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Road To A Championship: NBA Northwest Division Predictions

After finally finishing up the Eastern Conference, we will move to the Western Conference and start with the Northwest division. 

Riddled with offseason moves and mix-ups, the Northwest has turned into one of the more interesting divisions in the NBA. Ruled by star power, this division has some growing teams that will look to showcase their talents in the upcoming season. Let’s start things off with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Oklahoma City Thunder

Oklahoma City was home to one of the best acquisitions of the summer. In their trade with the Indiana Pacers, Oklahoma City acquired, superstar, Paul George, and found a way to still shed salary. After only letting go Victor Oladipo and Damontis Sabonis, the Thunder are in possession of two of the best superstars in the league. However, this may only be a one-year rental due to the fact that George is “hell-bent” on bolting to Los Angeles next season. George has said though that his interest is “overstated” and he would be stupid to leave a winning organization. 

Beyond the Paul George addition, Oklahoma City is still home to reigning league MVP, Russell Westbrook. Coming off a record-breaking season, Westbrook will look to prove that he is capable of not only playing alongside another superstar but thriving alongside another superstar. Beyond that, however, the Thunder are not a very deep team and will enter the 2017-18 season with the following lineup.

PG- Russell Westbrook

SG- Andre Roberson

SF- Paul George

PF- Patrick Patterson

C- Steven Adams

We have already discussed him, but Russell Westbrook will be coming off a season which saw him average 31.6 points, 10.4 assists, and 10.7 rebounds per game. That is possibly the greatest regular season in NBA history, by a man who does what he wants. Andre Roberson, however, can be relied on for tough defense, but not much else. Last season, Roberson averaged just 6.6 points while shooting less than 25% from three and just 42.3% from the charity stripe. A horrific season from a one-dimensional player. Paul George is a 4x all star who is coming off possibly the best season of his career. Averaging 23.7 points and 6.6 rebounds per game while shooting nearly 40% from behind the arc showcased how valuable his talents can be to a franchise. Patrick Patterson is the newest addition to the franchise, as he decided to leave Toronto and take his talents to Oklahoma. Although Patterson was caught in a bit of a slump last season, finishing the year averaging just over 6.8 points per game and shooting only 40% from the field. Many believe he is still capable of knocking down a jumper and being a solid role player to a championship team. Steven Adams will never blow you out of the park but is still a top 15 center in the league, despite the most memorable moment of his short career being kicked in the crotch by Draymond Green.

Season Prediction: 48-34

Image result for oklahoma city thunder paul george

Utah Jazz

The Utah Jazz had one of the worst offseasons in the NBA. After losing the Gordon Hayward sweepstakes, Utah was quickly turned into a lottery team once again. Hayward averaged 21.9 points per game and 5.5 rebounds per game last season while also playing in his first NBA All-Star game. However, Utah did attain pass-first point guard, Ricky Rubio, who can easily get the ball to Rudy Gobert. Gobert will now be the focal point of the Utah Jazz and will have a great chance at earning his first all-star selection on a team that will most likely fall short of the playoffs. Utah will return Joe Ingles who was a solid role player last year and is a great playmaker. However, the Jazz just will not have the makeup of a playoff team to start out next season and will most likely start to regress. With that said, let’s dive into the Jazz’s 2017-18 starting lineup.

PG- Ricky Rubio

SG- Joe Ingles

SF- Rodney Hood

PF- Jonas Jerebko

C- Rudy Gobert

Rubio is one of the leagues best passers and defenders while also coming off one of the best seasons his short career has seen. He averaged a career best, 11.1 points and 9.1 assists per game. However, he shot just over 40% from the field and 30.6% from behind the arc. Ingles also had a career best season and was one of the leagues best sharpshooters, shooting 44.1% from three. Although not invited to the 2017 all star three point contest, Ingles will likely see huge improvements in all of these categories due to now being one of the most reliable scorers on the team. Rodney Hood is a growing star in this league who has a tough scoring mentality and could be a multi time all star by the end of his career. However, Hood shot just over 40% from the field and will need to drastically improve his efficiency in order to reach his full potential. Jonas Jerebko is by far the weakest piece of this lineup and will hopefully get bounced prior to the regular season opener. Last season, Jerebko averaged 3.8 points per game on a competitive Celtics team. As I discussed before, Rudy Gobert is a preliminary all star who will look to finally break into that realm next season, of the best centers in this league. Putting up a solid 14 and 12 stat line last season, Gobert is widely regarded as the best defensive center in the NBA.

Season Prediction: 36-46

Image result for utah jazz rudy gobert

Portland Trail Blazers

Can Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum work together in the same backcourt? After an impressive 44 win season that saw CJ McCollum win most improved player of the year, Portland drastically fell off and just barely edged the Denver Nuggets for the eighth seed last season. However, Portland was swept by the eventual champion, Golden State Warriors. Portlands star player, Damian Lillard has been overlooked over the past few seasons and the struggling efforts of his team are not helping his case. The downfall of Portland can be contributed to their defense, as they finished last year with the 5th worst defense and the 16th best offense in the league. Although Portland did make the playoffs, last season will always be looked at as a failure and in order to improve their team, they will need to put last season in their rear view mirror. The following is the Portland Trail Blazers projected 2017-18 starting lineup.

PG- Damian Lillard

SG- CJ McCollum

SF- Maurice Harkless

PF- Al-Farouq Aminu

C- Jusuf Nurkic

Damian Lillard ended last year averaging 27.0 points per game while still dishing out 5.9 assists per game. His takeover ability is like no other as he can both delegate and lead his team to wins. Although he has been snubbed from the all-star game the past few seasons, Lillard is still an all star Calabar player. CJ McCollum is Lillard’s backcourt mate, who has transformed into one of the leagues premier shooting guards. Finishing off last season averaging 23.0 points while shooting over 42% from three proved that he is an inside and outside threat offensively. Maurice Harkless is a solid 10.0 point per game scorer who is capable of complimenting your star players without taking shots away from them. Al-Farouq Aminu is not an incredible scorer but does average almost 8.0 rebounds a game from the power forward position. Jusuf Nurkic is a consistent player who has been riddled with injury problems. However, over the course of Nurkics three-year career, he has averaged 8.5 points per game on 47% shooting. This is a Trail Blazers team looking for revenge after an appalling year.

Season Prediction: 38-44

Image result for portland trail blazers team 2017

Denver Nuggets

With the addition of Paul Millsap, Denver will look to surge into the Western Conference playoffs and make a run. Although Millsap isn’t the flashiest player in the world, his skills have propelled him to a successful career that will look to continue in Denver. He is not the only skillful front-court piece in the Nuggets organization, however, as Nikola Jokic proved to everyone that he is capable of leading a successful team. Although the Nuggets fell short of the playoffs last season, they fought tooth and nail down the stretch, but it ultimately came down to matchups late in the season. Denver will also wait to see if  Emmanual Mudiay and Jamal Murray can properly develop and become solid point guards who can compliment Jokic and Millsap. With that said, the Nuggets will start the following players for their 2017-18 season opener.

PG- Jameer Nelson

SG- Gary Harris

SF- Wilson Chandler

PF- Paul Millsap

C- Nikola Jokic

Jameer Nelson is simply a stand in until Jamal Murray or Emmanual Mudiay can prove that they can take that starting spot and compliment Millsap and Jokic. Last season, Nelson averaged a solid 9.2 points and just over 5.0 assists a game. Gary Harris is an emerging young star who is coming off the best season of his short career. Averaging nearly 15.0 points per game on over 50% shooting, Harris is on a quest to prove himself in this league. Wilson Chandler, although quickly aging, has never looked better on the court. Averaging 15.7 points per game, Chandler was in the discussion for sixth man of the year last season but probably played too many minutes to be considered for the award. Millsap we touched on earlier, but just quickly, Paul Millsap is coming off a season that saw him average over 18 points per game and 7.7 rebounds a game, while also earning his fourth career all star selection. However, it’s clear that Nikola Jokic is the future of this franchise as he averaged over 16.7 points per game along with nine rebounds and five assists. He is truly a young center version of Russell Westbrook.

Season Prediction: 43-39

Image result for denver nuggets jokic

Minnesota Timberwolves

The Minnesota Timberwolves have dominated offseason headlines. After trading for superstar guard, Jimmy Butler, Minnesota made it clear that they are now looking to take that next step in their progression and steal a fourth or fifth seed in the playoffs. However, Butler wasn’t their only offseason signing, as the Timberwolves also inked Jamal Crawford and Taj Gibson to new deals, giving them some solid scoring in their lineups. Crawford, the most decorated sixth man of all time, has displayed his capability of leading a bench unit with past Clippers teams. Gibson will be a nice compliment to Butler and Towns, scoring double digits consistently throughout the season. However, the original cornerstones of the franchise in Towns and Wiggins are still in place, and both can produce 20+ points per game offensively. Although Wiggins numbers may drop a bit due to the lack of shots he will get this season, if he can stay efficient, Andrew Wiggins should have no problem adjusting to this new pecking order. The following is the 2017-18 Minnesota Timberwolves starting lineup.

PG- Jeff Teague

SG- Jimmy Butler

SF- Andrew Wiggins

PF- Taj Gibson

C- Karl Anthony-Towns

Jeff Teague was another offseason signing for the Timberwolves. Last season, Teague averaged over 15 points per game along with almost 8 assists. A former all-star, Jeff Teague is still a solid point guard who is capable of being a competent starter on a playoff team. As discussed before, Jimmy Butler is the Timberwolves superstar who will lead the team both offensively and defensively. Last season alone, Butler scored 24 points per game on 45% shooting. Not to mention the fact that Butler will be playing under his former coach, Tom Thibedeau once again. Butler and Thibedeau saw great success together in Chicago and will look to continue their dominance in Minnesota. Andrew Wiggins scored nearly 24 points per game last year along with 4.0 rebounds a game. However, questions have aroused about Wiggins intensity on the defensive end, and whether or not he is committed to both sides of the ball. As I mentioned before, Gibson is a solid double digit scorer who is also an elite defender in the post. Although not seen as a big signing, Gibson will help this teams intensity and spirit on and off the court. Towns will be the second scoring option on this team, after averaging over 25.0 points on 54.2% shooting last season. This is a Timberwolves team built for the future.

Season Prediction: 48-34

Image result for minnesota timberwolves jimmy butler

 

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4 thoughts on “Road To A Championship: NBA Northwest Division Predictions Leave a comment

  1. I totally agree that the Northwest division will be tough and competitive to win in, but I think the Nuggets have the capability to win more games. Milsap and Jokic will be a great fit for each other. Also, I think Mudiay will take the starting spot, and Murray might play the shooting guard position coming off the bench alongside Nelson.

    Liked by 1 person

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