Southwest Notes: Aldama, J. Green, Mavs, Pelicans

Santi Aldama, the 30th overall pick in the 2021 draft, has started at power forward for the Grizzlies in both of their preseason games so far and looks like the favorite to occupy that spot when the regular season tips off, with Jaren Jackson Jr. (foot) sidelined, writes Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal.

As Cole writes, Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins pointed to shooting, play-making, defensive versatility, and chemistry with the starters as the four biggest keys for that power forward spot.

Aldama’s shooting and play-making numbers certainly didn’t jump off the page as a rookie, when he made just 6-of-48 threes and had nearly as many turnovers as assists, but the team believes in his ability and he has shown growth in the preseason. The 21-year-old recorded four assists in his first game and made four three-pointers in his second game. He also leads the team in points (34) and rebounds (14) in those two contests.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Mavericks coaches and players are continually pointing to former first-round pick Josh Green as the player who came to camp in the best shape and improved the most in the offseason, according to Callie Caplan of The Dallas Morning News, who notes that a leap from Green would be huge for a Dallas team that lost Jalen Brunson.
  • John Hollinger of The Athletic is bearish on the Mavericks‘ chances of matching or exceeding their 52 wins from last season, projecting the team to finish eighth in the West at 46-36.
  • The Pelicans‘ 2021 offseason looks much better in retrospect than it did at the time, writes Christian Clark of The Pelicans let Lonzo Ball go and missed out on top target Kyle Lowry in free agency, but with Ball injured and Lowry perhaps losing a step, New Orleans is better off having instead fortified its backcourt by acquiring CJ McCollum at the 2022 deadline, according to Clark. That move wouldn’t have happened if the team had retained Ball or signed Lowry.
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