NBA offseason recap: Rockets lord Southwest division after Dwight Howard signing

Bob Levey

The Houston Rockets landed the most important free agent this offseason, making them a contender in the Southwest Division. Meanwhile, the Mavs and Pelicans rebuilt, and the Spurs and Grizzlies kept their cores intact.

The biggest story of the NBA's 2013 free agency period happened in the Southwest Division, as the Rockets added Dwight Howard. But does the move make Houston contenders, or simply a team with a should-be-superstar, like the Lakers were this past year?

Suffice it to say, adding the most important free agent this offseason makes Houston a better team. (Coach Nick seems to think so.) There was some awkwardness surrounding Omer Asik, but the bottom line is, they took a team that made the playoffs with James Harden and a bounty of young shooters and added arguably the NBA's best center. That should make them a threat, this year and for a few to come.

The rest of the division was relatively quiet, with the newly named Pelicans hoping to shape themselves through a draft night trade, the Mavs striking out in free agency, and the Grizzlies and the Spurs trying to maintain as much of the same formula that got both squads to the Western Conference Finals as possible.

Here's a look at every transaction the Southwest Division made this offseason, by team:

Dallas Mavericks

Returning players under contract: Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion, Vince Carter, Jae Crowder

Added Lost
Draft

Shane Larkin

Ricky Ledo

Free Agents

Jose Calderon

Samuel Dalembert

Wayne Ellington

Monta Ellis

Gal Mekel

Brandan Wright

Bernard James

Elton Brand

Darren Collison

Chris Kaman

O.J. Mayo

Anthony Morrow

Trades

Jared Cunningham

Waivers

Josh Akognon

The Dallas Mavericks struck out on the big-name free agents they sought out with their salary cap space, but still re-signed Brandan Wright and Bernard James, and added five players to their payroll. Monta Ellis has three years to show Mavericks fans if he really "has it all" and serves as Dallas' only "big" acquisition from free agency. Elton Brand, O.J. Mayo, Darren Collison, Chris Kaman, Anthony Morrow, Jared Cunningham and Josh Akognon will not return to the Mavericks. Joining Ellis in D-town is a slew of new faces, including rookies Shane Larkin and Ricky Ledo, Jose Calderon, Samuel Dalembert, Wayne Ellington and international player Gal Mekel.

Houston Rockets

Returning players under contract: James Harden, Omer Asik, Jeremy Lin, Terrence Jones, Donatas Motiejunas, Chandler Parsons, Greg Smith, Patrick Beverley

Added Lost
Draft

Isaiah Canaan

Marko Todorovic

Kostas Papanikolaou

Free Agents

Dwight Howard

Aaron Brooks

Francisco Garcia

Omri Casspi

Reggie Williams

Robert Covington

B.J. Young

Marcus Camby

Trades

Thomas Robinson

Royce White

Waivers

James Anderson

Carlos Delfino

Tim Ohlbrecht

The Houston Rockets made the biggest splash of the 2013 NBA free agency period when they landed superstar big man Dwight Howard. The Rockets cut ties to young players Thomas Robinson and Royce White in the process, while also having to waive James Anderson, Carlos Delfino and Tim Ohlbrecht to create the cap space necessary to sign Howard. Once Howard was locked in, however, Houston was able to rebuild its core of role players by re-signing Aaron Brooks and Francisco Garcia, and bringing in Omri Casspi, Reggie Williams, Robert Covington and B.J. Young, as well as veteran reserve center Marcus Camby. The Rockets also added three rookies in Isaiah Canaan, Marko Todorovic and Kostas Papanikolaou.

Memphis Grizzlies

Returning players under contract: Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol, Mike Conley, Tayshaun Prince, Jerryd Bayless, Ed Davis, Quincy Pondexter, Tony Wroten, Donte Greene, Dexter Pittman, Chris Johnson

Added Lost
Draft

Jamaal Franklin

Janis Timma

Free Agents

Tony Allen

Jon Leuer

Mike Miller

Keyon Dooling (likely)

Austin Daye (likely)

Trades

Kosta Koufos

Nick Calathes

Darrell Arthur

Waivers

Josh Akognon

The Memphis Grizzlies kept their core intact, managing to keep defensive specialist Tony Allen on board to continue their "Grit and Grind" culture. Mike Miller makes his return to Memphis after being amnestied by the Miami Heat. Miller was with the Grizzlies from 2003-2008. Jon Leuer rounds out their free-agent signings, who could serve as a replacement for Darrell Arthur. Arthur was traded to the Denver Nuggets for big man Kosta Koufos. Also acquired in trade, from Dallas, was intriguing guard prospect Nick Calathes. The trade makes re-signing Keyon Dooling unlikely. Jamaal Franklin -- a potential first-round talent who fell to the second-round of the 2013 NBA Draft -- could be a solid selection with the No. 41 pick of the draft, while Janis Timma is an international prospect who will need to develop on the defensive end in order to serve as a rotation player with the Grizzlies.

New Orleans Pelicans

Returning players under contract: Eric Gordon, Ryan Anderson, Anthony Davis, Jason Smith, Austin Rivers, Darius Miller, Brian Roberts, Matt Carroll

Added Lost
Draft

Jeff Withey


Free Agents

Al-Farouq Aminu

Anthony Morrow

Greg Stiemsma


Trades

Tyreke Evans

Jrue Holiday

Robin Lopez

Terrel Harris

Greivis Vasquez

Waivers

Lance Thomas

Lou Amundson

Xavier Henry

Roger Mason Jr.

The New Orleans Pelicans began their new era with a draft day splash when they traded the rights to Nerlens Noel to the Philadelphia 76ers for Jrue Holiday. Robin Lopez, Terrel Harris and Greivis Vasquez were also traded this summer, while New Orleans acquired Tyreke Evans from the Sacramento Kings. Lou Amundson, Xavier Henry and Roger Mason Jr. will not return, Al-Farouq Aminu re-signed with the organization, and Anthony Morrow and Greg Stiemsma round out its free-agency acquisitions. While the Pelicans traded Noel on draft night, they also selected Jeff Withey and Pierre Jackson with their remaining picks, though reports are surfacing that because of the crowded backcourt, Jackson may sign with a team in France.

San Antonio Spurs

Returning players under contract: Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, Boris Diaw, Matt Bonner, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Nando de Colo, Cory Joseph, Patty Mills, Aron Baynes

Added Lost
Draft

Livio Jean-Charles

Deshaun Thomas

Free Agents

Marco Belinelli

Manu Ginobili

Jeff Pendergraph

Tiago Splitter

Gary Neal

DeJuan Blair (likely)

Tracy McGrady (likely)

Trades

Waivers

The San Antonio Spurs made few changes to their roster after the loss to the Miami Heat in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. Manu Ginobili's future with the franchise was the biggest question going into free agency and he ultimately signed a two-year, $14 million deal to give the "Big Three" two more seasons together. Tiago Splitter was the other key piece from the Spurs' NBA Finals run that was on the open market and he fetched a four-year, $36 million contract to remain with the team. Unsurprisingly, the Spurs dipped into the international market to draft Livio Jean-Charles. Deshaun Thomas joins Jean-Charles as the two draftees in the Spurs' incoming rookie class. Marco Belinelli and Jeff Pendergraph will join San Antonio, while Gary Neal will not return as he heads to the Milwaukee Bucks, and DeJuan Blair and Tracy McGrady make up the Spurs' other two likely offseason casualties.

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