2020-21 Northwest Division Preview

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Welcome to the Ace NBA Preview of the Northwest division for the 2020-21 season. Let’s look at past seasons’ performance, this season’s odds for regular season wins, and offer our thoughts on each team. We’ll breakdown what changed year over year, what to expect for 72 games before the playoffs, and any handicapping angles we like. We’ll be doing one piece for each division, so follow @AceNBAPreviews on Twitter to find other division previews and make sure you get the ones to come as soon as possible.


Notable off-season moves

Out: Jerami Grant, Mason Plumlee, Torrey Craig, Malik Beasley
In: JaMychal Green

After shocking the Jazz and Clippers with back to back 1-3 comebacks in their respective playoff series the Nuggets are back for what should be a very important season in the arc of the franchise’s success. As you can see above, the team made only one addition of note and that was at the backup center position. The franchise must be counting on the organic growth of young, potential stars like Nikola Jokic, Jamaal Murray, and Michael Porter Jr to push them into championship contention. Jokic should be beginning his prime, Murray is not too far behind, and MPJ showed flashes of the talent that had him as the #1 pick in the draft before a back injury. Each is a gifted player and although I would have tried to add a shooter, I appreciate what they’re attempting. So rarely do we see a franchise give a roster time to grow together.

As I mentioned, this is a big season in that process. They made the conference finals last season which means the only way to have a better season is to make the finals which is unlikely, but not impossible. The three aforementioned players offer unique mismatches every night and the defense can be solid if Paul Millsap & Gary Harris can stay healthy. I’m not counting on that to happen and therefore not placing any future bets, but if they start the season slow and prices drift, they may catch my eye and a little of my money.  

Will they make the Playoffs? Yes


Notable off-season moves

Out: Everyone except Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Lu Dort, and Darius Bazely
In:
Draft picks, George Hill, Al Horford, Justin Jackson, Trevor Ariza

Ok, maybe not everyone, but gone are Chris Paul, Dennis Schroder, Steven Adams, Danilo Gallinari, Nerlens Noel, and Terrence Ferguson. That is 6 of the 8 players who played the most games for the Thunder last year. Sam Presti was happy to sell just about anything for draft picks with seemingly no regard for this season’s roster. Joining SGA in the starting lineup is Dort, Bazely, and Hamidou Diallo who all played only about 20 minutes per game last year with none averaging more than 7 points per game. The fifth starter will be Al Horford who heard cheers from Philadelphians arguably for the first time when it was announced that he was leaving. This team is going to be one of the worst in the league and although their regular season win total/% is amongst the lowest, I’m going under. I’m seeing a win % of 33.5% (equates to under 24.5) and I’m betting the under. 5 teams had a win % of 30% or worse last season and 4 the season before that one. OKC will be one of those teams this year.

Will they make the Playoffs? No


Notable off-season moves

Out: Tony Bradley, Emmanuel Mudiay
In: Udoka Azubuike

Effectively the same team from last season is back to see how things shake out this time. Mike Conley & Bojan Bogdanovic had time last season to gel with Donovan Mitchell & Rudy Gobert. Perhaps the added cohesion drives some improvement, but I don’t see any reason to be excited about the Utah Jazz. They were the 6 seed last year and something in that range feels right for this year. I don’t see what Donovan Mitchell could do to push himself into the highest echelon of players, Conley is another year older, and Gobert still limited offensively. They will continue to be strong in the regular season and a tough out in the playoffs, but there is little optimism for anything better and no actionable betting angles at this point as markets have them projected for roughly the same year they had last season.

Will they make the Playoffs? Yes


Notable off-season moves

Out: Hassan Whiteside
In: Robert Covington, Derrick Jones Jr., Enes Kanter

On top of those additions Jusuf Nurkic is healthy to start the year and Zach Collins should be healthy early in the season if not right away after missing most of last season. Gary Trent Jr. took big steps forward in the bubble and should be a positive contributor again this season. Covington & DJJ offer versatile defensive options. Lillard and McCollum show little to no signs of decline yet. Things are looking quite rosy for the Portland this season.

All those nice things, I don’t expect the Blazers to compete for a title given the current landscape. However, any injury to the Lakers big 2 could open things wide up in shortened season and Portland will be ready. The market is projecting small improvements to their win total and those numbers look right to me. If you can find some Lillard to win MVP at 20-1 or better that’s worth a play. He’s the clear leader of a team prime to have their best year in a long time. All the story elements are in place and we know Dame is going to score a lot and have plenty of highlights to catch the eyes of voters.

Will they make the Playoffs? Yes


Notable off-season moves

Out: Gorgui Dieng, Jeff Teague, Shabazz Napier
In: Anthony Edwards, Juan Hernangomez, Malik Beasley, Ricky Rubio

This team has a vide range of possibly outcomes this season. They are going to score a lot of points and hopefully give up slightly less. Rubio will help a little on defense, but the rest of the lineup is filled with some of the worst defensive players in the league. They still might score enough every night to overcome that weakness. D’Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns are a nightmare for teams to guard. Both are versatile offensive players with little to no weakness on that end of the floor. Anthony Edwards maybe be an odd fit, but perhaps they have a trade in mind after not being able to make a deal before or during the draft.

It’s a roster not lacking in talent or options to improve with a deal, but in a loaded Western conference they miss the playoffs more often than they make the playoffs. That said, there are a few scenarios in which they compete for a play-in spot with their current roster or make a deal to improve things. Despite that little bit of optimism, I think most versions of the upcoming season have Minnesota as a bottom dweller in the standings. Don’t overthink it and just wait to bet overs almost every night the Wood Dogs play.

Will they make the Playoffs? No


*Pythagorean refers to the Pythagorean Expectation based on points scored and points allowed

Thanks for reading! You can reach us on Twitter at @AceNBAPreviews with any thoughts, questions, or general comments on this or anything NBA related. Be sure to follow us there and check back here for more NBA content throughout the season. Best of luck to us!


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Categories: NBA