Memphis Grizzlies: How Does the Southwest Division Stack Up This Season?

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COMMENTARY | Since its installment in the NBA in 2005, the Southwest Division has proved to be one of the toughest in the NBA.

As the Memphis Grizzlies enter the new season, they have their sights focused on their division neighbors. NBA teams will play opponents from their own division more than any other team(s) in the league. This means the caliber of competition within a division can make or break the postseason dreams of any given franchise.

With this in mind, let's unpack how Memphis and its opponents may stand in the division this year:

#5: New Orleans Pelicans. The Pelicans (formally the Hornets) have a new name, a new logo, and a few new faces, but don't expect them to make the leap to the top of the division just yet. New Orleans has certainly made steps in the right direction over recent years. In 2012, it drafted Anthony Davis with the first overall pick: a big man who won an Olympic gold medal before playing a single game in the NBA. In 2013, it followed by drafting Nerlens Noel, who surprisingly fell to the sixth overall pick. Expect improvements, albeit minor, in New Orleans this season.

Estimated division record: 4-12

#4: Dallas Mavericks. The glory of the Mavericks' longshot NBA championship in 2011 has long since faded. Dallas is now undoubtedly entering into a rebuilding stage that could last for several seasons. The addition of strong perimeter players such as Monta Ellis and Devin Harris may keep them close to its 41-win record from last season, but continually relying on an aging and injury prone Dirk Nowitzki is simply not the way of the future.

Estimated division record: 6-10

#3: Houston Rockets. Houston is the Southwest Division team that will certainly have the most media coverage this upcoming season. Fans from around the league will be curious to see if superstar Dwight Howard can rebound from a disastrous run with the Los Angeles Lakers last season. However, there is a good chance that Houston will see many of the same problems the Lakers did. Similar to Kobe Bryant, Rockets star guard James Harden demands the ball to be effective. The problem is, so does Howard. Expect Houston in the playoffs, but don't overestimate its performance just yet.

Estimated division record: 9-5

#2: Memphis Grizzlies. The Memphis Grizzlies have two main elements that will effect their competitiveness in their division (and in their conference) this season. No. 1 is how quickly they will adjust to having a new head coach.

Although Dave Joerger has been a Memphis assistant for several years, there will almost certainly be an adjustment period Memphis will be subjected to. Secondly, the Grizzlies must address the lack of offensive production (particularly from the perimeter) that crippled them in the Western Conference finals last year. Expect Memphis to be somewhere around where it was last season.

Estimated division record: 10-4

#1: San Antonio Spurs. Many NBA fans refer to the San Antonio Spurs as the "ageless" franchise. Despite a core in Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan that should be past their prime, the Spurs continuously over-perform under the immaculate leadership of Gregg Popovich. Oh, and don't forget that they have a pretty good point guard in Tony Parker, too. The San Antonio Spurs have been atop the Southwest Division many times in the past, and don't expect a change quite yet.

Estimated division record: 12-2

For the Memphis Grizzlies, second place in the Southwest Division seems very likely for a second season in a row. Despite high expectations from fans, the powerhouse known as the San Antonio Spurs will likely be too much to overcome yet again. Although considering the alternative, Memphis fans don't have much to complain about.

Nicholas Naveiras is a lifelong Memphian, college student, and diehard Memphis Grizzlies follower. He has followed the franchise's on- and off-court progress since 2001.

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