Catching Up on the 2017-18 NBA Offseason: The Southwest Division

Between the Mavericks, Rockets, Grizzlies, Pelicans, and Spurs, who got better this offseason?

Two weeks ago, we began recapping the whirlwind NBA offseason by division. So far, we've covered the Atlantic, the Northwest, the Central, the Pacific, and the Southeast. Today, we shift our gaze to the Southwest Division.

The goal is for this series to serve as a helpful guide for catching up on the numerous changes that went on in the Association this summer, while comparing how each team's moves stack up against those made by their most direct competition.

For said comparison, we'll be using our proprietary metric, nERD.

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 our purposes, we'll use last season's nERD scores for every player on the move, focusing on total nERD in and nERD out for each of the NBA's 30 teams (leaving out rookies, overseas imports, and G League players with two-way contracts, since we have no idea how much they'll contribute).

Now, let's see how things shook out in the Southwest Division this summer.

Dallas Mavericks

Player InHow?nERDPlayer OutHow?nERD
Jeff WitheyFA2.0Jarrod UthoffTrade-0.1
Josh McRobertsTrade-1.1A.J. HammonsTrade-0.7
Nicolas BrussinoWaived-1.1
DeAndre LigginsTrade-2.4

nERD in:
nERD out: -4.3
Net nERD: 5.2

The Dallas Mavericks re-signed a 39-year-old Dirk Nowitzki, and restricted free agent Nerlens Noel accepted a dirt-cheap qualifying offer to stay with them for at least one more year, but that was basically the full extent of the interesting news surrounding the team this summer.

They may have the highest net nERD of the five teams in the Southwest Division, but that's mostly because they brought in a fairly nERD-friendly player in Jeff Withey (who played only 432 minutes for Utah last year) and that they shed the decidedly un-nERD-y DeAndre Liggins (who only played one game for the team last season and racked up most of his inefficient numbers playing for Cleveland).

Other than bringing in promising rookie Dennis Smith Jr., the Mavericks did very little to move the needle on their situation this offseason,

Houston Rockets

Player InHow?nERDPlayer OutHow?nERD
Chris PaulTrade12.8Lou WilliamsTrade4.4
Shawn LongTrade1.0Montrezl HarrellTrade4.2
Demetrius JacksonFA0.2Patrick BeverleyTrade1.8
Tarik BlackFA0.1Sam DekkerTrade0.4
Tim QuartermanTrade-0.5Kyle WiltjerTrade-0.3
Luc Mbah a MouteFA-1.1
P.J. TuckerFA-2.3

nERD in:
nERD out: 10.5
Net nERD: -0.3

The Houston Rockets will be one of the most unrecognizable teams in the NBA next season, after swapping 12 total players in and out over the summer. Continuity may be an issue, but it helps that they have the MVP runner-up in James Harden and one of the guys that they're bringing in happens to be the 13th-ranked player on our NBA Player Power Rankings, Chris Paul.

While the addition of CP3 signals that the team is ready to compete with the Golden State Warriors, our metric suggests that the Rockets may have given up a bit too much to get him. Lou Williams (4.4 nERD), Patrick Beverley (1.8 nERD), Montrezl Harrell (4.2 nERD), and Sam Dekker (0.4) are all average to above-average players in terms of efficiency and their roster spots were filled with average to below-average replacements. P.J. Tucker is better than his -2.3 nERD suggests, but the step back in depth might prove to be costly for the Rockets if the Harden-Paul pairing isn't a perfect match.

If you consider their -0.3 net nERD, it becomes hard to call this offseason a win for the Rockets, even with the addition of a perennial All-Star like Chris Paul.

Memphis Grizzlies

Player InHow?nERDPlayer OutHow?nERD
Mario ChalmersFA1.6Vince CarterFA0.6
Tyreke EvansFA-1.9Zach RandolphFA-1.0
Ben McLemoreFA-4.5Tony AllenFA-1.9

nERD in:
nERD out: -2.3
Net nERD: -2.5

The Grit-'N'-Grind era is officially over in Memphis, with Tony Allen and Zach Randolph both leaving in free agency. Randolph and the still-somehow-viable-at-nearly-41-years-of-age Vince Carter signed with the Sacramento Kings, while the Grizz responded by signing two Kings castoffs in Tyreke Evans and Ben McLemore.

The dust has settled, the Grizzlies probably have a worse roster than before (with a net nERD of -2.5), Marc Gasol and Mike Conley are both a year older, Chandler Parsons may never be good again, and the rest of the Western Conference mostly got better. RIP #GNG.

New Orleans Pelicans

Player InHow?nERDPlayer OutHow?nERD
Ian ClarkFA0.1Axel ToupaneWaived-0.1
Darius MillerFA-0.4Quinn CookWaived-0.4
Tony AllenFA-1.9Quincy PondexterTrade-0.8
Perry JonesFA-2.3Donatas MotiejunasFA-1.8
Rajon RondoFA-3.2Tim FrazierTrade-1.9

nERD in:
nERD out: -5.0
Net nERD: -2.7

The New Orleans Pelicans successfully kept up their tradition of not surrounding Anthony Davis with premiere talent this summer. The acquisition of DeMarcus Cousins at last year's deadline was definitely a big swing, but we still haven't seen much evidence that a pairing of AD and Boogie can work. With Cousins entering a contract year, he might even become a trade chip if the Pelicans find themselves in the Western Conference cellar yet again.

The Pels did manage to add some mid-tier names in Rajon Rondo and Tony Allen, but those two haven't been very efficient players in recent years, posting nERDs of -3.2 and -1.9, respectively, in 2016-17.

New Orleans won't exactly feel the loss of guys like Tim Frazier (-1.9 nERD) and Donatas Motiejunas (-1.8 nERD) in the meantime, but they ultimately brought in a worse collection of nERD scores (-7.7) than what went out (-5.0), and they're once again looking like a fringe playoff team at best.

San Antonio Spurs

Player InHow?nERDPlayer OutHow?nERD
Rudy GayFA-0.5Dewayne DedmonFA5.1
Joffrey LauvergneFA-1.0Jonathon SimmonsFA-1.9
Darrun HilliardFA-2.2

nERD in:
nERD out: 3.2
Net nERD: -6.9

The San Antonio Spurs may have the worst net nERD in the Southwest Division at -6.9, but there's very little chance that they actually got appreciably worse this summer. Outgoing big man Dewayne Dedmon has such a solid 5.1 nERD as a product of playing for the Spurs (he had a 2.0 the year before with the Orlando Magic), while incoming guys like Rudy Gay (-0.5 nERD) and Joffrey Lauvergne (-1.0) will likely get that San Antonio efficiency bump this coming season.

One way or another, coach Gregg Popovich will work his magic with whatever he's got once again in 2017-18, and the Spurs will be right there with the upper crust of the conference. If you're still betting against that after all these years, we would advise against it.


TeamnERD InnERD OutNet nERD
Dallas Mavericks0.9-4.35.2
Houston Rockets10.210.5-0.3
Memphis Grizzlies-4.8-2.3-2.5
New Orleans Pelicans-7.7-5.0-2.7
San Antonio Spurs-3.73.2-6.9

It's tricky to name an offseason winner in the Southwest Division. It would be natural to look at the Rockets and the acquisition of Chris Paul and his 12.8 nERD as the winners of the summer, but their -0.3 net nERD suggests that they may have given up a bit too much to get him.

Meanwhile, again by net nERD, the Mavericks were the only team that got better (but not really), the Spurs got worse by the largest margin (but probably not), and the Grizzlies and Pelicans continued treading water (okay, that's pretty spot on).

Which brings us right back to the Rockets. Their 10.2 incoming nERD is far and away the best in the division this year, so that alone probably makes them worthy of the nod anyway. At least they're doing something to try catching up with the Warriors.