NBA Northwest Division Futures: Can the Nuggets Take a Step Forward in 2020?
The start of the NBA regular season is right around the corner, and FanDuel Sportsbook has posted odds for which team will win each division. That includes the Northwest Division, which is expected to be a three-team race:
- Denver Nuggets -130
- Utah Jazz +220
- Portland Trail Blazers +390
- Minnesota Timberwolves +2700
- Oklahoma City Thunder +13000
The Nuggets are the favorites to win the division, which they’ve done in each of the past two seasons. They made a run to the Conference Finals last year after overcoming back-to-back 3-1 series deficits in the first two rounds – first against the Jazz, then against the Clippers – but ultimately came up short against the Lakers. Their offense is built around the versatile skill set of Nikola Jokic and the dynamic scoring of Jamal Murray, and they have some promising young prospects that are expected to contribute this season. Michael Porter Jr. emerged as a third scoring option down the stretch, and Bol Bol provides a unique combination of shot-blocking and shot-making.
The Jazz always seem to finish higher in the standings than anticipated. They have one of the best rim protectors in the league in Rudy Gobert, and their offense is powered by Donovan Mitchell. They didn’t make any real additions during the offseason, but they will get back Bojan Bogdanovic. He was forced to sit out the Orlando restart with an injury, and he was one of Utah’s most important players last season. The Jazz increased their Net Rating by +9.8 points per 100 possessions with Bogdanovic on the court, which put him in the 93rd percentile for all players according to Cleaning the Glass.
The Blazers are also in contention, thanks to Damian Lillard. He’s coming off his best season as a pro, averaging 30.0 points per game while shooting a career-best 46.3% from the field and 40.1% from 3-point range. The team should be better this season after acquiring Robert Covington and with a full season from Jusuf Nurkic.
The Timberwolves are headed in the right direction, but they aren’t viewed as real threats to win the division this season. They still have Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell, and they used the No. 1 overall pick on Anthony Edwards in the 2020 NBA Draft. They should be fine offensively, but the big question is if they can improve on the defensive side of the ball. They finished merely 20th in terms of Defensive Rating last season.
The Thunder round out the division, and they clearly in rebuild mode. They were a playoff team last season, but they decided to ship Chris Paul to the Phoenix Suns while he still had some trade value. They also lost Danilo Gallinari and Dennis Schroder, which leaves the team without three of their top four scorers from last season. This team is well-positioned for the future with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and a stockpile of first-round picks, but they have the lowest win total among Western Conference teams on FanDuel Sportsbook.