Gabe Botero | October 2nd, 2019
The regular season is almost here! I personally can’t wait and here at The Scorecrow, we’re going to break down each team based on division. You won’t want to miss these articles. So be on the lookout for your favorite team and what we think about them. This article is going to look at the Northwest Division including the Minnesota Timberwolves, Denver Nuggets, Portland Trail Blazers, Oklahoma City Thunder, and the Utah Jazz. This division was interesting last year but during the offseason, some recent moves made it even more interesting. Let’s jump right in!
Check out all of our NBA Division Previews: Atlantic | Central | Southeast | Northwest | Pacific | Southwest
I’m tired of hoping for a breakout year. The amount of faith and hope that I put in a certain number one draft pick, I’m looking at you Mr. Andrew Wiggins, was only rivaled by the amount of disappointment that I saw in his on-court performance. The ultimate question for this team is will Wiggins finally wake up for his sake, his team’s sake, and for his fantasy value’s sake. He has the potential he just seems to not want to put in the work. Yeah, he can post his workout video but if Hoodie Melo taught us anything its that looks can be deceiving.
But there remains still a sliver of hope. The smallest of slivers. Wiggins showed a surprising amount of self-awareness at the team’s media day saying that he has heard the criticism about his performance, and he admitted that they are right. For someone who tries not to listen to the media that much, maybe this new introspective Wiggins will give him the motivation he needs to take his game to the next level.
Speaking of wasting potential let’s talk about Karl-Anthony Towns. The Timberwolves have done little to nothing to surround him with players that can take the pressure of scoring off Towns and this offseason proves it. Similar to the Phoenix Suns, they are wasting the team’s time they have with their young star. It’s only a matter of time before he moves on to a team like the Golden State Warriors, Milwaukee Bucks, or Brooklyn Nets. The Minnesota Timberwolves picked up Jake Layman and Jordan Bell, both of whom are great additions to the team. Jeff Teague and Robert Covington decided to stick around for another season and after losing Derrick Rose to the Detroit Pistons, Jeff Teague seems to be irreplaceable (but he is). Remember when Jimmy Butler was on the team? That was last year. Wasn’t that fun?
Growing pains. Think of Jamal Murray as an eleven-year-old driving a Ferrari. The talent and strength are there, he just needs to grow a little bit more mentally and with his basketball IQ. Now don’t get me wrong, Murray has made leaps and bounds on this team and he is one of my favorites to watch but he still needs to mature. Nikola Jokic is in a similar situation. This could be an MVP caliber season for him, but he’s got to play smarter and not let the other centers in the NBA get in his head. Michael Porter Jr. has a chance for Rookie of the Year; I’m excited to see him play the most, I think.
The Nuggets were able to trade for Jerami Grant. A player who might have been the third scoring option behind Russell Westbrook and Paul George on the Oklahoma City Thunder. He’s an efficient scorer and that hard to find these days. Other cast members that will help this team out are Miles Plumlee, Will Barton, and old man Paul Millsap. That’s right, I said it. Paul Millsap is old, but guess what? He can still play good defense. The Nuggets lost Isaiah Thomas. I too forgot he was on the team.
It all boils down to whether or not the Denver Nuggets can get more wins than they did last year. Yeah, number one seeds are great but how about a Finals appearance? Making some threes wouldn’t be that bad either though. I’ll settle for shooting more threes.
Portland Trail Blazers:
If the Portland Trail Blazers could play with the same caliber as Damian Lillard’s rap career and CJ McCollum’s podcast they would easily make the Finals. Well, maybe the Western Conference Finals.
In a surprising move, the Trail Blazers were able to trade for Hassan Whiteside and based on the social media posts, Whiteside was much happier to be on a team of “shooters” than the Blazers were about getting Whiteside. But that seems about par for the course. The Blazers have always been a quieter team, save for the diss tracks (most recently Shaq’s). They show up and they do their work. This past year they were great! Keeping that momentum is key. Rodney Hood is a great player and I’m happy that he resigned.
Plenty of leaders on this team and it seems that McCollum is ready to step into more of a leadership role. Both he and Lillard are signed for more years in Portland, they should get a championship or at least a Finals appearance very soon. Don’t forget that Jusuf Nurkic and Pau Gasol is also on this team.
Oklahoma City Thunder:
Don’t write them off just yet. They have a big three in Chris Paul, Steven Adams, and Danilo Gallinari. This is the making of a great team: a dominant center, a pass-first point guard and a pretty good behind the arc shooter. Honestly, I’m a bit surprised that so many people think so low of them. Let’s put it in perspective: If they were in the Eastern Conference, they would make the Playoff. Actually, I think that says more about the Eastern Conference than the Thunder’s current team. But I digress.
The rest of the team and definitely a supporting cast. Nerlens Noel, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Dennis Shroder. They have their streaks, but Shai is the one to watch from that group. The Thunder picked up Mike Muscala and like a million draft picks. They can’t use them all so expect them to be used as trade bait. Is it too soon to remind the Thunder’s fans that they lost Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Jerami Grant? By the way, Grant said that “it was almost good to get out of a sinking ship.” Yikes. No love lost there.
It’s ok. My Charlotte Hornets also let their star ride off into the sunset. We can cry together if you want.
It was weird not seeing Westbrook say “next question” at the Thunder’s media day but Shai seems to have stolen the hearts of fans, reporters, and he’s set up to steal the show in the years to come. See what I did there?
Easily the most fun team to watch in this division and arguably the league. They were fun to watch before but now that they were able to steal Bojan Bogdanovic, Mike Conley, Jeff Green, and Emmanuel Mudiay, well let’s just say the vintage jerseys aren’t the main reason I’ll be watching. I have this Utah team going to the Western Conference Finals and I’ll stand by it until I’m proven wrong. The team already has Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert, and Joe Ingles all of which just finished playing in the FIBA World Cup. They didn’t have the chance to take the offseason off like some of their counterparts and I think this was the best thing for them. They’re hungry. They want the Championship.
The team let Ricky Rubio and Derrick Favors sign to different teams both of which were under-appreciated. Rubio in the assists category and Favors in the defensive category. But the team has the upgraded versions of said players in Mike Conley and Rudy Gobert. The biggest thing that stood out to me at their media day was the sense of chemistry that all of the players had with each other.
Chemistry is good but I think they like playoff wins more.
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