The Northwest was one of the more competitive divisions in the NBA last season, and it doesn’t look like much will change this go-around.
Several new faces have joined the division in the last few months, while some of its biggest talents found new homes. Still, the Northwest promises to be equally as entertaining and competitive as years past. And with four of its five teams reaching the playoffs last season, expectations are particularly high.
Let’s break down each team.
Additions: R.J. Hampton, Facundo Campazzo, Markus Howard, JaMychal Green, Isaiah Hartenstein
Subtractions: Troy Daniels, Torrey Craig, Jerami Grant, Noah Vonleh, Mason Plumlee
Outlook: Barring any drastic changes, the Nuggets appear headed for another successful campaign.
Denver topped its division and ranked third among all Western Conference teams last season. There have been a few changes to the bench (and some decent ones, to boot), but the Nuggets’ core group from their run to the Western Conference finals in September remains intact.
At the moment, the Nuggets are poised to lead the pack in the Northwest for a third straight year, though the Utah Jazz and Portland Trail Blazers are nipping at their heels.
Prediction: (1st, 46-26)
Oklahoma City Thunder
Additions: Al Horford, Trevor Ariza, George Hill, Frank Jackson, Moses Brown, Ty Jerome, Justin Jackson, TJ Leaf, Darius Miller, Admiral Schofield, Kenrich Williams
Subtractions: Chris Paul, Steven Adams, Danilo Gallinari, Nerlens Noel, Terrance Ferguson, Abel Nader
Outlook: The Thunder look much different now than they did a few months ago, but it isn’t necessarily for the better.
OKC picked up some key first-round draft picks but lost a considerable amount of talent to do so. This was by design, of course, though it set the team back significantly ahead of the upcoming season. It’s a bittersweet move considering the success they saw last season as the No. 5 team in the West, but the Thunder are rolling the dice in hopes of even greater success in the future.
Is there a chance they surprise us? Absolutely. But ultimately, it’s unlikely they will.
Prediction: (5th, 25-47)
Additions: Udoka Azubuike, Elijah Huges, Derrick Favors, Trent Forrest, Jake Toolson, Romaro Gill, Shaquille Harrison
Subtractions: Tony Bradley, Ed Davis, Rayjon Tucker, Justin Wright-Foreman, Emmanuel Mudiay
Outlook: Like the Nuggets, the Jazz are bringing back a strong core group of players.
Utah and OKC finished just two games behind Denver last season. Unlike the Thunder, the Jazz stuck with what worked during the lengthy 2019-20 campaign. Yet by focusing their attention on offense, such as re-signing Donovan Mitchell and Jordan Clarkson this offseason, the team’s defense could suffer, despite the return of defensive stalwart Derrick Favors.
Still, this team should be in for a successful season.
Prediction: (2nd, 43-29)
Portland Trail Blazers
Additions: Enes Kanter, Robert Covington, Harry Giles III, Derrick Jones Jr., Keljin Blevins, CJ Elleby
Subtractions: Wenyen Gabriel, Hassan Whiteside, Mario Hezonja, Jaylen Adams, Jaylen Hoard, Caleb Swanigan
Outlook: The Blazers are apt to make it another close race in the Northwest this season.
Portland added some key pieces to its roster, which could nicely position the team in both the division and conference. The onboarding of Kanter and Giles significantly improved the Blazers’ depth at center, while Covington should give the team a boost on both sides of the ball. They are much more well-rounded now than they were a season ago, and it should bode well for them down the line.
In the end, though, it probably won’t be enough to top the new-and-improved Nuggets or the steady Jazz. But we wouldn’t be surprised to see them prove us wrong, either.
Prediction: (3rd, 41-31)
Additions: Charles Brown, Jr., Anthony Edwards, Ashton Hagans, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Jaden McDaniels, Ade Murkey, Ricky Rubio
Subtractions: Keita Bates-Diop, Jacob Evans, James Johnson, Kelan Martin, Shabazz Napier
Outlook: They won’t be the best, but they likely won’t be the worst either.
On the plus side, Minnesota appears poised to improve upon last season’s measly 19 wins. Picking up D’Angelo Russell in February and adding Ricky Rubio back to the mix in November should help the cause. It’ll be tough for them to contend with the likes of the Nuggets, Jazz and Trail Blazers, though, considering they’ll likely be battling it out to the best in the Northwest.
The Timberwolves probably won’t find that kind of success this season, but they are trending in the right direction.
Prediction: (4th, 35-37)