Pelicans: The future of the NBA is in the southwestern division

Brandon Ingram #14 of the New Orleans Pelicans drives against Luka Doncic #77 of the Dallas Mavericks (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
Brandon Ingram #14 of the New Orleans Pelicans drives against Luka Doncic #77 of the Dallas Mavericks (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /

The New Orleans Pelicans made the playoffs, are getting Zion Williamson back and have a top-10 pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, so things are looking good in the Crescent City.

The Pelicans have a good balance of young talent and veteran leadership after making the CJ McCollum trade and should be contenders for the foreseeable future.

The Western Conference had a down season overall, but you only have to look around the Southwest Division to see the next power center in the NBA.

New Orleans Pelicans: Big things in the Southwest Division

If the New Orleans Pelicans are going to win a title, they’ll have to take care of business in their own division, which is not going to be easy.

Every team in it is a contender now or soon to be.

Houston Rockets

The Rockets tanked away this season and only won 20 games, but they are one of a handful of bad teams that could make the leap out of the cellar next season, as Cleveland did in this one.

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They already have Jalen Green, Kevin Porter Jr., Alperen Sengun, Christian Wood, Jae’Sean Tate and another top draft pick likely on the way.

Houston probably won’t make the playoffs next season but they are going to be scrappy and are building a nice young core.

San Antonio Spurs

Same for the Spurs, who have a nice collection of young talent (and more on the way), cap space and were already in the play-in tournament this season. It’s easy to see the Spurs right back in the mix next season, especially if they land another impact player in the draft and add one in free agency or a trade.

The Spurs are never bad for long and seem right back on the verge of taking their normal place in the playoffs.

Dallas Mavericks

The Mavs have the best young player in the NBA, made the 4th seed even though his supporting cast isn’t great, and now find themselves in the Western Conference Finals after eviscerating the Suns on the road in a game 7.

As long as the Mavs have Luka they are going to be contenders, so the Pelicans can count on battling them for years and building a nice rivalry that should be fun, especially once Zion is back.

Memphis Grizzlies

This season’s two seed, the Grizzlies were bounced from the playoffs after losing Ja Morant which was unfortunate.

Morant was a fringe MVP candidate this season and the Grizzlies have put a very good team of complementary players around him. The Grizzlies are not a big free-agent destination, but have been as good in the draft and in trades as any team in the NBA over the last several seasons.

So if we’re keeping count, the Southwest has one bad team with a great young core and a possible future superstar in Jalen Green, an up-and-coming play-in team, a young playoff team (the Pelicans) and two title contenders.

It’s not hard to imagine the Southwest having five teams in playoff contention within the next two seasons, with three of them having legit championship aspirations.

If the New Orleans Pelicans are going to be one of them, they will have to keep pace with the other teams in the Southwestern Division.

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