If Denver Nuggets fans thought the playoffs ended bitterly for them, imagine rooting for the Utah Jazz. Two years in a row the Jazz have matched up against the Houston Rockets, and two years in a row they have been trounced in five games. Young star guard Donovan Mitchell went 4/22 from the field in Game 5, and the Jazz simply didn’t have an answer strong enough for MVP runner-up James Harden. To be fair, few teams did.
It also doesn’t mean the Nuggets would fare any better than the Jazz did against a formidable Rockets team. Houston has long given Denver problems they have yet to officially solve, and it’s possible that players like Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray would have their own problems against Houston’s offensive spread concepts and defensive switching scheme. In the end, the Northwest Division team to last the longest in the playoffs this year was an injured Portland Trail Blazers team that was then demoralized by an injured Golden State Warriors team.
There’s a lot to like about the top three teams in the Northwest, particularly in Utah and Denver. The Jazz added consistent borderline All-Star Mike Conley to assist Mitchell in the scoring and playmaking department, as well as forward Bojan Bogdanovic to improve the scoring and spacing at forward. Both players will improve a Jazz offense built around pick and rolls with Rudy Gobert diving to the rim. There will be drop off defensively without Derrick Favors and Jae Crowder, but if Gobert can continue captaining a tough defensive unit, the Jazz could be as imposing a team in the regular season as there is around the NBA.
Denver’s newest addition in Jerami Grant should offer a spacing option for Denver’s two-man game with Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray, while Michael Porter Jr. adding anything to the table would provide an additional dynamic some teams just can’t match. In the end, the continuity Denver built should keep them in the driver seat in the West for the majority of the season. Whether that carries over to playoff success remains to be seen.
The Blazers, an offseason after making the Western Conference Finals, turned over their entire supporting cast around Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Zach Collins, and an injured Jusuf Nurkic. The first three will likely start next to newcomers Kent Bazemore and Hassan Whiteside, while Rodney Hood will offer a spacing option at forward, Anfernee Simons steps into a backup guard role, and other fringe options will fill out the rotation. There are a lot of questions about Portland’s ability to maintain their momentum from last year with an entirely new group around their stars, and with Nurkic out, there will certainly be a drop off in center play.
Also in the Northwest Division are the superstar-less Oklahoma City Thunder and the shallow Minnesota Timberwolves centered around Karl-Anthony Towns. It’s difficult to predict where the Thunder will end up due to the presence of Chris Paul and Danilo Gallinari but safe to say they won’t be a 50-win playoff team again. The Timberwolves have some talent but lack a point guard to set up Towns and score efficiently themselves. It would be a surprise if either team made the playoffs, let alone stand atop the division in wins.
With this in mind, here’s the Question of the Week: which Northwest Division team will be the best during the 2019-20 season?
Which Northwest Division team will be the best in 2019-20
This poll is closed
Portland Trail Blazers
Oklahoma City Thunder