Saying that the Western Conference is going to be fun to watch this 2019-2020 NBA season is an understatement. There is are so many teams that have a legitimate chance of winning the Western Conference making it to the NBA Finals. We’ll get into some of those predictions soon but I’m starting off my predictions in the West with the Northwest division. The biggest change coming out of the Northwest division came from the Oklahoma City Thunder when they surprisingly traded Paul George to the Los Angeles Clippers then traded longtime franchise point guard Russell Westbrook to the Houston Rockets. These moves were among the most shocking as the former was hidden from the media so there were no updates on Paul George wanting to be traded meaning the only update on that story was when he was officially traded. The Russell Westbrook trade was shocking because he had been with the Thunder ever since he was drafted in 2008. I think its fair to say that nobody expected Russell Westbrook to leave the Thunder when the season ended. The Thunder were not left empty handed as they received Chris Paul in a trade with the Houston Rockets. How much will these moves help or hurt the Oklahoma City Thunder? Let’s find out here are my predictions for the Northwest division!
Utah Jazz: 54-28
In the past five seasons, the Utah Jazz have been among the best defensive teams in the NBA with their star center Rudy Gobert winning the past two Defensive Player of the Year awards. I think they continue they their defensive dominance on their way to winning the Northwest and securing a top four seed in the Western Conference. The Jazz made some big moves this offseason with their biggest move coming when they traded for longtime Memphis Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley. The pairing of Mike Conley and Donovan Mitchell in the backcourt could be one of the best two-way starting backcourt we have in the league. In addition to Conley, the Jazz also added solid veterans to their roster including Jeff Green, Bojan Bogdanovic and Ed Davis giving them some added depth. If healthy, the Jazz could be one of many contenders to make it out the West this season.
Denver Nuggets: 52-30
Last year the Denver Nuggets had a breakout season finishing with a 54-28 record and with the second seed in the Western Conference. The season did not finish the way they wanted as they were eliminated in seven games in the second round of the playoffs by the Portland Trail Blazers. The offseason saw the Denver Nuggets keep their roster intact with their one noticable offseason addition coming from signing Jerami Grant in free agency. Another noticable difference for the Nuggets this season is their top draft pick Michael Porter Jr. will return after missing all of last season with a back injury. While I do not think the Nuggets will be as good as they were last season, I do think they will be amongst the best teams in the West. They will surely be entangled in the battle for a spot in the top four in the West.
Portland Trail Blazers: 51-31
Continuing with the theme of teams I can see competing for a top four seed in the Western Conference the Portland Trail Blazers. The Blazers had an excellent season last season finishing with the third best record in the Western Conference and making it to the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 2000. This offseason, the Blazers made some pretty good moves acquiring Hassan Whiteside, Kent Bazemore, and Pau Gasol. Acquiring Hassan Whiteside was an especially good move as he will fill a much needed hole left by Jusuf Nurkic who continues to recover from a fractured tibia and fibula sustained late last season. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum will continue to stake their claim as one of the best backcourt duos in the NBA leading the Blazers to one of the top seeds in the Western Conference.
Oklahoma City Thunder: 38-44
Following the aforementioned trade of Russell Westbrook, it is officially a new era in Oklahoma City. The amount of stars that have come and gone in OKC is a who’s who of stars in the NBA. In addition to Westbrook, the Thunder have had the following players on their roster: Kevin Durant, James Harden, Paul George, Victor Oladipo, Serge Ibaka, Reggie Jackson, Carmelo Anthony, and Enes Kanter. One would think that with this quality of talent that a team would win multiple NBA championships but for the Thunder that was not the case. Now the Thunder will look to move on as they look to get back to contention in the West. The Paul George and Russell Westbrook trades brought in some solid talent for OKC: Chris Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and Danilo Gallinari. I can not see the Thunder contend for a playoff spot this season but hey crazier things have happened we’ll just have to wait and see.
Minnesota Timberwolves: 36-46
When talking about players that have played well below expectations, the first player that comes to mind is Andrew Wiggins. Andrew Wiggins, nicknamed Maple Jordan, was pegged as the future of the NBA a future all-star and even a possible MVP. So far, he has been slightly above average but he has not improved which means the team has not improved. Karl-Anthony Towns has been a bright spot for the T-Wolves but he needs some help from Wiggins and the rest of the Wolves roster if there is any chance of Minnesota being competitive. There is some solid talent on this T-Wolves roster with Jeff Teague, Robert Covington, Josh Okogie and Gorgui Dieng among others. All of these players are going to have to step up if they want any chance of competing for a playoff spot in the ultra competitive Western Conference.