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Southwest Division Predictions: How High Can Young Rockets Climb?

The Houston Rockets have been NBA bottom-dwellers ever since James Harden was traded, but an influx of young talent over the last two years could change that this season.

NBA division rankings don't matter a lot these days, but it's still a good way to measure where you're at as a team against rivals you play four times per year. The Southwest Division has been in existence for 18 years, and the Houston Rockets have won the division title just four times – all in the last seven years. 

Houston has ranked dead last in the division over the last two seasons, but that could finally change in the 2022-23 campaign.

The Southwest Division can be divided into three tiers. The top tier includes the Dallas Mavericks and Memphis Grizzlies with star guards Luka Doncic and Ja Morant. The middle tier features the New Orleans Pelicans, who could potentially jump into that top tier with Dallas and Memphis if Zion Williamson can stay healthy. Finally, the bottom tier includes the San Antonio Spurs and the Rockets.

The Rockets have been bottom-dwellers since trading James Harden in January of 2021, but the recent influx of high-quality young talent in Jalen Green, Jabari Smith, Alperen Sengun, Kevin Porter Jr. and others is enough reason to believe things will be different soon.

Although the Spurs have some young pieces to be excited about as well, including Keldon Johnson, Josh Primo and Devin Vassell, it doesn't feel like that group has as much upside as what Houston's has. With all that being said, here are our preseason Southwest Division predictions:

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  1. Dallas Mavericks 
  2. Memphis Grizzlies 
  3. New Orleans Pelicans 
  4. Houston Rockets 
  5. San Antonio Spurs

Although that's still not as high as many Rockets fans would like to see next season, it's a good stepping stone for a franchise that hasn't experienced a lot of success in the last few years. Rome wasn't built in a day, and it will take time for the Rockets' youngsters to put Houston on the map, but the journey to the top starts with no longer being on the bottom.


You can follow Dalton Trigg on Twitter at @dalton_trigg

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