Updated NBA Division Odds: The Muddled Southwest Division

Which team is the best bet to take advantage of the Rockets' slow start in the Southwest Division?

This week was quite eventful for the NBA, as the Warriors finally overtook the top spot in the West behind the return of Stephen Curry, who was named Western Conference Player of the Week. Boston won their last five games and is firmly in the playoff race, while Detroit has lost their last four and is slowly losing their grip on a playoff spot. The contenders for the first overall pick in the upcoming draft have emerged, with the atrocious Phoenix Suns leading the way. The Suns are by far the worst team in our power rankings and come in at 4-23.

While some races are shaping up nicely, others are tight between several teams. The Southwest Division, for instance, has been shaken up by the Rockets’ lack of depth and the departure of Kawhi Leonard from the Spurs. We’ve covered why Houston should be avoided in the futures betting market, but we haven’t discussed which teams have taken their place as betting values.

Here are the current odds to win the Southwest Division from the FanDuel Sportsbook.

Houston Rockets-155
New Orleans Pelicans+390
Memphis Grizzlies+750
Dallas Mavericks+1000
San Antonio Spurs+1200

Shockingly, according to our models, the Dallas Mavericks and Memphis Grizzlies have been the two best teams in the division to this point.

Memphis Grizzlies

While our models project the Pelicans to win the most games in the Southwest, the Grizzlies are the 14th-ranked team overall, which is a narrow second in the division. Memphis has propelled itself into the playoff race behind strong veteran play from Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, each of whom has started every game so far. As fans who haven’t followed the NBA since 2013 might suspect, the Grizzlies have won games behind an aggressive defense that leads the league in turnover percentage, according to Basketball Reference.

The Grizzlies’ defensive success starts with a seemingly rejuvenated Gasol, who is second in the league in defense real plus-minus (RPM), behind only Robert Covington. On a team without many good rebounders, Gasol is on pace to match his highest career average since 2010. Obviously, the return of a healthy Conley is instrumental as well, but the story of Memphis’ rise has been the rim protection of Gasol (1.4 blocks per game).

Memphis teams of the past always had a strong perimeter defender to shut down opponents’ top scorers; this player usually went by the name of Tony Allen. Although Allen hasn’t appeared in a Grizzlies game since 2017, Memphis replaced him with Kyle Anderson over the offseason. Anderson has the best defensive RPM of any small forward except for Covington and has been one of the most versatile defenders this season due to his length.

Memphis currently leads the division but is only third amongst current FanDuel odds, and most importantly, they have a clear identity if the veterans stay healthy. While other teams like Houston and New Orleans struggle with the lack of depth around their stars, the Grizzlies continue their “Grit-and-Grind” style that has proven successful successful in recent years.

Dallas Mavericks

Just ahead of the Grizzlies in our power rankings comes Dallas at 13th. The Mavericks have been one of the league’s must-watch teams this season because of the dazzling play of rookie Luka Doncic. While Dirk Nowitzki hasn’t made his debut yet due to an injury, Doncic has risen to be the new face of the Mavs.

Dallas is probably the NBA's most average team; they’re 14th in offensive rating and 13th in defensive rating. They’re an efficient shooting team, buoyed by the sharpshooting of Doncic and Wesley Matthews, and the interior scoring of DeAndre Jordan. However, Dallas seemingly has a weakness for every strength, and on offense, they’ve been plagued with turnovers. Both primary ball-handlers, Doncic and Dennis Smith, average at least three turnovers per game.

The Maverick’s defense tells a similar story -- they’re a great rebounding team, but opponents have managed to shoot efficiently against them. Jordan pulls down almost 14 boards a game to make sure opponents’ second chances are limited, but opponents rarely need second chances as they’re shooting at an effective field goal percentage (eFG%) of 52.5% -- 19th in the NBA.

Even though they’re barely hanging on to a playoff spot in the West, the Mavericks have decent betting value at their current odds. Every week, we talk about how it’s the Rockets’ division to lose once they return to form; but each week, they continue to play at a subpar level. Dallas will have casual fans’ attention all year as long as Luka continues to excite, but they may have bettors’ attention as well if they keep lurking a game or two behind the division lead.