NLJ’s 2021 NBA Season Preview: Southwest Division

The NBA season begins on December 22. After an offseason in which we’ve seen contenders retool their rosters and star players change locations; this 2021 season could be one of the best ever. Here at No Limit Jumper, we’ve got you covered for the start of the season with our official 2021 NBA Season Preview. Join us as we take a look at each division and make predictions on how the 2021 season may shake out.

Next up: the Southwest Division

Dallas Mavericks

  • Last Season: 43-32 record; lost in first round of the playoffs to the Los Angeles Clippers
  • Personnel Losses: Seth Curry, G; Delon Wright, G; Justin Jackson, F
  • New Additions: Josh Richardson, G; James Johnson, F; Josh Green, G (R); Tyler Bey, G (R); Tyrell Terry, G (R)
  • Projected Starters: Luka Dončić, PG; Tim Hardaway Jr, SG; Josh Richardson, SF; Maxi Kleber, PF; Kristaps Porziņģis, C

Season Outlook

The Mavericks are a team that look capable of making a leap this season. Luka Dončić will be in the running for MVP and new additions Richardson and Johnson should give this team some much needed toughness and versatility on the wing. However, their ceiling lies with the health of Kristaps Porzingis. We already know he’ll be out to start the season.  A successful return to form for the unicorn is critical for Dallas’ success this season.


If Porzingis returns sometime in January, I think it’s reasonable to assume the Mavericks will win their division and secure a top 4 seed in the West. Dončić will build off his success from last season and the Mavs will be a force to be reckoned with on the offensive end. Their defense needs to improve though.  Last year they ranked 18th in defensive rating and that will need to improve if they’re going to make a legitimate run. They still might be one piece away from true contention but they’re in the conversation with Dončić running the show. As such, they’re at the top of my Southwest 2021 NBA season preview.

Houston Rockets

  • Last Season: 44-28 regular season record; lost in semi-finals to the Los Angeles Lakers
  • Personnel Losses: Daryl Morey, GM; Mike D’Antoni, HC; Russel Westbrook, G; Robert Covignton, F
  • New Additions: Rafael Stone, GM; Stephen Silas, HC; John Wall, G; Demarcus Cousins, C; Christian Wood, F; Jerian Grant, G;  Kenyon Martin Jr, F (R)
  • Projected Starters: John Wall, PG; James Harden SG; Danuel House, SF; Christian Wood PF, P.J. Tucker, C

Season Outlook

The 2021 Rockets are a very different team from their 2020 version. Out goes Moreyball and in comes…something else? The Rockets made a flurry of moves this offseason including signing actual big men Cousins and Wood. The small ball movement seems to be dead for Houston at the moment but that may not be a bad thing. The Westbrook/Wall trade is an interesting wrinkle but it all depends on Wall’s health and fit with James Harden. Oh that’s right… the Rockets still have James Harden. Harden appears to be unhappy and has reported late to the Rockets training camp. Houston would be in the playoff race with Harden but if he’s traded, that’s a lot of pressure on John Wall and Demarcus Cousins to return to form. This team is in a major state of flux


It’s hard for me to imagine this team missing the playoffs but there’s just so many question marks. Can the Kentucky boys (Wall/Cousins) stay healthy and get back to form?  Will Stephen Silas dramatically change their style of play? Will James Harden be on the roster at the end of the season? All these questions make predicting what the Rockets will be incredibly difficult. I expect them to be competitive and make the playoffs but they will likely be a first round exit as presently constructed. 

New Orleans Pelicans

  • Last Season: 30-42 regular season record; missed playoffs
  • Personnel Losses: Alvin Gentry, HC; Jrue Holiday, G
  • New Additions: Stan Van Gundy, HC; Stephen Adams, C; Eric Bledsoe, G; Wenyen Gabriel, F/C; Kira Lewis, Jr., G (R)
  • Projected Starters: Lonzo Ball, PG; Eric Bledsoe, SG; Brandon Ingram, SF; Zion Williamson, PF; Stephen Adams, C

Season Outlook

For the foreseeable future this franchise will go as Zion does. The young forward had some exhilarating highs and some disappointing lows (aka injuries) in his first NBA season. This upcoming season will tell us a lot about him. Jettisoning Jrue Holiday opened the door for the young guns to take over this season.  Lonzo needs to prove he’s a building block, Brandon Ingram needs to continue his steady improvement and one of the young guards will need to separate himself from the pack. Getting Bledsoe in the Holiday deal was a nice addition and tacking Stephen Adams onto that deal was even bigger. An Adams/Zion font court is a whole lot of strength. Things are trending up for the Pelicans. 


New Orleans missed out on the playoffs last year due to uneven play in the Orlanda bubble. However, they should be in contention for a spot this season. I don’t see them getting any higher than a 7th seed though. The West is tough and there are going to be some growing pains with a new coach and new players to incorporate. SVG is a great coach and I believe he’ll get this team playing defense at an elite level which will allow the Pelicans to be in every game they play.  If Zion can stay healthy, this team is talented enough to make the playoffs.  

20 Second Time Out

2021 City Jersey Rankings: Southwest Division

  1. Spurs City Edition ‘Courage and Celebration’: The classic 90’s inspired colors got me.
  2. Grizzlies City Edition ‘Grit, Grind & Groove’: Black and gold always looks good on a jersey and the teal trim is fire.
  3. Rockets City Edition ‘The Colors of Loyalty’: That blue is just so clean.
  4. Pelicans City Edition ‘NOLA Strong’: The Fleur-de-lis is a nice touch but the jersey as a whole is kind of plain.
  5. Mavericks City Edition ‘Mythical Movement’: Dallas has some dope jerseys from their past that they can pull from. I don’t see any of that influence with these.

Memphis Grizzlies

  • Last Season: 34-39 regular season record; lost play-in game to the Portland Trailblazers
  • Personnel Losses: Josh Jackson, G
  • New Additions: Mario Hezonja, G; Desmond Bane, G (R); Xavier Tillman Sr., F (R)
  • Projected Starters: Ja Morant, PG; Dillon Brooks, SG; Kyle Anderson, SF; Jaren Jackson Jr, PF; Jonas Valančiūnas, C

Season Outlook

Everyone is looking forward to what Ja Morant will do in year 2 but he needs some help. Unfortunately, it’s looking like Jaren Jackson Jr won’t be ready to start the season. The Morant/Jackson duo is what will fuel this team going forward. Losing Jackson for an extended stretch will be a huge detriment to Memphis’ success this season. Brandon Clarke and Dillon Brooks had strong seasons last year and they need to continue that improvement to keep Memphis alive in the playoff race.


I think Memphis is going to start slow and be scrambling to make the playoffs again. They have a good team and a good, young core but they are still a couple pieces away.  Ja Morant is going to ball out but I don’t believe the improvement of the team as a whole will be so dramatic as to put them over the top. They’ll miss the playoffs but the future is bright and we’ll have another season of highlights from Ja Morant. 

San Antonio Spurs

  • Last Season: 32-39 regular season record; missed playoffs
  • Personnel Losses: Bryn Forbes, G
  • New Additions: Devin Vassell, G (R); Tre Jones, G (R)
  • Projected Starters: Dejounte Murray, PG; Derrick White, SG; Demar DeRozan, SF; Lamarcus Aldridge, PF; Jakob Poeltl, C

Season Outlook

The Spurs are at a crossroads. Last year was the first year they missed the playoffs since 1997. Gregg Popovich is still one of the best coaches in the league but the roster just isn’t quite there. The Spurs have some intriguing young players in Dejounte Murray, Lonnie Walker IV and Derrick White (all guards).  They drafted Devin Vassell this year and Keldon Johnson looks like he’ll be a quality NBA player going forward. I’m just not sure all these pieces fit.  Demar Derozan, Rudy Gay and Lamarcus Aldridge still have some good basketball left in the tank but I can’t help but think a full-scale rebuild is necessary for San Antonio to start competing again. 


This could easily come back to bite me in the ass but I’m gonna say San Antonio misses the playoffs for a second straight year. They have veterans they can trade to acquire assets and I think that’s what they’ll do. This season can be used to assess the talent they have on roster and decide which pieces to keep moving forward. Having said all that, the Spurs played some good ball in the Orlando bubble. Popovich is known for switching his style to match his players and he could do the same this season.  However, I can’t rank them above any of the other Southwest division teams in this 2021 NBA season preview.

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2 thoughts on “NLJ’s 2021 NBA Season Preview: Southwest Division

  1. Lol…Big Bird.

    Pops’ going down again this year then we can all say the greatest dynasty of the past 20 years was the Lakers and NOT the Spurs.

  2. Never count out Pop – one of the best coaches in the game. With that said, you’re right…they’ll prob miss the playoffs again. Agree with you’re take on Dallas being the top seed in this division. Regardless, there’s a lot of young talent on these teams that make for some good basketball!

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