New Orleans Pelicans vs Memphis Grizzlies, Ja Morant

NBA Southwest Division roundtable: 2021-22 season preview, part 2

by Pelicans.com

To preview the upcoming season around the Southwest, Pelicans.com gathered together our familiar panel. On Monday in part 1, the panel examined the primary issues specific to their own teams.

In part 2, it’s time to take a look around the other squads and point out what fans should watch for in 2021-22. All five Southwest teams tip off the season Wednesday or Thursday:

2021-22 NBA SOUTHWEST DIVISION PREDICTIONS Not including your team, which Southwest Division clubs are you most looking forward to watching play this season?

Matt Thomas

Rockets Radio

New Orleans… so much change over the last few seasons on the court and on the sidelines. My guess is Zion wants some stability before committing long term to the Pelicans.

Michael Wallace

Grind City Media

The Rockets have solid young talent. The Spurs are always intriguing. And the Pelicans are always on the verge of something. But the spotlight will be on the Mavericks this year, and how far Luka will be able to take him with Jason Kidd directing the show. Luka has been on the cusp of the MVP discussion, and this might be the year that pushes him over the hump.

Jim Eichenhofer

Pelicans.com

For the last two seasons, I’ve tried to watch Memphis as much as possible. I don’t see that changing at all this winter. The Grizzlies seem to come at teams in waves with a large group of talented young players, spearheaded by Ja Morant. His Game 2 performance at Utah (47 points) in the first round of the playoffs was epic. Prior to that, the Memphis-Golden State play-in overtime thriller was one of the most fun NBA games I’ve seen in a while.

Michael C. Wright

NBA.com

The Pelicans should almost unanimously take this one, as they’ve got one of the league’s most dynamic young players in Zion Williamson, who is expected to miss the early part of the season. How do all the pieces acquired in the offseason fit around Williamson? Is this the year the Pels return to the postseason? Dallas is definitely another team to keep your eyes on with the Luka Doncic-Kristaps Porzingis dynamic, not to mention new coach Jason Kidd. The Mavs are probably a little underrated going into the season. The Grizzlies and Ja Morant are also must-watch TV.

2021-22 NBA Southwest Division Predictions Also not including your team, which Southwest Division rookies are you most looking forward to watching play this season?

Matt Thomas

Rockets Radio

Josh Primo in San Antonio. Like the Rockets rookies, he is so young. Will Popovich give him an early opportunity to be in the rotation? Primo making 3’s will be great for the Spurs but my guess is he gets time if he is able to defend some of the NBA’s top guards consistently.

Michael Wallace

Grind City Media

I think Jalen Green has the chance to be special, if he locks in on being the best player he can be and avoids the distractions that come with trying to be a brand or a personality. Plus, the Rockets will play a system that allows those young athletes to fly up and down the court, and create plenty of highlights as a result. He will be fun to watch, win or lose. Watch out for Josh Primo in San Antonio, too.

Jim Eichenhofer

Pelicans.com

I’m going to simultaneously break my own rule and deliver a hot-take prediction by saying these other upstanding gentlemen are going to look back and realize they should’ve been looking forward to watching Pels forward Trey Murphy III. From other teams in the division, though, Houston’s summer league squad was fun to watch due to the energy and boundless confidence of Jalen Green, Alperen Sengun and Josh Christopher.

Michael C. Wright

NBA.com

Jalen Green and Josh Primo. Green was one of the more fun players to watch during Las Vegas Summer League, and he’s carried his exciting style of play into the preseason. The kid is electric, and relentless. He just needs to shoot the ball better. Primo, meanwhile, was the youngest pick of the NBA Draft. He’ll likely spend some time in the NBA G League this season, but Primo – who was widely considered a reach by the Spurs at No. 12 – has turned heads in the preseason with his confidence, feel for the game and shooting prowess.

2021-22 NBA Western Conference Predictions Among the other 10 teams in the Western Conference, which clubs are you most looking forward to watching play this season?

Matt Thomas

Rockets Radio

Can the Lakers with all their marquee players play nice all season? Most important, the Russell Westbrook/LeBron James combination is something everyone will be keeping an eye on during the season. Also what will Golden State be like when all healthy? Lastly, were the Suns a fluke last season or are they set for a long-term run as a Western Conference contender?

Michael Wallace

Grind City Media

The Lakers, because I’d like to see how they use lineups that maximize the impact LeBron and Russell can have on the game. I think the Jazz made some sneaky good moves this offseason to bolster their depth in the frontcourt. And the Warriors insist they’ll be back as Klay Thompson reemerges from two seasons of injuries. The west will indeed be the Wild, Wild West again.

Jim Eichenhofer

Pelicans.com

Many of the West’s returning playoff teams will be compelling to watch, but for the most part, you know exactly what you’re getting from them. For me – and I’m guessing some Pelicans fans feel the same way – a close eye will be kept on a few clubs that did not make the eight-team bracket, including Golden State, San Antonio, Sacramento and Minnesota. How those teams fare could have a big impact on New Orleans’ record and where the Pelicans land in the conference pecking order.

Michael C. Wright

NBA.com

Nickeil Alexander-Walker could be that guy if he takes full advantage of what’s expected to be a more significant role this season. But for me, it’s Memphis’ Jaren Jackson Jr. that’s poised for a major breakthrough. For most of last season, Jackson was sidelined with that torn meniscus. So, he didn’t get a chance to follow up on what he did in 2019-20, just his second season in the NBA (17.4 points per game, 1.6 blocks). I like the idea of Jackson playing alongside Steven Adams in the frontcourt, too. The Jackson-Morant combo should be fun to watch this season.

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