Things are going to be changing in the Northwest Division. During the last three seasons, the only competitive teams have been the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Portland Trailblazers, while the Denver Nuggets, Minnesota Timberwolves and Utah Jazz have been trying their hands at the NBA lottery.
With all the interest the Timberwolves’ head coaching vacancy has been creating, it’s time to to rethink this division. The Northwest Division has pretty much been an afterthought in the NBA over recent seasons. Looking forward, this division is poised to be one of the most competitive divisions in the association.
Oklahoma City continues to have one of the most talented rosters in the NBA. The dynamic duo of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook has already taken the team to an NBA finals, and they’ve been one of the best organizations in basketball for the last half decade. Even if a worst-case scenario comes to fruition and Durant bolts in free agency, they’ll still have Westbrook, who has grown into a top-five player in the league.
Portland was “supposed” to fall off this season; they lost four starters from a season ago, including the center of their franchise, LaMarcus Aldridge. But Terry Stotts has done a masterful job coaching this new-look team, leading them to an impressive 44 wins and the No. 5 seed. The Trail Blazers will ride the talent and leadership of Damian Lillard and continue to improve.
The Jazz just missed out on reaching the playoffs this season. In fact, if they had been just a bit healthier, there’s no doubt they would have earned the eighth seed, if not more. Utah has a strong nucleus of Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Rudy Gobert and Alec Burks. Plus, the Jazz have solid young talent in Rodney Hood, Trey Lyles and Dante Exum growing behind them. This is a tough minded and scrappy team that will be in the mix again next season for a playoff berth.
Minnesota is drawing interest from the best coaches on the block. The upside with the Timberwolves is no joke; it is a question of when, not if, they take the leap towards championship contention. Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns are two young superstars which Minnesota will continue to build around. Ricky Rubio is a solid pass-heavy point guard, and Zach LaVine provides excitement in different ways off the bench. Minnesota has another top draft pick coming up, and this team will continue to grow around their stars.
Denver is much like Minnesota, a team with young stars and a ton of potential. Emmanuel Mudiay, Nikola Jokic and Will Barton should be the nucleus in which this team builds around. The Nuggets also have a proven veteran in Danilo Gallinari, who does everything except stay healthy. Most importantly, Denver has salary cap space and three first-round draft picks in the upcoming draft. If Tim Connelly hits on this offseason, the Nuggets could be back in the playoffs as soon as next season.
The Northwest is poised to become one of the best divisions in the NBA, and before long, it may produce the next NBA Champion.
Listen to more talk on the Northwest Division below …
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