NBA Season Preview Series by Danny w/the J: Northwest Division
The 2016 NBA season is rapidly approaching and with the wild offseason over, the time has arrived for assessing the status of teams heading into training camp and predicting what fans can expect out of their respective teams. Disclaimer: We in no shape or form claim to know everything about basketball, but we do confess our love for the game and will make statements for each team built on sound arguments. With that in mind, let us begin…
- Offseason: Having lost to the Warriors in the playoffs, the Blazers were busy in free agency and added some nice pieces. Evan Turner, ex-Warrior Festus Ezeli, and Shabazz Napier (via trade) were the biggest additions to the Portland squad. The team was also able to re-sign Allen Crabbe, Maurice Harkless and Meyers Leonard. Portland also acquired draft rights to Maryland SF Jake Layman from the Magic in the Napier trade.
- 2016-17 Outlook: The Blazers look to repeat the result of last year’s regular season; a playoff berth. With the additions they have made, perhaps they won’t have to get hot towards the end of the season or put the onus Lillard and McCollum.
Jay: The Portland Trailblazers are well-coached and play with a lot of heart. I expect them to make the playoffs in the 6-8th seed range. Napier will be a good backup to Lillard and Turner a good scorer off the bench so Aminu, Crabbe and others can focus on the defensive side of the ball.
Daniel: The Trailblazers may have played over their heads last season. Its going to be tough to repeat last season’s success with teams having had all off-season to figure them out. A 37-45 season wouldn’t be much of a surprise. I say that with the utmost respect.
- Offseason: The Nuggets weren’t too busy in free agency, but they used their draft picks on Jamal Murray, Malik Beasley, Spanish import Juan Hernangomez, and French import Petr Cornelie. However, the Nuggets only have signed Jamal Murray at this point.
- 2016-17 Outlook: The Nuggets were poor last year so the only way to go is up. Emmanuel Mudiay seemed much more mature in the NBA Summer League this past summer so it is assumed he will take another step in his development. Kenneth Faried has to look to erase last season’s poor performances and dominate with the energy and tenacity that he knows he possesses.
Jay: Nuggets won’t make the playoffs but Mudiay and Faried will be something to keep an eye on throughout the season. I don’t expect Murray to do much this year as a rookie, but in the latter half of the season, he’ll be someone to look at and see where his development is heading.
Daniel: The Denver Nuggets, like a lot of teams in the league, are in a purgatory of sorts. They’re not good enough to make the playoffs or bad enough to compete for a high lottery pick. The only thing for them to do is make sure Mudiay continues his growth and development. Whether it be veteran players or playing time. It’d be in their best interest to also take the time and find an identity as a team as well. 30-52.
- Offseason: End of an era in Minnesota and the NBA; Kevin Garnett has retired along with Tim Duncan and Kobe Bryant. But it is also the dawn of a new age in Minnesota. The Twolves hired Thom Thibideau and drafted point guard Kris Dunn out of Providence to add to the team’s young and talented roster.
- 2016-17 Outlook: Thibs has a young and hungry team that has three first round picks on it. Granted, they are still young, but Thibideau is a coach that has proven to get the most out of his players and speed up their development. The wolves re face in the first round.
Jay: I like the Wolves this year. Playoffs is my expectation for the young team and everything else is a bonus.
Daniel: The playoffs would be overachieving I think. Young and talented are apt descriptions of the Wolves. Are they mature enough to handle the grind of competing for a spot in the playoffs? Probably not. That’s OK because I have faith that Thibideau will plant the right seeds, so that when their time comes they’ll be able to take full advantage.
- Offseason: The Jazz were somewhat busy this offseason, acquiring Joe Johnson in free agency, Boris Diaw and George Hill via trade (separate trades), and rookie draftees Joel Bolomby, Marcus Paige, and Tyrone Wallace, although none of the draft picks have been signed yet. Trey Burke now plays for the Washington Wizards.
- 2016-17 Outlook: The Jazz missed the playoffs barely last year but were respectable for a team that was eliminated from playoff contention on the last day of the season. They will be in a similar situation this year, pushing for playoff contention. Hard to say whether or not they will make it.
Jay: I don’t see the Jazz making the playoffs this season. Yes, they’re competitive, but they don’t have the players to make a run at or in the playoffs.
Daniel: The additions of George Hill, and Joe Johnson will bring that veteran presence to this young, gifted squad. Hill also brings talent at the guard position to the table. The consensus is that the Jazz will be a top seed in the west and that’s a terribly presumptuous prediction. However, they could indeed sneak in as a 7th to 8th seeded team.
Oklahoma City Thunder
- Offseason: The Oklahoma City Thunder made splashes this offseason, regardless of whether or not they were negative or positive, they made splashes. Durant went farther west, Ibaka was traded east for depth in Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova and a young rookie draftee in Domantas Sabonis. The Thunder, however, also lost Dion Waiters to free agency. The Thunder also drafted shooting guard Daniel Hamilton. OKC has yet to sign either rookie, but has signed Russell Westbrook to a contract extension that gives them more time to appease the superstar into staying rather than leaving like his former partner in crime did.
- 2016-17 Outlook: Westbrook is one of the favorites to win the MVP as he will most likely carry the Thunder to the playoffs, averaging near triple-double figures. Fans cannot expect the team to make a deep run in the playoffs however, due to the lack of talent.
Jay: Westbrook will be MVP, the Thunder will get in the playoffs as a 4 or 5 seed. The team and Russ will be fun to watch this season.
Daniel: Kevin Durant took his transcendence elsewhere, but in his wake he left Russell Westbrook and 14 other hungry and eager players. The goal of the season has to be trust. Trust has been a talking point for the team, but hardly practiced among the Thunder. The idea that Westbrook is going to run roughshod over the league is a fun one, but not ideal. Incorporating the talents of his teammates into a concrete scheme that is no doubt the better option. Although, this current Thunder squad is no doubt going to go through some changes going forward.