Three divisions down and three to go. We are the covering another division from the West Coast which is the Northwest Division. For the previous season previews, click the links below. Season is tomorrow so enjoy before tipoff!
Denver Nuggets (ended 2015-16 11th in the Western Conference, 33-49):
This team is mostly the same from last season minus the loss of DJ Augustin. Roles have changed but this team should be lottery bound yet again. Emmanuel Mudiay should have a breakout year after struggling the first year. He should have more poise in leading the offense and partnering with Mike Malone. The improvements will come from Mudiay/Barton/Jokic who seems to be positioned as the new core going forward. Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari both being healthy will anchor the SF position with stability until a new starter is groomed from the young prospects.
Front office needs to figure out the Kenneth Faried situation since his role had the team has minimized. His contract definitely needs to be addressed if he is no longer handling starter minutes. Faried’s limitations on offense make him an undersized Tyson Chandleresque player. This year needs to be looked at like a development year since the playoffs is a long shot. Shed unnecessary contracts and acquire draft picks is the goal.
30-52 is my prediction for the season.
Minnesota Timberwolves (ended 2015-16 13th in the Western Conference, 29-53):
I am quite excited to see this team play this year. This is due to their new coach Tom Thibodeau who has taken a coaching sabbatical to improve his technique. We have a squad of athletic players at every position with a coach who preaches defense. I can only expect vast improvements on the team synergy and more Ws in the win column. Andrew Wiggins and Zach Lavine will eventually be joined by Kris Dunn who was drafted in the 2016 Draft. How they transition from the Rubio era to the Dunn era should be something to watch closely if you are a Timberwolves. I am surprised Rubio could never improve on his shooting which was honestly his only drawback.
Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns are the cornerstones of this team. The team only goes as far as they can take them. This offseason Wiggins has focused on ballhandling and shooting with the desire to become an all star. Towns has worked with KG and other older big men to improve for next season. If the training pays off, the Wolves just might sneak into the postseason this year.
40-42 is my prediction for this season.
Oklahoma City Thunder (ended 2015-16 3rd in the Western Conference, 55-27):
Losing KD is a huge blow for any organization. You have one man who can stifle that blow who is goes by the name Russell Westbrook. This entire season will be Westbrook set out to destroy rims/backboards/hearts in cities across the land. I don’t expect the Thunder to miss the playoffs this year. I do expect Westbrook to be in the MVP conversation. He will have triple doubles and will lead the team to victory nights on end. This is the Wild West so this team will be fighting with juggernauts way more often than their Eastern counterparts. I expect lost losses but a new style of play from this team. The KD35 era is over but the RW0 era has arrived. I am honestly excited to see the unleashed Westbrook in the NBA this year.
49-33 is my prediction for this season.
Portland Trail Blazers (ended 2015-16 5th in the Western Conference, 44-38):
Last season Dame “Dolla” Lillard led the Blazers to the postseason. To this day, I would have never figured that to be the case for that team. They lost FOUR starters and had a ton of young players who didn’t have that much playing experience in the league. Somehow they made it in the west which makes me believe they can do it all over again this year. They resigned C.J. McCollum, Maurice Harkless, Myers Leonard in addition to adding Evan Turner and Fetus Ezeli. I am not a fan of Evan Turner’s game but his time in Boston turned that around a bit. He is an additional playmaker who understands the flow of the game. Turner is certainly the X-factor this season and I feel it could actually work with the backcourt they have right now. Another person to watch is Fetus and how he fits with the bigs on this team. Can he stand out and earn the starting nod or will he be a backup player similar to this time in Golden State. Finally, let’s hope the decision to match Allen Crabbe doesn’t come back to bite front office in the foot. You signed back two SFs and have only so much playing time.
46-36 is my predication for this season.
Utah Jazz (ended 2015-16 9th in the Western Conference, 40-42):
I have not been sold on the Utah Jazz in a long time but this year might be the year they do some serious damage. They acquired some wily veterans to assist in the development of young players. George Hill manning the PG position along with Iso Joe and Boris Diaw supporting off the bench make this team deadly based on depth. So many weapons 1-10 on this team and they might make a huge jump in the W columns due to their defense (courtesy of Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert).
48-34 is my prediction for this season.