Schedule Breakdown: Southwest Division

Learn more about each squad from the five-team Southwest Division heading into the new season.
by Kyle Ramos
Writer, Digital

The 2017-18 season continues to draw closer and with many exciting encounters just on the horizon, will be breaking down each division around the Association and take a closer look for what to watch for.

Dallas Mavericks

As the career of Mavericks franchise legend Dirk Nowitzki winds down, new potential cornerstones have begun to emerge in Dallas.

In his first season with the Mavs, forward Harrison Barnes enjoyed a breakout season, where he lead his team in scoring (19.2 ppg). He is surrounded by other young talent, including guards Seth Curry and Yogi Ferrell, who also turned in career years. Dallas also recently retained big man Nerlens Noel as he continues to develop into a top-notch rim protector and defender.

Sacramento’s Vince Carter joins Nowitzki as the two remaining active players from the 1998 NBA Draft Class and No. 15 will face off with his former teammate as a member of the Kings.

A battle to watch could be former North Carolina Tar Heels (Justin Jackson of Sacramento and Barnes of Dallas) going head-to-head at the small forward position. The scoring ability of Barnes could be an early challenge in Jackson’s debut season as he looks to establish himself as the 3-and-D player he proved himself to be in college.

Sacramento’s first road trip kicks off with a trip to Dallas and will be the first of four meetings between the teams in 2017-18.

2017-18 matchups vs Mavericks
10/20/17 @ Dallas
2/3/18 vs Dallas
2/13/18 @ Dallas
3/27/18 @ Dallas

Houston Rockets

In one of the major moves of the offseason, the Rockets added Chris Paul to their backcourt to pair with MVP-candidate James Harden.

Adding an additional playmaker of Paul’s caliber creates an even bigger problem for opponents to stop the high-octane Houston offense that posted an average of 115.3 points per contest in 2016-17 - good for second in the League.

Perimeter defense will be crucial for Sacramento when they square off on opening night against the Rockets, who hoisted an NBA-high 40.3 attempts per game from three-point range last season. Garrett Temple and George Hill, two Kings players known for their ability to lock down on the perimeter, will be the players to watch as they look to limit the impact of the star-studded Houston tandem of Paul and Harden.

2017-18 matchups vs Rockets
10/18/17 vs Houston
2/14/18 @ Houston
4/11/18 vs Houston

Memphis Grizzlies

This offseason, Sacramento acquired a pair of former Memphis Grizzlies in Vince Carter and Zach Randolph, while coincidentally Memphis picked up a couple of former Kings by signing Ben McLemore and Tyreke Evans.

After spending three and eight seasons with the Grizzlies, respectively, Carter and Randolph will be facing their prior squad on three occasions in 2017-18 while also being the first time that McLemore will go against Sacramento since entering the league in 2013.

These teams split their four games last season with two wins a piece, including a thrilling 91-90 Sacramento victory in the most recent meeting.

With new faces in new places, these contests will surely be intriguing to watch in the coming season.

2017-18 matchups vs Grizzlies
12/31/17 vs Memphis
1/19/18 @ Memphis
4/6/18 @ Memphis

New Orleans Pelicans

The Pelicans will roll out arguably the most talented frontcourt in the Association next season with Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins.

Cousins, who was acquired by New Orleans midway through 2016-17 in a trade with the Kings, will also be reunited with Rajon Rondo in NOLA.

Sactown claimed two out of the three contests against the Pelicans last season and are set for four encounters with New Orleans in 2017-18 - including a matchup on October 26 that will be nationally broadcasted on TNT.

Kings guard Buddy Hield will get another chance to play the team that originally drafted him in 2016 after logging a solid performance in his first game against NOLA - posting 13 points, eight rebounds, and three assists.

2017-18 matchups vs Pelicans
10/26/17 vs New Orleans
12/8/17 @ New Orleans
1/30/18 @ New Orleans
3/7/18 vs New Orleans

San Antonio Spurs

San Antonio’s biggest splash in the offseason was signing former Sacramento forward Rudy Gay - further bolstering the perennial Western Conference contender’s roster.

Adding Gay to a returning core of Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol, Danny Green and Manu Ginobili should provide an interesting new wrinkle in slowing down a team that made a deep run into the postseason in 2016-17.

Sacramento may call upon seasoned defenders in Garrett Temple and Vince Carter in order to limit San Antonio’s Leonard, who is on the heels of his best season yet as he emerged as one of the premiere two-way players in the Association.

Three out of the four matchups between Sacramento and San Antonio last season were decided by 10 points or less, so there could be more closely contested games in the near future between these teams, as well.

2017-18 matchups vs Spurs
12/23/17 vs Spurs
1/8/18 vs Spurs
1/28/18 @ Spurs
4/9/18 @ Spurs

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