This morning, the Denver Nuggets woke up to some crazy news. Not only are Paul George and Jimmy Butler coming to the Northwest division this season, Carmelo Anthony will be joining them.
New York has agreed to a deal to send Carmelo Anthony to OKC for Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott and a draft pick, league sources tell ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) September 23, 2017
Melo will become the third cog in the machine that is the Oklahoma City Thunder, but he’s not the only high profile player to join the Northwest division.
The Thunder have turned water into wine this offseason. The first major move was bringing Indiana Pacers swingman Paul George into the fold, trading Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis in what is considered one of the best deals of the offseason. They followed that up with the signing of Patrick Patterson on a reasonable three-year deal. They re-signed Andre Roberson to a reasonable three-year deal. The Melo deal is the topper, turning one of the NBA’s most inflexible contracts (Enes Kanter) and one of the worst defenders in the NBA (Doug McDermott) into an East All-Star. The starting five of Russell Westbrook, Roberson, George, Anthony, and Steven Adams will be one of the best in the NBA this season.
They weren’t the only team to make major changes though. The Minnesota Timberwolves kicked things off on draft night, trading the injured Zach LaVine and the inefficient Kris Dunn plus their draft pick for Jimmy Butler. He joins Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins as an extremely athletic trio that should play Tom Thibodeau’s system well. They added Jeff Teague, Jamal Crawford, and Taj Gibson as well, while turning Ricky Rubio into Oklahoma City’s first round draft pick in 2018. They should be much better, and the leap many expected them to make last season will probably occur this season.
The Utah Jazz lost Gordon Hayward, but don’t sleep on them. Rodney Hood was marginalized last year in a system that didn’t fit him well, but as the focal point of the offense, he was much better. The Jazz added Rubio to make up the loss of George Hill, and regardless of one’s opinion on the two point guards, Hill played just 49 games last year. Rubio has played 75 games or more the last two seasons. They still have Rudy Gobert as well, and if Derrick Favors returns to form, they will be formidable every single night.
Don’t sleep on the Portland Trail Blazers either. While the last 20 games of their season were influenced by poor opponents and new life from the Jusuf Nurkić trade, but for that reason, they shouldn’t be trifled with. Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum continue to improve as ball handling guards, and with a full season of a great roll man in the pick and roll in Nurkic, they could improve over last year. They did trade Allen Crabbe to reduce their tax bill, and that could hurt them. Still, there’s a decent chance that they have a better record than the Nuggets.
All of this to say, the Nuggets have their work cut out for them in their division. They will play 16 games against these four teams, nearly 20% of their schedule. Good teams find a way to win games within the division, and the Nuggets have struggled in the division the last four years.
The last time the Nuggets had a positive record within their division was the last time they had a winning season. Since then, the Thunder in particular have dominated the Nuggets time and time again. The Blazers have always given the Nuggets fits. I don’t remember the last time the Nuggets won against the Jazz in Salt Lake City. The Timberwolves are the only teams Denver has had moderate success against in recent years, and they just added Jimmy freaking Butler.
Will Denver be able to compete within their own division? If the answer is yes, the playoffs become a much more realistic possibility. If not, the answers become murkier.
What will Denver’s record be in the 16 games they play against Northwest division foes?
This poll is closed
4-12 or worse
5-11 to 7-9
8-8 sounds right
9-7 to 11-5
12-4 or better