We may only be three weeks into the 2016-17 NBA season, however, it is a sample size more than sufficient enough to reveal the true colors of these teams and the future that lies ahead of them. As we progress further into the six-month gauntlet that is the NBA regular season, here are the best- and worst-kept secrets for every franchise. Today: the Northwest Division.
Oklahoma City Thunder, 7-5
Best-kept secret: Andre Roberson isn’t a complete and utter offensive liability anymore! His 3-point percentage is only two points lower than Kevin Love's.
Worst-kept secret: The Serge Ibaka for Oladipo/Ilyasova trade was … well, how do we put this politely? … not good. With the exception of Russell Westbrook being a superhero, everything that made the Thunder great – the ability to annihilate opponents on the glass, protect the rim and have a front court capable of not clogging the paint on offense – is gone.
Utah Jazz, 7-6
Best-kept secret: The Jazz are 11 deep with players who could start on just about any team in the league and don’t have a single player on the roster who makes more than $16.7 million this season or any season after.
Worst-kept secret: The Jazz’s amazing salary cap situation is both a blessing and a curse. It's a blessing in that they have the flexibility to trade for any player in the NBA and they won’t exceed the maximum. However, since their entire roster is currently under deals from the previous, more-restrictive salary cap numbers – many of their players will be seeking new contracts at year’s end. Not just any players, some their best: Gordon Hayward, George Hill, Rudy Gobert, Joe Ingles, Shelvin Mack and potentially Boris Diaw. Translation: this is the the year for the Jazz -- they need to shove all their chips to the middle and go for it right now.
Portland Trail Blazers, 7-6
Best-kept secret: Only 37.5 percent of Damian Lillard’s 3-point makes this season have been assisted by a teammate. That means a majority of the time, Lillard is creating his own scoring opportunities. Though this doesn’t tell the whole story -- as there are plenty of ballhogs in the league with similar statistics -- Lillard backs up his elite ability to get open with a team-high 26.4 PER and has a team-high total assist rate (teammate field goals a player assisted while on the floor) of 23.9 percent. Not just a jump shooter anymore, Lillard is the complete package who makes everyone around him better.
Worst-kept secret: The Blazers are the proud owners of not only one but two of the league’s worst contracts. Who is the NBA player (averaging at least 23 minutes per game) with one of the single-worst individual net ratings this season, you ask? Evan Turner, at minus-25. Oh, by the way, he’s recorded an individual net rating of -36 twice through 13 games – which is simply unfathomable for someone making almost $70 million to play professional basketball. The other horrid contract the Blazers have on the books? Allen Crabbe, who somehow … inexplicably … makes even more than Evan Turner ($74 million over four years) to record an absolutely pathetic PER of 10.3.
Denver Nuggets, 4-7
Best-kept secret: Jusuf Nurkic and Nikola Jokic are single-handedly bringing the dual-center frontcourt out of endangerment. It’s not working yet, but, they’re trying. While Jokic is the prize jewel prospect and has the potential to be an all-star in the next three seasons, it is Nurkic who is actually having the better season – posting an above-average PER of 15.8 on a losing basketball team.
Worst-kept secret: The Nuggets want to trade Kenneth Faried and they want to do it yesterday.
Minnesota Timberwolves, 4-7
Bestk-kept secret: They are a roster made up of “guys who can’t shoot” yet they are the best 3-point shooting team in the NBA at 41.9 percent.
Worst Kept Secret: Gorgui Dieng’s $60 million extension might be the NBA’s worst contract.