Fans in Houston have been saying the same thing the last few years, “Will this finally be the year the Rockets knock off the Golden State Warriors and win the NBA Championship?” The Houston Rockets and MVP James Harden have a lock on the Southwest Division, but will the addition of Carmelo Anthony be enough fire power to pick off the Warriors?

James Harden
James Harden and the Houston Rockets on a mission to dethrone the Warriors (Image: Troy Taormina/USA Today)

Houston Rockets

Last Season: 65-17 (#1 seed in playoffs)
Projected Record: 58-24
Odds to Win Championship: 9/1
Odds to Win Southwest: 2/9

The Rockets were up 3-2 in the Western Conference Finals, but couldn’t deliver the coup de grace against the Warriors. Steph Curry and company rallied to win the final two games and move onto the NBA Finals. The Rockets were left scratching their heads wondering what would have happened if CP3 didn’t get hurt.

Chris Paul’s health will determine how far the Rockets go this year.

Mike D’Antoni’s plan is to run and gun (112.4 ppg for second best in NBA) clinch the top seed and home court advantage in the playoffs and take it from there.

Houston is rolling the dice with the addition Carmelo Anthony, but he’s always been craps out wherever he plays (Nuggets, Knicks, Thunder).

Projected Starters: Chris Paul (PG), James Harden (SG), Carmelo Anthony (SF), Marquese Chriss (PF), Clint Capela (C)

New Orleans Pelicans

Last Season: 48-34 (#6)
Projected Record: 46-36
Odds to Win Championship: 100/1
Odds to Win Southwest: 8/1

The Pelicans looking to improve on the #6 seed in the West. This will be the year the young Pelicans sidestep the Spurs for second place in the Southwest.

The Pelicans unleashed the 3rd best offense in the NBA last season, scoring 111.7 points per game. Anthony Davis provided most of the big guns with 28.1 ppg and 11.1 rebounds. Jrue Holiday (19 ppg) and newly-acquired Julius Randle (16 ppg) will flourish in the Pelicans’ fluid offense.

Don’t overlook the Pelicans’ bench with Nikola Mirotic, Elfrid Payton and Ian Clark.

Projected Starters: Jrue Holiday (PG), E’Twaun Moore (SG), Solomon Hill (SF), Julius Randle (PF), Anthony Davis (C)

San Antonio Spurs

Last Season: 47-35 (#7)
Projected Record: 43-41
Odds to Win Championship: 75/1
Odds to Win Southwest: 7/1

Gregg Popovich could take five guys off the street and whip them into a playoff team. Does Pops have the right players to hold off the Pelicans?

What will be the aftermath of the Kawhi Leonard break up? Spurs won lot of games without Kahwi anyway. LaMarcus Aldridge (23.1 ppg) came into his own as a player. Besides, it’s DDR time in San Antonio.

DeMar DeRozan (23 ppg) lived in obscurity in Toronto where the Raptors took backseat to the hometown heroes on ice… the Maple Leafs. With Pops taking DDR under his wing, you can expect DDR to flourish. The LaMar and DeMar Show is ready to roll.

In the preseason, the Spurs lost Dejounte Murray with a torn ACL. Now it’s up to Derrick White to step in at point guard.

Projected Starters: Derrick White (PG), DeMar DeRozan (SG), Rudy Gay (SF), LaMarcus Aldridge (PF), Pau Gasol (C)

Dallas Mavericks

Last Season: 24-58
Projected Record: 35-47
Odds to Win Championship: 250/1
Odds to Win Southwest: 50/1

The Mav traded up to grab shooting guard Luka Doncic from Slovenia. Will the gamble for the European star pay off?

Harrison Barnes (18.9 ppg) carried the hapless Mavs last season. Rookie Dennis Smith Jr. (15.2 ppg) emerged as the team’s next potential all-star and he’s expected to play a significant role this year.

DeAndre Jordan, a double-double machine, was added in the offseason. Dirk Nowitzki is playing a bench role and will act as the elder statesman on a team with lots of raw talent.

Mark Cuban, billionaire owner of the Mavs, is always looking for an extra edge. Cuban added ex-pro gambler and poker pro Haralabos “Bob” Voulgaris to their staff as the head of analytics.

Projected Starters:  Dennis Smith Jr. (PG), Luka Doncic (SG), Wes Matthews (SF), Harrison Barnes (PF), DeAndre Jordan (C)

Memphis Grizzles

Last Season: 22-60
Projected Record: 33-49
Odds to Win Championship: 250/1
Odds to Win Southwest: 40/1

The Griz had a rough season last year and are happy it’s over. After a flurry of injuries and a coaching change, the Griz are looking to pick up the pieces are start all over again. Mike Conley (17.1 ppg) is back and hopefully Marc Gasol (17.2 ppg) can stay healthy enough to play a full season. If Gasol can’t answer the bell, there’s always 19-year old draft pick Jaren Jackson, Jr.

Bernie Bickerstaff will rely on Kyle Anderson to play veteran role. Along with Chandler Parsons, the Griz have an abundance of young talent coming off the bench including Jevon Carter and Jaren Jackson.

Oh and there’s always the whispers of “Will the Griz head back to the Pacific Northwest and relocate to Seattle?”

Projected Starters: Mike Conley (PG), Wayne Selden (SG), Dillon Brooks (SF), JaMychal Green (PF), Marc Gasol (C)

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