The first exhibition games have been played and less than a month until the start of the NBA season! In the upcoming previews we look ahead per division and we highlight all the offseason moves of the teams. We’re moving on to the Northwest division.
2021-22 Northwest Division preview
1. Utah Jazz: 55-27
After the Jazz had an extremely good season last year, they were soon in the picture to also score high this year. After they lost to the Clippers and left the playoffs, the switch went quickly. This year is the year that it should be successful.
with stars Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert in the ranks, which are completed by Mike Conley Sr., Joe Ingles and co, the Jazz have a good chance of winning the division. By attracting Eric Pascal, Hassan Whiteside and Rudy Gay In addition, the Jazz definitely have a deep squad that is certainly no worse than last year.
PG: Mike Conley | SG: Donovan Mitchell | SF: Royce O’Neale | PF: Bodgan Bogdanovic | C: Rudy Gobert
This year’s starting grid is quite identical to last year’s. The selection of the Utah Jazz was already strong, but with the new additions it has now also been given more depth. Star players Gobert and Mitchell are still young (29 and 25 years old) and can get even better. In addition, Whiteside, Gay and Pascall are better players than the players who played in the same positions at the Jazz last year. However, the Western Conference has also become a bit stronger, so there won’t be a big jump in it. Still, the Jazz are favorites in the division and a top three ranking in the Western Conference is in it again this year.
2. Denver Nuggets: 49-33
After a solid season that resulted in a third-place finish in the Western Conference, the Nuggets faced the Blazers in the first round of the playoffs. The series was won thanks to the freshly chosen MVP Nikola Joki. The lap after that, the Suns hit the trail. This series went a little less favorably for the men of Mike Malone. They lost no less than 4-0, and that is how a successful season came to an end. After all, no one cared more about the Nuggets’ chances after Jamal Murray’s injury, an injury that eliminated him for the rest of the year.
In the offseason, the Nuggets did not exactly take it easy: five players were signed. The biggest name was Aaron Gordon, who signed a new contract. Also JaMychal Green and Will Barton chose to extend their term with the Nuggets. Austin Rivers and Jeff Green also took the step towards Denver.
PG: Monte Morris | SG: Will Barton | SF: Michael Porter Jr. | PF: Aaron Gordon | C: Nikola Jokic
Due to Murray’s injury, it is backcourt weakened considerably, which makes for a big puzzle for Mike Malone. With Rivers as backup you have a start, but you don’t have a replacement for Murray so quickly. So a big loss. Still, we expect something from the Nuggets: ”MPJ” is a year older and with his new contract in his pocket can now really show why he was chosen as raw talent. Aaron Gordon has now also been able to complete a full preparation, and with Jokic in your team you are always good for a win or 40-45. All in all, the loss of Murray will be great, but the potential this year is greater than the loss.
3. Portland Trail Blazers: 43-39
After the hopeful end of the bubble in Orlando, the high expectations for last year came. Those high expectations didn’t quite come true, but the Blazers still finished in sixth place in the strong west. With this they just avoided the play-in tournament. That she ended up in that place actually belonged to one person: Damian Lillard. After failing to make a really deep playoff run for the umpteenth time, the trade rumors Lillard wants to get out of Portland. The Lakers, Sixers, Nets and even the Warriors were mentioned. It was the job of General Manager Neil Olshey to make sure the superstar stayed, and the team has a chance to compete for the marbles.
The big name didn’t materialize, but there was plenty of news from Portland. So left Zach Collins (Spurs), Carmelo Anthony (Lakers), Enes Kanter (Celtics) and Harry Giles (clips). On the other hand, stayed Norman Powell and came Larry Nance Jr. through a trade (for eg. Derrick Jones Jr.), Cody Zeller and Ben McLemore also signed a contract with the Blazers.
PG: Damian Lillard | SG: CJ McCollum | SF: Norman Powell | PF: Robert Covington | C: Jusuf Nurkic
The expected line up is about the same as last year. The only difference is that Norman Powell starts in the small forward position instead of Rodney Hood. The bank is slightly less than last year, which could cause a problem. Compare last year’s players with today’s players: Anthony v Snell, Collins/Kanter v Zeller. So talent has certainly been lost, leaving even more on the shoulders of Lillard and his eternal companion CJ McCollum come. Still, with the two guards, the Blazers remain a top team that will win more than enough games.
4. Minnesota Timberwolves: 33-49
The easiest thing to do with the Minnesota Timberwolves is to recall the recent past. Reasonable stars that don’t come out well enough in the end. The last playoff run was in 2018 with Jimmy Butler and Coach Thibs. The only one who also played on that team was Karl Anthony Towns. And that’s where the positive aspect of this season begins. Towns is just a all star caliber player who, with the right players around him, is a really great talent. After last year D’Angelo Russell was achieved, expectations were high. Those expectations were clearly set too high. Of Anthony Edwards the Timberwolves have their next iron in the fire with the potential to become a superstar. Whether that will happen this season remains to be seen.
PG: D’Angelo Russell | SG: Malik Beasley | SF: Anthony Edwards | PF: Jaden McDaniels | C: Karl-Anthony Towns
After another failed season, it is again hoped for Minnesota to improve this season. Now that Edwards knows what the NBA is all about, and with the addition of veteran players like Patrick Beverley there is that chance. Still, the most important aspect remains the trio of Towns-Russel-Edwards, and how they will develop. Of Josh Okogie and Patrick Beverley they have players who have enough experience to contribute off the bench, but whether it is enough for the playoff in the strong west does not seem realistic.
5. Oklahoma City Thunder: 26-56
After the departure of Chris Paul last year it quickly became clear what kind of influence he had on the young guard of the Thunder. After a place in the playoffs, things went wrong quickly and often last season, with a 22-50 record as a result. Yet that was a slightly distorted picture, because Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was not allowed to participate in the last part of the year to be able to to fuel. A little more is expected of them this year. Gilgeous-Alexander is a year older and ”poku” is a bit more experienced. However, it will mostly stay that way. The west has gotten a lot better than the Thunder have improved. However, GM Sam Prestic don’t be sad about that, because in recent years he business has made of collecting first round draft picks. Waiting for a trade which is going to be made with which they send everything they have for that one player…
PG: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander | SG: Luguentz Dort | SF: Alexei Pokusevsky | PF: Darius Bazley | C: Isiah Roby
The Thunder will continue on the same footing as last year: giving young talent the opportunity to become stars. Shai is already one of them, but this season in Oklahoma they also expect a lot from Pokusevski and Bazley. However, the team will only run on the offensive qualities of SGA. It is also questionable whether Presti has had enough of all the draft picks and wants his star to play for an entire season, or whether he will stop playing at the end of the season. A place in the lower regions of the West is realistic, but who knows, the youngsters may rise above themselves.
Finally, a few division awards. Damian Lillard is elected as the division’s MVP, finishing ahead of Jokic. Jordan Clarkson is the obvious sixth man of the division, but could be challenged by Anfernee Simmons. Utah Jazz General Manager Justin Zanik receives executive of the year award. Furthermore, the Jazz are two more times in the prizes. Coach Quin Snyder will be the coach of the division, while Rudy Gobert is the most logical choice for the defensive player of the division award. Finally, a prize for the Thunder, who are the rookie of the division with Josh Giddey.
Most Valuable Player: Damian Lillard
Rookie of the Year: Josh Giddey
Defensive Player of the Year: Rudy Gobert
6th Man of the Year: Jordan Clarkson
Coach of the Year: Quin Snyder
Executive of the Year: Justin Zanik