Last Word On Basketball

NBA Predictions: Projecting Win Totals for the Northwest Division

Over the past decade, the Northwest Division has been known as the most competitive division in the NBA. This season is set to be no different with the Denver Nuggets, Minnesota Timberwolves, Oklahoma City Thunder, Portland Trailblazers, and Utah Jazz all set to compete against each other to assume the divisional crown.

In the bigger picture, it’s intriguing to see where these teams end up. Let’s dive into the win-loss totals and make some predictions.

NBA Predictions: Projecting Win Totals for the Northwest Division

Pressure is on reigning MVP Nikola Jokic to lead the Denver Nuggets

The Denver Nuggets enter the 2021-22 season with high hopes as reigning NBA MVP Nikola Jokic looks to lead his squad in the absence of Jamal Murray. Murray tore his ACL last year and has a soft return date around January 2022 but it’s essentially a wait-and-see game. Nevertheless, Denver moves forward with a solid squad seeking homecourt advantage of the playoffs.

The Nuggets offseason was extremely quiet with the franchise adding one new free agent. Jeff Green signed a friendly two-year, $10-million-dollar deal but re-signed Will Barton, JaMychal Green, and Austin Rivers. The quartet figure to be a part of a deep rotation coach Michael Malone will use during the upcoming season.

Denver is a well-oiled machine and leans heavily on a team concept to keep them afloat. Jokic is a generational playmaking big man who will need to have another monster season to carry them without Murray. One player who needs to take the next step is Michael Porter Jr. The 22-year-old showed tremendous growth in the playoffs last year, flashing offensive dominance against the Portland Trailblazers. However, he will need to display improvement on the defensive side of the rock to truly place him in the upper echelon of upcoming players.

Coach Malone is one of the best who knows how to maximize player personal using an effective team scheme. This is all made easier with a superstar at the forefront but players knowing their role contributes to a winning mentality. Ultimately, their season will go as far as Jokic takes them. The Serbian averaged 26-11-8 on 56-39-87 shooting splits last year but they will likely need more to make noise in the West.

Denver is a consistent regular-season team so I suspect they will win a lot of games. Under 46.5 games where I am leaning but it is close.

Win Total: Under 46.5
Prediction: 46-36

Minnesota Timberwolves should make some noise in the NBA this season

The Minnesota Timberwolves have a squad in the making. The franchise made a nice move acquiring Patrick Beverley, a competitor who will add an edge to the Wolves. Minnesota is a young team but possesses the necessary talent to compete this season.

The Timberwolves also added some valuable veterans in Taurean Prince and Rajon Rondo. Rondo will likely want out and receive a buyout but Prince is a nice depth piece at both forward spots.

By natural improvement, the Wolves sophomores Anthony Edwards and Jaden McDaniels will be in the rotation. Both are immensely talented and showed flashes of being high-end players. Edwards was especially great following a poor start, finding his way as a premier option in the Wolves offense. Additionally, Jaylen Nowell and Naz Reid are interesting rotational pieces as long as they receive playing time.

Naturally, their success rests on the play of Karl Anthony-Towns. Towns must assert himself as an elite-level superstar and lead the Wolves to the playoffs. He is arguably the greatest shooting big man from deep (39.4 percent for this career) and has a deep offensive repertoire. Towns need to show consistency on the defensive side of the ball if they are truly going to make a run but he has all the tools to do so.

D’Angelo Russell is the other key who must score the ball at a high level and play passable defense. He has never shown an interest on that side of the ball and needs to be more than a mirage. If he can do this, I really like his contributions as a heat-seeking scorer.

Minnesota has a real shot at making the playoffs this season. I love their squad and their steady offseason. The line is set at 34.5 but they can win closer to 41 games.

Win Total: Over 34.5
Prediction: 38-44

Oklahoma City Thunder enter Year 2 of a rebuild, poised for a tough NBA Season

The Oklahoma City Thunder enter year two of its rebuild after tanking its way to a 22-50 season last year. Oklahoma City is not as bad as the record indicates, especially behind its core group of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Luguentz Dort. The error they made last season was tanking too late and won more games than the franchise anticipated. With the club trading all of its veterans, this season is purely a rebuilding year with minutes likely to go to its young guns.

Oklahoma City made a bevy of key moves to magnify its tanking intent and future position. The Thunder added veteran big man Derrick Favors from the Utah Jazz and re-signed Gilgeous-Alexander to a Rookie Max Extension.

The Thunder are in a weird position given the talent of Gilgeous-Alexander and Dort. Gilgeous-Alexander single-handedly propelled Oklahoma City to 20 of its 22 wins. The 22-year-old averaged 23.7 points, 5.9 assists and 4.7 rebounds on outstanding 50-41-80 shooting splits. He only played 35 games due to plantar fasciitis but was fantastic when healthy.

Dort is an exceptional on-ball defender who plays bigger than his 6’2 stature. While his offensive game is far behind his defensive prowess, he showed great improvement on this side. Dort’s greatest surprise was his 42-point (16-31 from the field, 7-11 from three, 3-7 from the line), seven rebounds, three assists, and four steals. Still, he is a microwave shooter who struggles with consistency but the flashes are there.

However, the Thunder will likely bottom out this season. Oklahoma City will give all of its available minutes to its young players and focus purely on development. Their line is set at 23.5 and whether they go over or under depends on the number of games Gilgeous-Alexander plays. One can bank on the Under but don’t be surprised if it goes over.

Win Total: Under 23.5
Prediction: 21-61

Damian Lillard – Portland Trailblazers relationship will be tested

There was a ton of conjecture surrounding the Portland Trailblazers offseason. Superstar Damian Lillard was said to be on the block, controversy surrounded the hiring of Chauncey Billups as well as the lack of Free Agency movement. Ever since the famous 40-foot bomb against Oklahoma City in 2018, Portland has continued to tread the line of mediocrity.

This offseason, the Blazers made three steady moves without improving their squad. Tony Snell, Ben McLemore, and Cody Zeller signed on while the franchise re-signed Norman Powell to a massive five-year, $90-million-dollar deal.

Portland will once again lean heavily on Lillard to lead them to the NBA playoffs. Lillard is an all-world guard with unlimited shooting range and offensive skills. The Superstar averaged 28.8 points, 4.2 rebounds and 7.5 assists on 45-39-93 shooting splits to carry them to 42-30 last year. Nothing exemplified his superstar status more than his insane 55-point explosion against Denver. He posted 55 points, six rebounds, and 10 assists on 17-24 from the field and 12-17 from three. This wasn’t enough as they went on to lose 147-140.

CJ McCollum will need to help Lillard and chip in his 20 points each night but needs to contribute in other areas. He isn’t the greatest defender or playmaker and must play steady defense to elevate the team.

The line is set at 44.5 and Lillard alone should propel the Blazers to around 45-46 wins. If he lasts the season, Portland will continue to be a consistent playoff team.

Win Total: Over 44.5
Prediction: 45-37

Utah Jazz is out to prove they are a legit NBA Contender

After a fantastic 2020-21 season, the Utah Jazz season ended disappointingly at the hands of the Los Angeles Clippers. The Jazz was the NBA’s hottest team, winning 52 games but couldn’t take the next step in the playoffs. Star guard Donovan Mitchell was hampered by injury and struggled to consistently lead the offense. Additionally, Mike Conley was also out for the majority of the playoffs and came back below his best.

The Jazz made some really nice accessory moves this offseason adding Rudy Gay, Eric Paschall, and Hassan Whiteside. Gay is an excellent midrange scorer who adds depth at the forward spot while bringing athleticism. Paschall made his mark in Golden State coming off the bench as a microwave scorer. Whiteside adds size behind Rudy Gobert and is excellent in spot minutes.

Utah is one of the best-coached teams in the association. Quinn Schnyder is a fantastic tactician who makes excellent decisions in-game. One issue with their team last season was the reliance on three-point shooting. If the Jazz went cold, they’d often lose games thus adding Gay gives them a secondary option. Their defense is super strong behind Gobert with an amazing defensive philosophy and I suspect they will be near the top of the NBA again.

The Jazz are one of the Western Conference’s best teams. If they stay healthy and Mitchell steers clear of another ankle injury, they will win a lot of games.

Win Total: Over 51.5
Prediction: 53-29

Main Image: Embed from Getty Images

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