NBA’s Southwest Division Is Turnt Up

In recent years the NBA’s Southwest Division has been a showcase for San Antonio’s well-oiled machine. From the time the Division was formed at the start of the 2004-05 season—other than a championship Mavericks team in 2011 and some highly-competitive Grizzlies teams featuring “The Bash Brothers” —Pop & Co. have pretty much dominated, flossing the most division titles with seven and adding three NBA c’hips (2005, 2007, 2014) during that time.

The Mavericks have won two division titles and the Hornets (now Pelicans) have won one title.

Despite the high-level competition and late-night wars that this league has become famous for, the Rockets and the Grizzlies have never won the Southwest Division title. As good as these teams have been over the past decade, neither of them has been able to beat San Antonio when it counted.

The NBA’s Southwest Division was created when the league expanded from 29 to 30 teams with the addition of the Charlotte Bobcats. The league realigned itself into three divisions in each conference. The Southwest Division’s five inaugural members were the Mavericks, the Rockets, the Grizzlies, the Hornets (now Pelicans) and the Spurs.

The Mavericks, the Rockets, the Grizzlies and the Spurs joined from the now-defunct Midwest Division, while the Hornets joined from the Central Division. All five teams, including the Pelicans (who spent one season in the Midwest Division as the Charlotte Hornets) are former Midwest Division teams.

In the 2007–08 season, all four teams that qualified for the playoffs each had more than 50 wins. It looks as if this season will be similar as this entire division is making mad noise.


The NBA is wide open and the gap between the teams in the SW division is closing. As it stands today every team in the division would make the playoffs except the Pelicans who are vastly improved behind the emerging superstardom of Anthony Davis. They are 8-9 and fighting desperately for an 8th -seed.


Memphis (15-3) is in first-place and features a familiar cast of characters led by Marc Gasol (19.4 ppg) and Zack Randolph (11.4 rpg) and point guard Mike Conley (6.3 assists per night). With the defection of LeBron from Miami back to Cleveland thus ending the Big Three South Beach Dynasty—next to the Spurs combo of Duncan, Ginobili and Parker—I doubt there’s a trio of players that have been through the wars together as long as Memphis’ guys. Having Vince Carter, who’s still solid for some instant-offense, doesn’t hurt either.


If any team is due for a breakthrough season, it’s the Grizzlies. They’ve experienced everything but the adulation of hoisting a shiny ball.

The Grizzlies finished the 2006–07 season with a league-worst 22–60 record, and Jerry West announced his resignation from his position as the team's general manager shortly after the end of the regular season. From 2007-2010 they rebuilt.

On February 1, 2008, Pau Gasol was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers for Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton, Aaron McKie, Marc Gasol and 2008 and 2010 first-round draft picks. The final power move was adding double-double machine Randolph to the mix.

The Grizzlies returned to the post-season for the first time in five years in the 2010–11 NBA season and by the 2012-13 NBA season they found themselves in the Conference Finals, where the veteran Spurs swept them 4-0.

the process of natural progression says their first-place record in 2014 makes sense.

The addition of Dwight Howard (11.3 rpg) has the Rockets off to a sparkling 14-4 start and combining him with bucket-murderer James Harden (25 ppg) and Houston’s cast of capable scorers, makes Houston a tough out in the playoffs, especially if Howard is healthy and focused on killing the comp. That’s always 50-50 though.


Dallas (15-5) is thinking c’hip again. With the addition of Monta Ellis (20.7 ppg) and the reinvigorated Tyson Chandler (11.8 rpg) rescued from that cess pool in New York and playing like a defensive man possessed, the Mavericks are back in the swing of things. They have a well-balanced squad with at least eight players averaging more than 8 points per game.

They can score with anyone and when all else fails they still have their go-to, unselfish HOFer in Dirk Nowitzski who’s still averaging about 20- per game in his 16th season. The Mavs will be dangerous in the playoffs.


Believe it or not, pulling up the rear amongst Western Conference playoff sure-shots is the Spurs (13-5), who are currently a sixth seed in the Conference and fourth in the division.

The rest of the league is catching up to the Geritol Gang out in Texas. It will be tough for “The Big Three plus Kahwi” to hold off the surging Rockets and Mavs. By late season, the Pelicans could even be a problem.

As for these robust records, one thing to keep in mind is that the teams haven’t played each other much yet. Entering last night’s league slate, the Grizzlies were 11-1 in the conference, but just 2-1 in the division. The Mavericks, Spurs and Pelicans each had a 1-2 divisional record and the Rockets were 3-1 against Southwest foes. That’s just 16 out of 64 division games to be played throughout the season. As a result, according to the Washington Post, only the Mavericks and Grizzlies have better than a 50/50 chance at 51 or more wins.

These guys will beat up on each other a ton before the season ends, but it's also the kind of grueling grind and educational process teams like Toronto who play in cupcake divisions (Atlantic) don’t get enroute to the playoffs. The teams in the Southwest division are getting that fire play every night and the battle for playoff positioning will inspire a postseason approach to games coming down the stretch. It’s proved to be an asset for San Antonio over the years; the strongest boxers always seem to have incredible sparring partners.

Best division in all of sports ,” Mavericks forward Chandler Parsons said. “So competitive and no room for error. Every night matters.”

These days, the bulk of potential powerhouses rest in the West. Get familiar with the slew of all-star players in the conference. You’re sure to be seeing some of them going H.A.M. in June.

JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The General Manager of Content & Social Media is in his 25th year of covering sports and culture professionally. He has covered a wide variety of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, newspapers, magazines and national TV. His passion is baseball, the culturing of baseball and preserving and documenting the historically-impactful accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in baseball.