The NBA has become a sprawling juggernaut, spanning out over the globe. The core of the league is still 30 teams playing Basketball games in North America. In order to manage this massive fixture list that spans more than a continent, the 30 NBA teams have traditionally been split into Divisions.
How many NBA teams are in the Southwest division? There are 5 teams in the NBA’s Southwest Division; Houston Rockets, San Antonio Spurs, Dallas Mavericks, Memphis Grizzlies and the New Orleans Pelicans. They compete in the Western Conference of the NBA.
The Division system has been around since the inception of the NBA in the 1940’s. The Southwest Division was formed in 2004 when the NBA expanded to its current 30 teams. The Southwest Division originally consisted of 5 teams; The Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets, Memphis Grizzlies, New Orleans Hornets and the San Antonio Spurs.
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The Southwest Division is currently made up of the following 5 NBA teams;
- Houston Rockets
- San Antonio Spurs
- Dallas Mavericks
- Memphis Grizzlies
- New Orleans Pelicans
The Southwest Division, being so new, has seen very little turnover of teams, compared to some of the more historic NBA Divisions. It has always featured 5 teams from the original 5 cities. However there has been a technical shift in Franchises, with the Pelicans replacing the Hornets in New Orleans.
The New Orleans Pelicans and the Southwest Division
In 2002 the Hornets franchise moved from Charlotte to New Orleans. They competed there until 2013 when the New Orleans franchise rebranded as the Pelicans. The NBA considers the Pelicans to be an expansion Franchise, that started competing in the league from 2002. This includes their time in New Orleans and the brief 2 season stint (2005-2007) in Oklahoma City following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. This all counts as part of the Southwest Division. New Orleans have seen a lot of fortune in the draft, first landing Chris Paul in 2005, followed by Anthony Davis in 2012 and Finally Zion Williamson in 2019. While these 3 players all look set to have hall of fame careers, they never managed to capitalize, and they importantly never crossed over. Paul went to LA to join the Clippers the Summer Davis was Drafted. Davis would follow suit 7 years later, this time joining the Lakers the summer Zion was drafted in 2019. Strong rumors persist that Zion is looking to make a move to a big market franchise as well, New York is the favorite, but given the history, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him in Los Angeles soon.
The Southwest Division has remained in its current form since 2013 when New Orleans rebranded as the Pelicans.
Historically the most successful team in the Southwest Division has been the San Antonio Spurs with 9 Southwest Division titles. The division has been dominated by Texas, with 16 of the 18 titles going to the 3 lone star state teams. Houston has 4 while Dallas has 3. The Chris Paul Hornets won in 2007-8 while the Ja Morant led Grizzlies won in 2021-22 to ensure every team that’s ever competed in the Division has managed to win it. This is the only NBA Division with such a distinction.
While it is not common practice to hang divisional banners and the goal of any competent NBA Franchise is to win the Larry O’brien trophy, there is a certain pride fans can take from knowing they are the best franchise in their Division that year. It’s always good to outdo your neighbors.