It is the point in the NBA Offseason where summer league is over, free agency was fun, and we are left twiddling our thumbs waiting for basketball to start again.
With the draft, free agency, and trades, there is a revolving door of players coming and going in the Southwest Division. There is a chance that four of the five teams in the division, if not all five will be competing for a playoff spot. Last season, three of them made it while two picked in the top five of the draft.
Players like Kawhi Leonard, DeMarcus Cousins, Trevor Ariza, and Tyreke Evans have moved on to new pastures. The teams losing those kind of names obviously have voids to fill heading into next season. So let’s take a look at the best players coming into the division for this season.
I know, I know this sounds crazy that he isn’t in the top-5 of this list, but take a step back and separate Melo from his prime and you will see the truth. Anthony isn’t what he used to be. If this were a list of the top new players that can score the basketball, then sure Melo would make the top five.
Basketball is more than shooting the ball. Since basketball is more than the ability to put the ball in the basket, Anthony is simply an honorable mention at this point in his career. His utter lack of defense, me first attitude and diminishing attitude cannot be overlooked.
5. Luka Doncic
The first newcomer in the ranking came via trade and draft. The Atlanta Hawks will be a trivia question answer in the future, as in this offseason alone they drafted Doncic and traded for Anthony but neither were ever going to play for the team.
On draft night, the Dallas Mavericks had the fifth overall pick. The majority of mock drafts floating around had Doncic falling no further than number four to the division rival Memphis Grizzlies. Not many people outside the franchise on Beale Street knew that Jaren Jackson Jr. was actually ahead of Doncic on their draft board.
To be proactive, the Mavs drafted Trae Young for the Hawks and flipped him for Doncic, passing the torch from one European face of the franchise to the next.
Doncic will be able to play four of five positions on the floor at any given time, giving coach Rick Carlisle lineup flexibility he hasn’t had in the past.
People forget just how young Randle still is. He has yet to turn 24 and has only been in the league for four seasons. He seems to be an overlooked, forgotten player … until last season.
In his 2017-18 campaign, Randle played in all 82 games, scoring 16.1 points per game, and grabbing eight rebounds in 26 minutes a contest. The biggest weakness in his game is his inability to spread the floor. Luckily, this team has an all-world player next to him in the front court in Anthony Davis that can spread it out.
If Randle chips in his 15 points a night, focuses on defense and rebounding, then this will be one of the better signings in the entire NBA this offseason.
3. Jaren Jackson Jr.
Another rookie cracks the top five. Like Doncic, Jackon Jr. has the potential to be the best player in this draft class. He isn’t even 19 years old yet, so he hasn’t even begun to scratch the surface of what he is capable of on a basketball court.
The big question coming out of Michigan State about JJJ is why he didn’t play more minutes. Well if it was anything more than foul trouble, then I have no clue because in NBA Summer League, this kid was dominant on many nights.
Jackson Jr. is everything you want in a big for the new, position-less NBA. He can spread the floor with his shooting, take his defender off the dribble and switch on screens at a high level. The reason Jackson Jr. is at number three on this list is because it isn’t all about the future with him. He is going to be able to contribute at a high level right away.
JJJ will be able to come into NBA games from the jump and be one of the top defenders in the league. His length and ability to block shots is rare but not as rare as his defensive footwork when he is switched onto a guard.
This kid is a sleeper for Rookie of the Year and has the potential to be a multiple-time All-Star down the road.
This may seem like deja vu, but it is not. This is real people. DeAndre Jordan actually signed a contract to play for the Dallas Mavericks. No blockades or hostages to prevent this move this time!
The 2017 NBA All-Star is still a monster on the defensive end and one of the most efficient scorers around the basket. He is a two-time First-Team All Defense and three-time All-NBA player. His resume speaks enough for him landing here at the two spot.
The Mavericks are going to be scary with Dennis Smith Jr., Luka Doncic, Harrison Barnes, Dirk, and DJ on the floor together. There will be an adjustment period for this team as they have not had a player like DJ manning the middle before. But once the adjustment period is over and the chemistry is flowing, this team will make a push for the postseason.
There could be argument for the other players on this list and their ranking, but there is no arguing that the best new player to the Southwest Division is DeRozan. The scary part is that he could get even better playing for Pop. Pop’s system is built around his best players and a two-man threat of LaMarcus Aldridge and DD is terrifying.
DeRozan will not offer the same thing on defense as Kawhi, but within this San Antonio Spurs system, his offense will more than make up for it. DeRozan is a bonafide star in the NBA teetering on superstar.
It was clear that the core of Kyle Lowry and DeRozan was not going to be enough for the Raptors to make it to the Finals. It was also clear that Leonard was not going to suit up and play for San Antonio next season either. Both teams made the best of their respective situations.
The Spurs lost a top five player in the NBA but brought back a top-20 player in return, with that being said, it is obvious that DeRozan will be the brightest new star in the Southwest.