons with the Houston Rockets, but he can be a beast when he’s playing at full strength.

The Mavs have a projected win total of 48.5 o/u, which is less than last season’s 52-30 record. They finished in second place in the Southwest Division behind the Grizzlies, but secured the #4 seed in the Western Conference playoffs. The Mavs are the second favorite on the board to win the Southwest at +140 odds.

New Orleans Pelicans +400

The New Orleans Pelicans have one of the widest win ranges in the NBA this season, because their success hinges upon the health of Zion Williamson. The former #1 pick has been plagued with injuries since his arrival from Duke in 2019. Williamson did not suit up for a single game last season, but he still earned a lucrative contract extension.

If Williamson remains healthy, the Pelicans can challenge the Grizzlies and Mavs for the division crown. If Williamson struggles with injuries once again, the Pelicans could be a .500 club and fighting for a spot in the Play-In Tournament.

The Pelicans have a win total of 44.5 o/u, which reflects oddmakers’ lack of confidence in Williamson staying healthy all season.

On paper, the Pelicans boast a strong starring five with Brandon Ingram, CJ McCollum, Herbert Jones, Jonas Valanciunas, and Williamson. They acquired McCollum at last year’s trade deadline, and he provides elite scoring on the court and veteran leadership off the court.

The second unit is anchored by Devonte’ Graham, and also includes Jaxson Hayes, Larry Nance, Jr. and Willy Hernangomez. The Pelicans selected Dyson Daniels with the #8 pick in the 2022 NBA Draft and have high hopes for the Australian wing player.

San Antonio Spurs +50000

Head coach Greg Popovich loves European prospects, so you can only imagine how excited he is about potentially landing Wembanyama. The Spurs have not been the same team since Tim Duncan retired. Wembanyama has drawn comparisons to Duncan, so it makes sense that Pops will try to tank and win the rights to Wembanyama in the 2023 draft lottery.

Oddsmakers at DraftKings installed the Spurs with the lowest win total on their board at 22.5 o/u. But will 60 losses secure the worst record in the league?

Then again, San Antonio’s starting five includes Tre Jones, Devin Vassell, Doug McDermott, Keldon Johnson, and Jakob Poetl. Those guys could win most pickup games at your local gym, but they’re not putting up much of a fight against the average team in the Western Conference.

Houston Rockets +50000

While the Grizzlies and Mavs slug it out for first place in the Southwest, the Spurs and Rockets will be having their own bum fight in the basement.

After winning the Southwest crown for three seasons in a row between 2018 and 2020, the Rockets finished in last place in the division the last two seasons. The Rockets posted the worst record in the Western Conference during the previous two seasons in an effort to rebuild the team through high draft picks. Expect more of the same this season. Much like the Spurs, the Rockets have their eye on Wembanyama.

The Rockets are projected to win 23.5 o/u games, which is second lowest in the league ahead of the Spurs. Losing aside, the Rockets’ roster is filled with upcoming stars like Jalen Green and Jabari Smith, Jr. and Jalen Green. The Rockets selected Green with the second-overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. Smith was the consensus top pick in 2022 mock drafts, Rockets were thrilled that Smith slipped to #3.

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