With the NBA season rapidly approaching the teams of the Northwest Division are eager to establish themselves. Few divisions have seen a change in power like the Northwest has, with last year’s contenders not being a lock for success.
Despite the Utah Jazz winning the Northwest last season, their offseason plan leaves them amongst the bottom teams in the Conference. On the other hand, the Minnesota Timberwolves seem ready to take the next step. However the favorite is home of the reigning Most Valuable Player, Nikola Jokic’s Denver Nuggets.
Given the recent uncertainty surrounding the Northwest’s power hierarchy, let’s take a look at the teams involved!
Odds taken from Caesars Sportsbook.
|Portland Trail Blazers||+11000|
|Oklahoma City Thunder||+20000|
There are a lot of things to consider when looking at the Northwest, as teams continue to jockey for position. The Nuggets, while unremarkable in their offseason dealings, have the benefit of continuity, health, and the reigning Most Valuable Player. In a division filled with question marks, the Nuggets’ quality is a mainstay.
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Coach: Michael Malone
2021-22 Record: 48-34 (2nd in Northwest, 6th in West)
2021-22 Result: Lost in NBA Western Conference First Round (1-4 vs. GSW)
Key Additions: (G) Ish Smith, (G) Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, (G) Bruce Brown
Key Losses: (G) Facundo Campazzo, (G) Will Barton, (G) Bryn Forbes
The ? dealin’ em out!
— NBA (@NBA) August 17, 2022
The Denver Nuggets have to play up to their potential. While most of the Western Conference has re-tooled, the Nuggets seem to have stayed in place. Much of their future rests on the play of two-time MVP Nikola Jokic and the health of Jamal Murray.
Fortunately for the Denver Nuggets, the West is still rather wide open. Their closest competition in the Northwest was the Utah Jazz, but after some moves the Nuggets stand alone at the top. While Jokic’s play has carried them in recent years, the health and production of Murray and Porter Jr. are key to their chances at winning the Western Conference.
Without question, the Denver Nuggets needed to improve their perimeter defence. With the addition of Bruce Brown and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope they’ve made good strides, but only time will tell. At the moment their control over the Northwest Division looks strong, but not completely certain.
Coach: Chris Finch
2021-22 Record: 46-36 (3rd in Northwest, 7th in West)
2021-22 Result: Lost in NBA Western Conference First Round (2-4 vs. Memphis)
Key Additions: (C) Rudy Gobert, (G) Austin Rivers, (F) Kyle Anderson
Key Losses: (G) Patrick Beverly, (G) Malik Beasley
Rudy Gobert on Minnesota Timberwolves fans:
“I think this city has some great fans, because I’ve seen them talking to me on Twitter for 9 years. So, I know how they do” pic.twitter.com/yT1nesTTYO
— Timberwolves Clips (@WolvesClips) July 6, 2022
Head coach Chris Finch and the Minnesota Timberwolves have quite the project on their hands. At the expense of their future draft assets, the Timberwolves decided to bring in three-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert to sort out their defensive issues.
It’s been a long time since the NBA has touted a team that sports two centers as the primary focus of their game plan. Chris Finch implemented a fast-paced offence that prioritized three-point shooting regardless of efficiency, so there are questions surrounding how well they can perform with Gobert thrown into the mix.
Despite the concerns surrounding the fluidity of the Timberwolves team, you certainly can’t say that they are lacking talent. If Anthony Edwards can become a true number one option for the Timberwolves, they may just break their way into the upper tiers of the Western Conference.
Coach: Chauncey Billups
2021-22 Record: 27-55 (4th in Northwest, 13th in West)
2021-22 Result: Failed to qualify for NBA Playoffs
Key Additions: (F) Jerami Grant, (G) Gary Payton II, (G) Shaedon Sharpe
Key Losses: (G) Eric Bledsoe, (G) Ben McLemore
— Portland Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) September 22, 2022
The Portland Trail Blazers didn’t make headlines this summer, but they made some interesting moves that should brighten their outlook. Compared to last season, the Trail Blazers have some interesting talent that should fit nicely around star man Damian Lillard.
Gary Payton Jr. and Jerami Grant are the Trail Blazers’ key acquisitions this summer. Grant allows for Portland to have a viable inside-out option for Lillard to delegate to, while Payton gives them one of the league’s most coveted three-and-D options.
There will be significant pressure on young head coach Chauncey Billups to put this new team on the winning track. Should the Trail Blazers get a healthy season out of Lillard, they may be one of the Western Conference’s surprises.
Coach: Quin Snyder
2021-22 Record: 49-33 (1st in Northwest, 5th in West)
2021-22 Result: Lost in NBA Western Conference First Round (2-4 vs. DAL)
Key Additions: (G) Collin Sexton, (F) Lauri Markkanen, (G) Malik Beasley
Key Losses: (C) Rudy Gobert, (G) Donovan Mitchell, (F) Bojan Bogdanovic
— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) September 20, 2022
There’s no team in the NBA that looks to have reversed its position from last season quite like the Utah Jazz. While they’ve acquired some nice pieces, trading away All-Stars Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell is a sign that the Jazz are fully committed to a rebuild.
After finishing fifth in the Western Conference, but losing in the first round of the playoffs, the Utah Jazz decided to look to the future. They didn’t come out of the offseason empty-handed though, having acquired bright young talents in Collin Sexton and Lauri Markkanen.
The Jazz will finish near the bottom of the Western Conference and Northwest Division. They don’t look like the worst team in their division, but with their eyes on a top pick it’s fair to assume that they’re definitely going to be in the Western Conference basement.
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Coach: Mark Daigneault
2021-22 Record: 24-58 (5th in Northwest, 14th in West)
2021-22 Result: Failed to qualify for NBA Playoffs
Key Additions: (C) Chet Holmgren, (F) Ousmane Dieng, (G-F) Jalen Williams
Key Losses: (F) Melvin Frazier Jr., (F) Isaiah Roby
— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) August 26, 2022
The Oklahoma City Thunder are far from competing for the NBA Playoffs. Despite having two of the league’s brightest young talents in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and Lu Dort, the Thunder front office have shown that the pair might not be in their timeline.
The Thunder made a bold move by drafting Chet Holmgren in the 2022 NBA Draft, and it is yet to be proven that they made the correct choice. Despite his massive talent, Holmgren will miss the entirety of his rookie NBA season due to injury. Considering that they’ll also be missing Gilgeous-Alexander to open the year due to an MCL injury, the Thunder don’t look as if they’ve really improved.
This is a team for the future. Expect another lottery year from the Thunder, meaning they won’t be competing for the Northwest Division anytime soon.
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Christian Jope is a writer, social media strategist, and data analyst. A Queen’s University Alumni, Christian is an author and social media strategist with Raptors Cage, while also working closely with MLSE and Canada Basketball through community-driven events.
Email: [email protected]More info on Christian Jope
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