The Southwest Division was one of the more competitive in the league in 2017-18. The Houston Rockets won the most games in the league last season, and the New Orleans Pelicans and San Antonio Spurs made the playoffs. The Dallas Mavericks and Memphis Grizzlies ended up near the bottom of the Western Conference standings, but both made key signings in the summer that should help them this season.
Here's a closer look at the biggest move each of those teams have made...
Biggest move: Extending Clint Capela's contract
Yes, they added Carmelo Anthony. Yes, they finally traded Ryan Anderson . But...
This is your friendly reminder that the Rockets went 42-3 when Chris Paul, James Harden and Clint Capela shared the court in the first regular season together. The trio outscored opponents by an average margin of 12.1 points per 100 possession , making them one of the most dominant three-man lineups in the NBA.
The Rockets signed Capela to a team-friendly extension this offseason, too. With an average salary of $18.0 million over the next five years, the 24-year-old will make less than Andre Drummond, Hassan Whiteside, Steven Adams, Marc Gasol, Rudy Gobert, Enes Kanter and Joakim Noah this season.
That's important considering the other option was letting Capela become an unrestricted free agent next summer, when there will be a lot more money going around.
The one thing that Houston needed to avoid was Clint Capela signing the $4.3M qualifying offer and becoming an unrestricted FA in 2019. Fair deal for both sides that has Capela slightly below Steven Adams/Rudy Gobert rookie extensions.- Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) July 27, 2018
Although the Rockets lost two rotation players this offseason in Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute, last season showed a core of Paul, Harden and Capela will make Houston competitive, regardless of who else is surrounding them.
San Antonio Spurs
Biggest move: Trading for DeMar DeRozan
The Spurs were involved in the biggest trade this offseason, when they agreed to send Kawhi Leonard to the Toronto Raptors for DeMar DeRozan. San Antonio won 47 games last season despite the fact that Leonard barely played, so adding a four-time All-Star in the prime of his career to a similar core should keep them relevant in what is expected to be another season-long battle in the Western Conference.
The move will change the Spurs stylistically, however. San Antonio was already one of the most midrange-dominant teams in the NBA, and they've added someone who consistently ranks near the top of the league in scoring from 2-point range. The combination of DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge gives them the makings of a dominant one-two punch , though it remains to be seen if Gregg Popovich can build an elite offense and defense around them.
Biggest move: Acquiring DeAndre Jordan
It's important for rebuilding teams to surround their young players with veterans who can cover up their weaknesses and play to their strengths, and the Mavericks did just that in signing DeAndre Jordan to a one-year contract this offseason.
For two talented playmakers who generate most of their offense in pick-and-rolls, Dennis Smith Jr. and Luka Doncic will benefit greatly from playing with one of the best screeners and rollers in the league. Unlike DeMarcus Cousins and Julius Randle - two big men the Mavericks were reportedly interested in signing - Jordan doesn't need the ball in his hands to make his presence known, freeing him up to make himself a lob target at the basket and attack the offensive glass at a rate few other players his height can match.
It doesn't necessarily make Jordan the Mavericks' center of the future, but he should accelerate the growth of their young stars next season.
New Orleans Pelicans
Biggest move: Letting DeMarcus Cousins walk in free agency
The Pelicans were in the Western Conference playoff race before DeMarcus Cousins went down with a season-ending injury in 2018-19, but they found their groove afterwards when they went to a more modern lineup. Whereas Rajon Rondo, Jrue Holiday, E'Twaun Moore, Anthony Davis and Cousins were outscored by 2.9 points per 100 possessions in their minutes on the court together, New Orleans outscored opponents by 16.8 points per 100 possessions when they replaced Cousins with Nikola Mirotic in the starting lineup.
As dominant of a player as Cousins is when healthy, pairing Davis with a low-usage stretch four opened up the floor for him to perform at an MVP level. The five-time All-Star went from averaging 26.5 points, 10.4 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game in the first half of the season to 30.2 points, 11.9 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game in the second.
While there's a chance Mirotic won't start for the Pelicans on opening night - he will battle it out with the younger and more versatile Julius Randle - letting Cousins walk in free agency paved the way for them to make free agent signings that should help Davis pick up from where he left off.
Biggest move: Drafting Jaren Jackson Jr.
If Jaren Jackson Jr.'s performance in Summer League was a sign of things to come, the Grizzlies have a lot to be excited about.
The Grizzlies aren't like most of the other teams that had a lottery pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, either. The league has changed a lot since their Grit and Grind days, but they still have two All-Star caliber players on their roster in Mike Conley and Marc Gasol, plus notable veterans such as Kyle Anderson, Garrett Temple, JaMychal Green, Omri Casspi and Chandler Parsons.
Jackson has the tools to contribute now as a 3-point shooter and versatile defender, giving the rookie an opportunity to make a difference on a team that will be looking to prove itself as a postseason contender this season. Jackson also brings the type of upside the Grizzlies haven't had in a long time.