The NBA’s Northwest Division has so many great players. Other divisions in the Western Conference, especially the Pacific, have more of the very biggest names, but the Northwest also possesses stars in spades.
Damian Lillard, Nikola Jokic, Rudy Gobert, Karl-Anthony Towns, Mike Conley, C.J. McCollum, Chris Paul, Donovan Mitchell, Jamal Murray and Steven Adams are just a few of the division’s notable players.
How will those players contribute to the Northwest Division standings in 2019-20? Let’s preview the five teams and their outlooks and give our predictions.
Northwest Division Team Previews
Utah Jazz (Best Odds: +100 at BetOnline & SportsBetting)
The Jazz had an excellent offseason. The team is a known defensive juggernaut, but its offensive explosiveness had been questioned over the past few years. The squad lacked versatile players on that end, and talented young guard Donovan Mitchell was overworked the past two seasons.
The team acquired Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic over the summer to help ease Mitchell’s load. Both guys should average somewhere between 14 to 18 points per game while providing solid outside shooting.
Does Utah have what it takes to win the NBA title? They just might. I do wonder if the squad has enough truly elite talent to win the championship. Star center Rudy Gobert also needs to prove he can be a bit more effective outside of the painted area on both ends of the floor.
- Record prediction: 55-27
Denver Nuggets (Best Odds: +175 at BetOnline & SportsBetting)
The Nuggets blossomed into a upper-tier Western Conference playoff team ahead of schedule in 2018-19. They made the jump from 46 wins and the West’s No. 9 seed to 54 wins and the No. 2 seed in just one season.
They should again improve in 2019-20 behind a young, improving roster and the additions of Jerami Grant (trade) and Michael Porter Jr. (injury return). I see the Nuggets as arguably the deepest team in the NBA. Superstar center Nikola Jokic is easily the best player on the squad, but Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, Paul Millsap, Grant, Monte Morris, Malik Beasley, Will Barton, Porter, Mason Plumlee, Juancho Hernangomez, Torrey Craig are all at least respectable rotation players. Denver is very well-equipped to deal with injuries that may come up throughout the season.
Like Utah, however, there is a definite question whether Denver has enough truly elite talent to compete with the Los Angeles teams and the Houston Rockets in the playoffs.
- Record prediction: 54-28
Portland Trail Blazers (Best Odds: +600 at BetOnline & SportsBetting)
The Trail Blazers are developing the reputation as a team that people always write off unfairly. Portland’s preseason win total over/under over the past four seasons has been just 39.6. However, they have averaged 46.8 wins in those campaigns and made the playoffs in all four seasons.
This season, Portland still has its Damian Lillard-C.J. McCollum backcourt fortifying the team. Lillard is a top-10 player in the NBA, and McCollum is a fringe All-Star.
The rest of the team is in flux. Gone from the rotation are Enes Kanter, Mo Harkless, Al-Farouq Aminu, Meyers Leonard, Shabazz Napier, Evan Turner, Seth Curry and Jake Layman. Hassan Whiteside, Kent Bazemore, Anfernee Simons, Mario Hezonja and Anthony Tolliver will join the rotation.
That’s a lot of turnover, which is partially why I see the Blazers taking a six-game step back in the standings.
- Record prediction: 47-35
Oklahoma City Thunder (Best odds: +2000 at BetOnline & SportsBetting)
“Are we sure the Thunder aren’t still a playoff team? Chris Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari and Steven Adams is a really nice core on paper!”
I’ve heard this sort of comment several times this offseason. However, it’s important to remember that Paul is declining at 34 years old and he has missed an average of 23 games in his last three seasons. Gallinari has played in just 62 percent of his team’s total games throughout his 11-year career. Can the core stay healthy?
The biggest factor hindering the Thunder, however, is a lack of continuity. Most of the projected Western Conference playoff teams are bringing back at least two of their top four players from last season. The departures of Paul George, Russell Westbrook and Jerami Grant represent a big portion of the team’s talent and impact from last season.
- Record prediction: 35-47
Minnesota Timberwolves (Best odds: +1400 at BetOnline & SportsBetting)
Frustration has to be setting in for Karl-Anthony Towns. The Timberwolves’ superstar center continues to put up big numbers efficiently, but he just doesn’t have the supporting cast necessary for a playoff run. The Wolves have lots of money tied up in bad or at least mediocre contracts through the next few seasons, which means their opportunities to sign or trade for top-tier players could be limited.
However, Minnesota won’t be terrible. The Wolves won 36 games last year behind Towns in a slightly weaker West, but they had bad injury luck. Unfortunately, though, the squad will miss contributions from Derrick Rose, Taj Gibson, Dario Saric and Tyus Jones, and I don’t know if the replacements (Shabazz Napier, Treveon Graham, Tyrone Wallace, Jarrett Culver, Jake Layman, Noah Vonleh and Jordan Bell) can make up for the departures.
- Record prediction: 33-49
Our Preview’s Northwest Division Betting Suggestions, Predictions & Picks
I like the Nuggets’ odds a lot here, and I recommend taking their odds of +175 with BetOnline or SportsBetting. They are a pretty safe bet to win at least 50 games due to their depth and improving young talent.
The Jazz should be really good, but they do have a bit more variance because two of their top three offensive options are new acquisitions and there could be an adjustment period. My projected one-win difference isn’t enough to offset the difference between +100 and +175 odds.
A nice hedge bet to pair with the Nuggets would be a Blazers bet of +600 with BetOnline or SportsBetting. While I have them several wins below the Jazz and Nuggets, they do have some upside if Whiteside fits in well and young players Zach Collins and Anfernee Simons tap into their potential.