During the 2018-19 NBA season, only one other division was as successful as the Northwest Division. To mirror the Atlantic Division in the East, the Northwest also sent four teams to the playoffs. While some things have changed this offseason for the division, their level of play will remain the same. The competition in the Western Conference will be tough. The Lakers have improved, the Golden State Warriors lost talent, and the Houston Rockets have gained one of the best players in the NBA. However, it’s a possibility, the WCF may include a team from the Northwest in the 2019-20 NBA season.
Here are the Predictions for the standings in the Northwest Division for the 2019-20 NBA season.
Portland Trail Blazers
One year it all has to come together for the Trail Blazers. With Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum leading the charge, the Blazers have always flirted with greatness. But either an injury or bad luck has set them back. In 2019, the Blazers will enter the season with their best team in years. The starters are solid with Rodney Hood and Zack Collins joining the lineup, but it’s the second unit that made the most upgrades.
With the additions of Pau Gasol and Hassan Whiteside, the interior will be a force even if Jusuf Nurkic goes down, yet again. McCollum has suffered his share of injuries and now the Blazers have options in place just in case with Kent Bazemore, plus the option to swing Hood over to SG. The defense should see an improvement from an 18th ranking and their rebounding will see a boost as well. The Blazers are sneaky good.
The Nuggets could be the new team to beat in the Western Conference. Despite not making it out of the second round last season, their future is bright. The problem for the rest of the league is that their future might be now. With Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray leading the charge, the Nuggets finished 6th in points allowed and 20th in points scored in 2018. If Gary Harris and Will Barton can hit from the perimeter consistently, the Nuggets could find themselves upsetting the Los Angeles Lakers or Houston Rockets in the playoffs.
The Nuggets are deep across the board. What Jokic desires is the old Paul Millsap. If he can return to his Atlanta Hawks days, the Nuggets will have a solid foundation in the frontcourt. The bench is a mixture of potential and versatility with Mason Plumlee, Jerami Grant, and Michael Porter Jr. Even with that versatility, the Nuggets will need to improve on the offensive end.
The Jazz are expected to make a fourth straight trip to the playoffs on the heels of defense. With Mike Conley on board as the lead guard now, this will allow Donovan Mitchell the freedom to become a James Harden type player. On the defensive end, the Jazz will be strong in the paint with Rudy Gobert, Jeff Green, and Ed Davis. Bojan Bogdanovic brings perimeter play with averages of 18.0 points while hitting .425 percent of his three-point attempts.
If the Jazz can stay healthy, they will not be a team anyone wants to see in the first round. The question is– what Conley will they get? Will they get the scorer or facilitator? For the Jazz, it will be about finding someone to help Mitchell when defenses begin to lock in on him. On the same note, Mitchell must take the next step as well to become that superstar.
This is the season where the Minnesota Timberwolves must put it all on the line. With Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, and Jeff Teague, they can longer make excuses. If the Wolves fail to show their potential by the NBA trade deadline, the team will be dismantled. It shouldn’t come to that. Too many distractions and injuries put the Wolves in bad situations and they weren’t able to dig themselves out of the hole Jimmy Butler put them in.
But a new season brings new hope and this core the Timberwolves have now, just may be able to make some noise this coming season. Scoring the ball should be easy, but it’s on the defensive end where they should make their noise. With Robert Covington there from the start, plus Teague, the Wolves should be well-improved on the defensive end of the court.
Oklahoma City Thunder
So much can change in one offseason. The Thunder went from having two top 10 players in the NBA on their roster to having none. Even with the addition of Chris Paul to replace Russell Westbrook, the Thunder will struggle. Can Paul lead? Yes, but not the kind of leader the Thunder needs. Who will do the heavy lifting?
Is this the season Steven Adams breaks out his hidden offensive talents? Paul will put up 20+ points per night but who else? Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari could explode due to an increase in touches. The Thunder will go through their struggles. If they decide to move Paul, the season could go by the waist-side quickly. The Thunder are in a division where 3-4 teams could find themselves in the playoffs and them on the outside looking in.