NORTHWEST DIVISION PREVIEW
As always the stats and anecdotes are sourced from:ESPN, The Ringer, Athletic, and Sports Illustrated but the takes and projected win totals are all Brian.
Starters are: Jamal Murray; Gary Harris; Will Barton; Paul Millsap; and potential MVP Nikola Jokic. Bench includes: Monte Morris; Malik Beasely; Torrey Craig; Jerami Grant and Miles Plumlee. We still have not seen Michael Porter Jr, (injured his back early in his freshman year of college and sat out all of last year for Denver), as coach Malone says Porter needs to “Earn his time on the court.” They have also not played Juan Hernangomez who could provide a lift to the bench’s offense where shooting is a challenge. The starters are playing well defensively in the first few games (Barton has recovered from his core injury). Beasely and Grant have been in some closing lineups in place of Barton and Millsap (highest paid Nugget). This team just missed the Western Conference final last year and they are virtually all back (plus added Jerami Grant who came from OKC in a trade). Bri believes Porter who is a 6 foot 10 inch kid who can handle the ball and shoot is the X factor. If he can come on and Jokic can continue his elite passing-great at assisting on three point shots and dunks, look out for the Nuggets. Nuggets are number 3 in the Athletic’s power ranking and we see them as an elite team in the West. If they continue not playing Michael Porter Jr then I see a trade with a rebulding Memphis team, Michael Porter Jr and a first round pick for Andre Iguodala. Bri predicts 55 wins and #1 seed in the West for Denver.
Starters are: Jeff Teague; Treveon Graham; Andrew Wiggins; Robert Covington (defensive ace) and Karl Anthony Towns (KAT). Bench includes: Shabazz Napier; Jarrett Culver (rookie); Josh Okogie; Jake Layman/Noah Vonleh and Jordan Bell. The T Wolves, who are playing faster under Coach Saunders, got off to a 3 and 0 start. Last night they lost to Sixers when Towns was ejected for fighting with Embiid. Before that ejection Towns was putting up All NBA numbers averaging: 32 points; 13.3 rebounds; 5 assists; 3 steals and 2 blocks per game on 66% true shooting. Wiggins is getting away from the “tough shot express in the mid range” and going to the rim or shooting three pointers-he made three staright to clinch a recent win over Miami. With Golden State struggling mightily, (Steph Curry broke his hand last night), the T Wolves may have a shot at the playoffs this season. Note: If the Warriors throw in the towel we could see a trade of DeAngelo Russell to Minnesota to play with his friend KAT. Without a trade Bri predicts 43 wins (not good enough for playoffs in the West) for the 2019/20 T Wolves who are now #11 in the Athletic’s power ranking.
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
Starters are: Chris Paul; Terence Ferguson; Shai Gigeous Alexander (SGA); Danilo Gallinari (best three point shooter) and Steven Adams (knee injury). Bench includes: Dennis Schroder; Hamido Diaio; Nader; Bazely; and Nerlens Noel/Mike Muscula. The Thunder are starting a three guard lineup headlined by SGA who was averaging 24.3 points per game through 4 games, lost last night to Portland. SGA is dynamic at the rim but like many young guys he needs to work on defending and passing/assists. The Thunder, 18th in the power ranking, will push the pace given the small starting lineup. They shot a lot of three’s vs. Golden State who was playing zone (due to their lack of centers) but made only 4 of 27 three’s vs Portland. Watch the Thunder’s record after 20 games, if they are struggling we would not be surprised to see: Paul, Gallinari, Adams, Schroder and perhaps Noel/Muscala all shopped around for picks to enhance the massive haul the Thunder already have (I believe 13 in next 5 drafts). Bri predicts 23 wins.
Starters include: Damian Lillard; CJ McCollum; Rodney Hood; Anthony Tolliver (starting for Zach Collins who dislocated his shoulder, the trainers popped back in cleanly so may not be gone long); and Hassan Whiteside. Bench includes: Kent Bazemore; Anfernee Simons (who is getting lots of positive buzz from NBA podcasters); Mario Hezonjia and Skaal Labissiere. The two starting guards continue to lead the Blazers but they need some help. While the Athletic has the Blazers as 8th in their league power ranking, we believe this team needs a trade as soon as possible-they lost both starting forwards (Aminu and Harkless) from last year’s Western Conference Finals team. Kevin Love to the Blazers for Zach Collins and a pick or two with Cleveland makes sense to us. Bri predicts 51 wins with a trade (48 without as starting center Jusuf Nurkic will return around February and should help with rebounding and defense).
The Jazz are the other elite team in the Northwest Division in our view. They rank 6th in the Athletic’s power ranking. Starters include: Mike Conley; Donovan Mitchell; Royce O’Neale (defensive specialist); Bojan Bogdonic and Rudy Gobert. Bench includes: Emmanuel Mudiay; Joe Ingles; George Niang; Jeff Green and Ed Davis. The Jazz were the NBA’s best defensive team in week 1 holding opponents to 91 points per game. Conley was not shooting well,(improved last night with 11 of 17 (5 of 8 from 3) and 29 points vs. Clippers without Kawhi), but he makes things easier for Mitchell (who has a 60% FG% and 50% from 3 with Conley on the floor. We love this back court). Bogdonovic is proving to be a nice scoring option when Mitchell rests-both catch and shooting but also attacking the rim and playing the good defense, he learned in Indy. Look out for the Jazz they are a real contender with a good coach. Bri predicts 54 wins.