The Western Conference had a lot of change this offseason, probably more than any year in recent memory. In the Northwest Conference alone, you should see three big changes to teams. The other two are probably still irrelevant. I’ll share my thoughts here and if you’re looking for the entire package, purchase it by clicking Buy Packages above when it goes on sale this week. Last year we were 5-0 in MAX plays.
Utah Jazz 49 – 33 last year, 1st in division
Well, things change quickly, don’t they? Last season, Utah was once again able to steal the division away. This year, they pressed the reset button and dropped Rudy Gobert off to Minnesota and they send Donovan Mitchell over to Cleveland. The team is also reportedly not done trading away assets. They won’t be good, but to think they will be terrible is also incorrect – provided they don’t trade more people away. Mike Conley is a solid veteran, Collin Sexton as a lot to prove, Lauri Markkanen looked great in the offseason, and Jordan Clarkson is one of the best sixth men in the league. They are listed at just 24.5 wins. I probably prefer the over on it. I’m not sure that it will make my card, but I would only play it in that direction.
Denver Nuggets 48 – 34, 2nd
Can Nikola get the three-peat? No. He will not be MVP, let me just tell you now that unless he averages a triple-double, I can’t see him taking it home for the third consecutive year. Jokic of course has been awesome, but it hasn’t really resulted in much winning in the playoffs or anything. Now the team should be better with the addition of Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. from injury (though the question will be how long Porter Jr. will be healthy). I like the addition of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, but the improvement almost squarely lies on the shoulders of Jamal Murray. Wouldn’t be shocked if they won the division, but I wouldn’t be shocked if they ended in second, either.
Minnesota Timberwolves 46 – 36, 3rd
I already mentioned this trade, but it bears repeating. Rudy Gobert on this team makes a big difference on defense. If you watched the Jazz at all last season, it was clear when Gobert was playing, they were significantly more efficient. You still have Karl-Anthony Towns who won’t play great defense, and D’Angelo Russell who is not an elite defender, but they should be better. I personally love Anthony Edwards for this year. I think he could be spectacular long-term and an MVP. He may not get there as long as KAT is on his team because of how much KAT is involved, but he has the potential. Kyle Anderson is an underrated addition to the team as well. He is the kind of guy you want off the bench. Perhaps one of the best things is that Jaden McDaniels wasn’t included in the trade. He is a talented player and could be a huge piece for Minnesota moving forward.
Portland Trail Blazers 27 – 55, 4th
Will Portland’s new backcourt duo be any better than the last backcourt duo? In my estimation, no. Anfernee Simons is okay, but I think he is going to be stoppable. At just 6’3” he is one of the shorter shooting guards and even with Damian Lillard opening up space for him, I think he will struggle without being as ball-dominant as he was when Lillard went out last year. Jerami Grant is a big addition to the Trail Blazers. He has eight seasons under his belt and outside of his years with Detroit, he was average. I think he drops back down to that. I have low expectations for the Trail Blazers and do not expect them to win 40 games.
Oklahoma City Thunder 24 – 58, 5th
First-round, second-overall pick, Chet Holmgren’s, season is already over. It was over before it started. Sadly, it probably didn’t matter anyway. The Thunder weren’t going to make the playoffs, they weren’t going to make the play-in tournament, and they were going to have a chance to get the number one overall pick. They will be the worst team in a strong division, but they still will fight with Josh Giddey and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. I also like Luguentz Dort – if you can find a bet for someone to make an NBA defensive team, I don’t think he will make the first team, but he might make the second.