Apr 10, 201; Denver, CO, USA; Utah Jazz guard Alec Burks (10) looks to pass the ball under pressure from Denver Nuggets forward Will Barton (5) in the fourth quarter at the Pepsi Center. The Jazz defeated the Nuggets 100-84. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
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The Northwest Division is one of the best in basketball, and now we will attempt to power rank each team including our home favorites, the Denver Nuggets.
The 2016-2017 regular season is almost here, and many fans, including myself are making their predictions. Who will bring home the Larry O’Brien trophy at the end? Which teams will even make the playoffs? Who can take the top spot in the Northwest Division?
One of the more interesting divisions to think about in the NBA is the Northwest Division.
The teams in this division include the Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz, Portland Trail-Blazers, Oklahoma City Thunder, and Minnesota Timberwolves. All of these teams have good, young core players that could get them to a good place in the future, but who is the best team?
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The Northwest was shaken up this offseason. With KD joining Golden State and George Hill being traded to Utah, the division will be as close as ever, but we will come out with the crown? Well, let’s see if you agree with us with who will start with the crown.
And, without further ado, here is the official Nugg Love preseason power rankings of the Northwest Division.
Oct 8, 2016; Kansas City , MO, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves forward Karl-Anthony Towns (32) shoots a three point basket as Miami Heat guard Tyler Johnson (8) defends during the second half at Sprint Center. Minnesota won 109 – 100. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
5. Minnesota Timberwolves.
Here is where I expect some criticism to begin.
Don’t get me wrong, the Timberwolves are making some great moves on their way back to national relevance, and I love where their team is headed.
They’ve picked up potential superstars in center Karl-Anthony Towns, small forward Andrew Wiggins, and guards Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn. They have considerable shooting ability and a good depth to the bench. They’ve done every step correctly into making what could possibly be a future powerhouse.
Apr 13, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves guard Andrew Wiggins (22) backs up to the basket against New Orleans Pelicans forward James Ennis (4) in the first half at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
The key word there is future.
I believe that they are close, but they aren’t quite there yet. This should be the last season with the Wolves not towards the top. With the retirement of Kevin Garnett, the Wolves may need one or more veterans to replace him and to help the young guys build a great season.
This being said, with the right moves, this team could be at the top of these rankings by next year, or even the end of the season.
Apr 13, 2016; Portland, OR, USA; Denver Nuggets guard Emmanuel Mudiay (0) dribbles as Portland Trail Blazers guard Brian Roberts (2) defends and Denver Nuggets center Jusuf Nurkic (23) screens during the 4th quarter at Moda Center at the Rose Quarter. Mandatory Credit: Cole Elsasser-USA TODAY Sports
4. Denver Nuggets.
Call me biased, but the Nuggets hold one of the brightest futures in the NBA.
I love the additions that they made in the off-season, in which they made some great draft picks. Denver has not made the playoffs since 2013, in which they were defeated in the first round by the dynamic Golden State Warriors, 2 games to four.
Before this three season drought, the Nuggets had made the playoffs for 11 straight seasons.
They have taken some great steps in their rebuilding process, which most recently came with the addition of guards Jamal Murray and Malik Beasley, and forward Juancho Hernangomez.
I love the young talent and core that this team holds to them, and they have the chance to be something special. There are veterans like Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Kenneth Faried, Jameer Nelson, Darrell Arthur, and Mike Miller.
There’s an impressive back-court that could be brewing in Emmanuel Mudiay, Gary Harris, and Will Barton, with Murray and Beasley fitting right into it.
Oct 9, 2016; Ontario, CA, USA; Denver Nuggets forward Juancho Hernangomez (41) is defended by Los Angeles Lakers guard Jose Calderon (5) and guard Jordan Clarkson (6) at Citizens Business Bank Arena. The Lakers defeated the Nuggets 124-115. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Like the Timberwolves, I don’t think that the Nuggets are quite there yet, but it’s only a matter of time. The question is, how soon?
Apr 10, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward (20) reaches for the ball in front of Denver Nuggets guard D.J. Augustin (12) in the third quarter at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
3. Utah Jazz.
It seems like every season the Jazz has a sense of hype surrounding them. Every year we are told to look out for Utah to be a dark-horse in the West.
Well, that season has yet to come. The Jazz barely missed the playoff last season, finishing ninth in the Western Conference and by one game to the Houston Rockets.
I won’t say that the Jazz are going to come out and be the team to look out for. I will say that they do have some interesting pieces that have potential to make this a great season. I am not on the Jazz bandwagon just yet, but they could be good.
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They have players such as guards Alec Burks and Rodney Hood, forwards Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors, and center Rudy Gobert. Utah has struggled for a while now, and the fans should look for this team to get into the playoffs soon.
Oct 3, 2016; Portland, OR, USA; Utah Jazz guard Rodney Hood (5) drives to the basket on Portland Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum (3) during the third quarter at the Moda Center at the Rose Quarter. Mandatory Credit: Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports
Even with the talent in Salt Lake City, I see this team very narrowly missing a playoff spot once again. Hopefully they can prove me wrong, but the Jazz just do not seem like a playoff team to me.
Apr 6, 2016; Portland, OR, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Dion Waiters (3) drives to the basket past Portland Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum (3) during the first quarter of the game at the Moda Center at the Rose Quarter. Mandatory Credit: Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports
2. Oklahoma City Thunder.
Oklahoma City had a 3-1 lead over the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals.
They needed one more win, but instead they surrendered three straight losses as they went home. The Thunder were also on the short end of the stick in what was the biggest move this off-season.
Their long time superstar small forward, Kevin Durant, decided to leave the Thunder to join the team that had defeated them in the playoffs, the Golden State Warriors. This was shocking news as many expected him to remain a member of the Thunder at least until next season. Once Durant was gone, the Thunder then traded power forward Serge Ibaka to the Orlando Magic. Nevertheless, OKC has plenty of talent still on their roster.
Russell Westbrook has made a good case for the MVP in two straight seasons. He could have a better chance to win it this year as he will no doubt be leading the Thunder. There are talented big men in Enes Kanter and Steven Adams, who can play big roles in the post.
Westbrook is joined in the back-court by the newly acquired shooting guard in the Ibaka trade, Victor Oladipo. This is a team that could be great or could under-achieve, as it just depends on the play of Westbrook.
May 30, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) dribbles the basketball against Golden State Warriors guard Shaun Livingston (34) during the third quarter in game seven of the Western conference finals of the NBA Playoffs at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Thunder 96-88. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
I think this is a middle of the pack team in the Western Conference. They don’t exactly turn many heads, but they don’t under-achieve by any means.
Feb 21, 2016; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) shoots a three-point shot in the second half against the Utah Jazz at Moda Center at the Rose Quarter. Mandatory Credit: Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports
1. Portland Trail Blazers.
If there’s one thing that Portland has shown me, it’s to not sleep on them.
Every year many overlook this team in a very stacked Western Conference, and it seems like recently they prove those people wrong.
Whether you’re a fan of them or not, this team is for real. They didn’t make too many moves in the off-season, but the ones they did only helped them. Their front-court was already good, what with Mason Plumlee and Ed Davis, but they added a center from the Warriors in Festus Ezeli.
There’s Evan Turner, Maurice Harkless, and Noah Vonleh, but it’s no secret that the key to the Blazers’ success is to its guards. Damian Lillard and C.J McCollum are easily one of the best back-courts in the NBA. McCollum is the reigning Most Improved Player and Lillard was the Rookie of the Year in the 2012-2013 season.
Honestly Damian Lillard, a.k.a Dame D.O.L.L.A, is my dark horse to be the MVP this season. You can sleep on this team all you want, and based on the past two seasons, it seems like they want people to sleep on them. Not me, I look for the Blazers to turn some heads this season.
Apr 27, 2015; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum (3) and guard Damian Lillard (0) high five after a basket against the Memphis Grizzlies during the fourth quarter in game four of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at the Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports
Buckle up ladies and gentlemen. The Blazers bandwagon is leaving the station.