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2018-19 NBA Predictions: Northwest Division

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Russell Westbrook” by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Quick! Which division was the best in the NBA last year? If your pick wasn’t the Northwest, I have a lot of land in the middle of Idaho to sell you.

It’s pretty easy—this division was the best in the NBA last year, and it’s not close. They had 238 wins combined as a division last season. Closest was the Atlantic, which had their teams combine for 223 wins. The Nuggets were the last place team, and they were an overtime loss away from the playoffs. They were the best, most well-balanced division, but can they keep it up? Let’s get to the preview!

 

1. OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER 

OFFSEASON & REVIEW

Record: 48-34

Postseason Result: Lost to the Utah Jazz in the first round of the playoffs 4-2.

Offseason Acquisitions:

  • Drafted Hamidou Diallo, Devon Hall and Kevin Hervey in the NBA Draft.
  • Signed Nerlens Noel in free agency.
  • Traded for G Dennis Schroder, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Abdel Nader.

Offseason Departures:

  • Traded Carmelo Anthony and Dakari Johnson

2018-19 PREVIEW/THE BIG QUESTION

Carmelo Anthony is a name even the most casual of basketball fans will recognize. Rarely will losing a name like that make a team remarkably better and more efficient, but here we are. Paul George has called OKC home, Westbrook is not on the decline (yet), Steven Adams, who is one of the most underrated players in the league, is only getting better, and Andre Roberson, one of, if not the best defender on the team will be healthy.

Carmelo Anthony was an efficiency albatross on this team, and with all those factors combined, this team will be much better. This team has not one, but two superstars. They will be a hard team to beat, and their record will show it.

Prediction: 56-26

 

2. UTAH JAZZ

OFFSEASON & REVIEW

Record: 48-34

Postseason Result: Beat the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round of the NBA playoffs 4-2, but then found themselves matched up with the best regular season team, the Houston Rockets. They went on to lose that series 4-1.

Offseason Acquisitions:

  • Selected G Grayson Allen in the NBA Draft.

Offseason Departures:

  • Lost Jonas Jerebko in free agency.

2018-19 PREVIEW/THE BIG QUESTION

I can feel the ire of Jazz fans through the computer screen as I write this. HOW CAN YOU PUT OKC ABOVE UTAH IN THE STANDINGS?! DID YOU NOT WATCH THAT PLAYOFF SERIES? MITCHELL IS THE BEST…blah blah blah.

Listen, Jazz fans. I think the Jazz are a great matchup against the Thunder and will not lose the season series against OKC. Best OKC can do is tie the season series against the Jazz. The Jazz are a sexy pick to win this division and get a top-three seed in the west largely because of the way they played after Gobert returned from injury.

But people need to remember that Gobert’s return also coincided with the beginning of a VERY favorable schedule down the stretch along with a good matchup in the first round. Donovan Mitchell is the truth. There is no reason to think this kid will not rule the league for the next decade-plus.

This team’s calling card has been, and will continue to be their defense. If they stay healthy, it’ll be a fun contest between them and OKC for the division win. They’ll come up just short, though.

Prediction: 54-28

 

3. DENVER NUGGETS

OFFSEASON & REVIEW

Record: 46-36

Postseason Result: N/A

Offseason Acquisitions:

  • Selected Michael Porter Jr. with the 14th pick in the NBA Draft.
  • Signed G Isaiah Thomas in free agency.

Offseason Departures:

  • Traded Wilson Chandler, Kenneth Faried and Darrell Arthur,
  • Lost Devin Harris in free agency.

2018-19 PREVIEW/THE BIG QUESTION

They barely lost to the Timberwolves in overtime in the last regular season game last year to miss the playoffs by a game for the second year in a row. That was with Paul Millsap missing more than half their games.

They had an interesting offseason. They dumped the salaries of Wilson Chandler, Kenneth Faried, and Darrell Arthur. They picked up a couple of lottery tickets in Michael Porter Jr. and Isaiah Thomas. They signed Nikola Jokic to a max contract extension. Finally, they signed Will Barton to take Chandler’s spot in the starting lineup.

They have a bad defense, but unlike the Wolves, they actually have the offensive firepower to win games without playing much defense. If you want to watch a team win a lot of 150-148 games (only a slight exaggeration), then sit down and watch a lot of Nuggets on league pass this year!

Prediction: 52-30

 

4. MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES

OFFSEASON & REVIEW

Record: 47-35

Postseason Result: After beating the Nuggets to slip into the playoffs, Minnesota found themselves facing the Houston Rockets in the first round. They would lose that series 4-1.

Offseason Acquisitions:

  • Selected Josh Okogie and Keita Bates-Diop in the NBA Draft.
  • Signed Anthony Tolliver and James Nunnally in free agency.

Offseason Departures:

  • No significant losses, yet…..

2018-19 PREVIEW/THE BIG QUESTION

This is the hardest team to predict. Jimmy Butler obviously makes them significantly better. He could account for a good ten wins. At least. These guys aren’t that good at playing defense and they don’t have the offensive firepower, especially off the bench, to be able to produce the offense to make up for the lack of defense in many games.

Karl-Anthony Towns is one of the best young players in the league. Andrew Wiggins has probably had the least talked-about amount of 20+ point games over the last few seasons because of his inconsistency.

But the rest of the team is getting older (Gibson, Rose, etc.) or doesn’t want to be there (Butler). They’re going to be hovering around .500 all year, which is where they were before acquiring Butler. They will trade Butler before the deadline.

Prediction: 42-40

 

5. PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS

OFFSEASON & REVIEW

Record: 49-33

Postseason Result: Entered the playoffs as the three seed after having a great regular season. They were swept in the first round of the playoffs by Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans.

Offseason Acquisitions:

  • Drafted Anfernee Simmons and Gary Trent Jr. in the NBA Draft.
  • Signed G Nik Stauskas and G Seth Curry in free agency.

Offseason Departures:

  • Lost F Ed Davis, G Shabazz Napier and SF/SG Pat Connaughton in free agency.

2018-19 PREVIEW/THE BIG QUESTION

Last year’s division champs and three seed in the west. They were mostly stagnant in the offseason, signing Nik Stauskas, Seth Curry, re-signing Jusuf Nurkic (to what Blazers fans call “team friendly,” but what I call market value), and drafting Gary Trent Jr. all at the expense of losing Ed Davis and Shabazz Napier. I wouldn’t call any of those major wins or losses.

They have one of the best backcourt tandems in Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, but they don’t seem to be going anywhere with them. Sure, they’ve made the playoffs two years in a row, but they’ve won as many playoff games as the Suns have during that span. They had one hot streak after the all-star break last year to keep them in the playoffs, but I didn’t buy them being as good as their record indicated. They proved that by getting swept out of the first round.

That being said, Lillard is a superstar in this league, and in the NBA, you can do anything with a superstar. Their talent is not questionable, but they haven’t been able to put it together and there’s no reason to think this year will be much different.

This organization seems to be waiting for contracts like Evan Turner’s to be off the books. The players will catch wind of this and will not be motivated to win. In fact, don’t be surprised if Lillard or McCollum are a couple of names floated around come trade deadline time. They will go from first to last.

Prediction: 41-41

 

PREDICTED DIVISION STANDINGS:

  1. Oklahoma City Thunder (56-26)
  2. Utah Jazz (54-28)
  3. Denver Nuggets (52-30)
  4. Minnesota Timberwolves (42-40)
  5. Portland Trail Blazers (41-41)

The Northwest will be home to three of the top-five teams in the Western Conference this year, but they will be worse overall than last year.

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coloradosportshomer

Born in Cheyenne, WY, raised in Fort Collins, CO. I have been in love with Colorado sports since dreaming of being Patrick Roy during the 2001 Stanley Cup Finals.

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