Catching Up on the NBA Offseason: The Southwest Division

There has been a lot of player movement in the Southwest Division this summer. Which team has had the best offseason so far?

Yesterday, we started recapping the whirlwind NBA offseason by division, starting with the Atlantic Divison. In this series, we hope to provide a one-stop spot for you to catch up on the flurry of trades and signings that have happened so far this summer, just in case you've fallen a bit behind or want an idea of the overall picture now that most of the dust has settled.

For the sake of our analysis, we'll be using our in-house nERD metric as a point of comparison, focusing on nERD in and nERD out for each team.

If you're not familiar with nERD, it combines several offensive, defensive, and usage factors to produce one number that is meant to project a player's overall value to his team. That final number is an estimate of how many games above or below .500 a league-average team would win over an 82-game season with the player in question as one of its starters. It's comparable to Win Shares, but is meant to be predictive (projecting an 82-game season) as opposed to descriptive (how many wins the player has contributed to his team in the past). For the sake of this study, we'll use last season's nERD scores and leave out rookies (since they're so dang unpredictable).

There was a lot of movement in what is arguably the best division in professional basketball this summer (all five teams made last year's postseason). As you no doubt know, the San Antonio Spurs won the LaMarcus Aldridge sweepstakes, making a perennial contender seem even more contender-y. With that, most pundits are saying that the Spurs won the NBA offseason, but do our algorithms even think they had the best retooling period in their own division?

Let's find out.

Dallas Mavericks

Players InHow?nERDPlayers OutHow?nERD
Wesley MatthewsFA4.6Tyson ChandlerFA10.6
Jeremy EvansFA1.7Amar’e StoudemireFA2.3
Zaza PachuliaTrade1.3Al-Farouq AminuFA1.2
John JenkinsFA0.8Richard JeffersonFA-0.4
Deron WilliamsFA-1.8Monta EllisFA-4.8
   Rajon RondoFA-5.1

nERD in: 6.6
nERD out: 3.8
Net nERD: 2.8

The most memorable part of the Dallas Mavericks' 2015 offseason will be the DeAndre Jordan deal that didn't happen. While his monstrous 14.1 nERD (fifth-best in the league) would've put them in the conversation for best offseason in the Association, they still did alright for themselves by picking up solidly nERDy (albeit uninspiring) players like Zaza Pachulia and Jeremy Evans, while getting rid of nERD blackholes like Rajon Rondo and Monta Ellis. If Wesley Matthews can have a successful comeback from his Achilles injury and the change of scenery manages to reinvigorate Deron Williams, the Mavs should still manage to occupy that space of being a 50-win team, but not quite a title contender. Could be worse.

Houston Rockets

Players InHow?nERDPlayers OutHow?nERD
Ty LawsonTrade1.6Joey DorseyTrade0.4
Marcus ThorntonFA-0.4Pablo PrigioniTrade-0.2
   Nick JohnsonTrade-1.3
   Kostas PapanikolaouTrade-2.2
   Josh SmithFA-5.5

nERD in: 1.2
nERD out: -8.8
Net nERD: 10.0

According to our nERD metric, the Houston Rockets have had the best offseason in the Southwest Division so far. A big part of that was letting one of the league's least nERDy players in Josh Smith bolt for the Los Angeles Clippers, but they also did well by buying low on Ty Lawson, while only giving up players with nERDs of 0.4 or lower in the trade with Denver. Lawson's relatively low nERD last season (1.6) is a reflection of his career low 47.4% Effective Field Goal Percentage (weighted twos and threes), but his 15.2 points and 9.6 assists per game should fit well in tandem with James Harden in Houston's backcourt. One season removed from making the Western Conference Finals, the Rockets have made effective tweaks this summer that should put them more firmly in title contender discussions next year.

Memphis Grizzlies

Players InHow?nERDPlayers OutHow?nERD
Brandan WrightFA6.8Kosta KoufosFA1.2
Matt BarnesTrade-0.6Jon LeuerTrade-0.6
   Nick CalathesEurope-1.1

nERD in: 6.2
nERD out: -0.5
Net nERD: 6.7

Memphis has had a fairly quiet offseason, apart from re-signing their superstar, Marc Gasol. Even so, they managed to get better by bolstering their depth at small forward with Matt Barnes and shoring up their strong frontline with nERD and advanced stat darling, Brandan Wright (who should fill the hole left by Kosta Koufos just fine). They didn't necessarily make splashy moves like their division-mates in the Texas Triangle, but they should still contend for a top seed in the West once again this year with their core returning and a few solid additions to their rotation for good measure.

New Orleans Pelicans

Players InHow?nERDPlayers OutHow?nERD
Alonzo GeeFA-0.3Jimmer FredetteFA-1.8
Kendrick PerkinsFA-4.2  

nERD in: -4.5
nERD out: -1.8
Net nERD: -2.7

The Pelicans added Alonzo Gee and Kendrick Perkins and lost Jimmer Fredette this offseason, but none of those things really even qualify for the news cycle. Honestly, their biggest addition this summer will likely prove to be an extra year of age and experience for Anthony Davis. As long as they stay healthy and Perkins' supposed mentoring of Davis doesn't derail the young superstar's career, the Pelicans should be able to make it back to the postseason for the second year in a row.

San Antonio Spurs

Players InHow?nERDPlayers OutHow?nERD
LaMarcus AldridgeFA6.5Tiago SplitterTrade3.8
David WestFA0.6Cory JosephFA3.2
Jimmer FredetteFA-1.8Aron BaynesFA3.2
Ray McCallumTrade-3.4Marco BelinelliFA0.2

nERD in: 1.9
nERD out: 10.4
Net nERD: -8.5

On the surface, the Spurs' signings of LaMarcus Aldridge and David West should put them as frontrunners for the best offseason in the Association, but our nERD metric argues otherwise. While the additions of LMA and West will undoubtedly prove to be upgrades over outgoing bigs Tiago Splitter and Aron Baynes, swapping out solid rotation pieces like Cory Joseph and Marco Belinelli for anti-nERDs Jimmer Fredette and Ray McCallum could be harder on a team that relies on its depth and rest for its stars than people realize. Then again, run-of-the-mill guys like Jimmer and McCallum are exactly the kind of players that San Antonio's tried and true system converts into solid and covetable rotation pieces. Besides, none of us should be stupid enough to question the Spurs and the likelihood that they know exactly what they're doing at this point.


TeamnERD InnERD OutNet nERD
Dallas Mavericks6.63.82.8
Houston Rockets1.2-8.810.0
Memphis Grizzlies6.2-0.56.7
New Orleans Pelicans-4.5-1.8-2.7
San Antonio Spurs1.910.4-8.5

Every team in the Southwest Division has made smart tweaks to its roster this summer, and they should all be in the postseason mix come spring 2016, to a greater or lesser extent. As far as our numbers go, the Houston Rockets have had the best offseason in the division so far, despite the big free agents landing in San Antonio. That said, despite the fact that my trusted friend, math, says the depth lost outweighs the stars gained for San Antonio, my days of underestimating the Spurs are well behind me.

The Rockets may have made some of the best moves possible for their situation, and the Grizzlies may have quietly gotten better by upgrading certain spots in their rotation, but the Spurs' landing what was arguably the top free agent this summer and the pure thought of a rich dynasty getting unequivocally richer makes it hard to give the distinction of winning the offseason in the Southwest to anyone other than San Antonio.