What the hell happened in the Northwest division this offseason? In this post, we will take a look at each team in the division. We will answer if the team got better or worse, and we will also try to explain what the hell they are doing in 5 words or less.
Let’s dive in.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Offseason described in 5 words or less: Just tank baby, just tank.
IN: Josh Giddey, Derrick Favors, Trey Mann, Vit Krejci, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Aaron Wiggins
OUT: Tony Bradly, Moses Brown, Josh Hall, Jaylen Hoard, Al Horford, Svi Mykhailiuk
The Thunder find themselves in tanking purgatory. Sam Presti and company are doing all the things bad teams should be doing. They are taking on bad contracts in exchange for more lottery tickets, giving their young players meaningful minutes, and re-signing the players that A) Have a long-term place on the roster or B) Can help mentor younger players. Unfortunately for the Thunder, the ping pong balls didn’t yield a pick higher than No. 6 in the 2021 draft.
After re-signing Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (young player who will play a long-term role on the roster) and Mike Muscala (veteran who will help mentor younger players), the Thunder are perfectly positioned to do the exact same thing they did last season—win one too many games and screw their draft position.
Portland Trail Blazers
Offseason described in 5 words or less: When is Damian Lillard traded?
IN: Greg Brown III, Larry Nance, Jr., Ben McLemore, Cody Zeller, Tony Snell
OUT: Carmelo Anthony, Zach Collins, Harry Giles, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Derrick Jones, Enes Kanter, T.J. Leaf
If the Thunder are stuck in tanking purgatory, the Blazers are stuck in regular ol’ purgatory—easily the worst kind of purgatory. The team has a true superstar in Damian Lillard who it can’t seem to support well enough to build a title contender around. Ironically, Lillard has requested that the team build a winner around him or else ...
If that’s not crappy enough, the Blazers also had that weird thing happen where it signed Chauncey Billups to coach the team (because Lillard wanted Billups?), only for the signing to be scrutinized by Lillard(?????). There are bad vibes in Portland and Lillard’s departure seems inevitable. Lillard is tied to the Blazers through 2024-25 season. He is going to be traded, the only question is when will it actually happen?
Offseason described in 5 words or less: Another year away at least
IN: Patrick Beverley, Leandro Bolmaro, Taurean Prince, Nathan Knight
OUT: Jarret Culver, Juancho Hernangomez, Ricky Rubio, Ed Davis
The T-Wolves are a team I want to like. I want to like the nucleus of KAT, D’Angelo Russell, Anthony Edwards, and Malik Beasley. I don’t know how Edwards and Beasley fit together. I don’t know how the T-Wolves overtake any of the playoff teams from a season ago—and I don’t know that the T-Wolves can make the playoffs any time soon. I also don’t know if KAT will want to wait it out long enough for this nucleus to be good enough. KAT is very good. Edwards can be very good. If Anthony ascends, Beasley accepts a sixth-man role, and the team locks in defensively, the T-Wolves might just be able to compete for a play-in opportunity. I feel like we will be saying the same thing next year and the year after that.
Offseason described in 5 words or less: Can the Jazz beat LA?
IN: Jared Butler, Rudy Gay, Eric Paschall, Hassan Whiteside
OUT: Jarrell Brantley, Derrick Favors, Ersan Ilyasova, Juwan Morgan, Georges Niang, Matt Thomas
The Jazz were awesome last season, earning the No. 1 seed in the western conference. Even so, it still felt like a long shot the Jazz would make the finals. After all, was anyone seriously expecting any team to beat the Clippers? I certainly wasn’t—and I was proved wrong. While the Clippers didn’t make the finals, it wasn’t because of the Jazz. No, the Jazz lost four straight games to the Clippers in embarrassing fashion. My biggest question for the team— what makes this year any different? Were there any moves made by the Jazz that makes you feel like this year will be any different?
Sure, the Clippers will be worse with Kawhi Leonard suffering from a torn ACL, but there is another awesome team in LA that should rise to the top of the conference. That’s right, LeBron and AD are healthy and they’ve added a motivated Carmelo Anthony into the mix. It feels like history is going to repeat itself and the Jazz are destined to becoming another iteration of itself from the 90’s—a really good team that could never breakthrough.
Offseason described in 5 words or less: Will Jamal Murray be ready?
IN: Petr Cornelie, Bones Hyland, Jeff Green
OUT: Shaquille Harrison, JaVale McGee, Paul Millsap
The Nuggets are a really good team. But the Nuggets want to be a great team. Can this group of players be a great team? I think so. The Nuggets have an MVP in Nikola Jokic. They have a budding star in Michael Porter Jr. They have a great playmaking shooter who can take over games in Jamal Murray.
Unfortunately for the Nuggets, Murray tore his ACL at the end of the season which means he won’t be back until midseason at the earliest. The Nuggets are one of the top teams in the NBA, and they have fortified their bench with the addition of Jeff Green. (I also really like rookie Bones Hyland and think he can be a solid NBA player, eventually). I think the Nuggets can win the Northwest division, even without Jamal Murray for half the season.