2022-23 Northwest Division Preview

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Key Offseason Additions – Bruce Brown, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, DeAndre Jordan

Key Offseason Subtractions – Will Barton, Facundo Campazzo, Monte Morris. JaMychal Green

No Jamal Murray, only 9 games of Michael Porter Jr., but Nikola Jokic conquers all. Well, the Nuggets did lose in quick fashion to the Warriors in round 1, but Jokic won his 2nd consecutive MVP trophy and dragged a mediocre roster to the 6th seed in the Western Conference. Jokic was truly incredible. He increased his per game averages in points, rebounds, blocks, and steals while also improving his effective field goal percentage. Unfortunately, all that effort during the regular season caught up with him in the postseason and it’s hard to beat the Warriors when your third best player is either Will Barton or Monte Morris.

Apparently the front office agreed with the last sentiment, because both players were traded to other teams. One of those deals added Kentavius Caldwell-Pope who is a perfect fit for this team as a wing defender and shooter. Denver was also able to sign Bruce Brown who was underrated contributor on the Nets. He brings consistent effort & grit, above average 3 point shooting, and lineup flexibility for Mike Malone. Jamaal Murray appears to be healthy and ready to get back to being a one of the best 2 way guards in the game and Michael Porter Jr. is a virtual lock to play more games this season than last. I am worried about MPJ’s ability to survive the grind of the NBA regular season with his reoccurring back injuries, but the team ought to be prepared to manage his minutes and literally anything he gives the Nuggets this season is an improvement over his contribution last year. The front office improved the team, there’s built in improvement as starters return to the lineup, and if Jokic can get through the season without being exhausted, the Nuggets have all the makings of a championship team.

Give me ALL the Nuggets futures. My projections have them 3.5 games over the current regular season win total, so the over is an easy play. I also have the Nuggets ahead of several teams they’re behind in odds to win the Western Conference and the championship. At 20 to 1 or better to win the title and 8 to 1 or better to win the West, I’m happy to bet them now. The first 2 to 3 months of their schedule is easy, so barring an injury we’re not likely to see a better price for either of those bets.

Bets – Over 50.5 Regular Season Wins. To win the West at 8 to 1. To win the championship at 20 to 1.

Key Offseason Additions – Rudy Gobert, Kyle Anderson,

Key Offseason Subtractions – Malik Beasley, Patrick Beverly

Before last season the Timberwolves RSW total was bet up 3 to 4 wins and those over bettors were happily rewarded. Karl-Anthony Towns continues to be arguably the best offensive big in the league. Anthony Edwards made strides to improve his game and setup a potential all star appearance this season. D’Angelo Russell led one of the better offensive units in the NBA last year. Coach Chris Finch did a masterful job of enabling the talents of his players while finding ways to cover up their weaknesses. All this overachievement only led to a play in tournament birth that led them to a first round playoff series. Minnesota lost in 6 games, but they competed well and took the step into being seriously considered a contender with the right moves.

The front office spent this offseason making those changes. In comes Rudy Gobert, a perennial contender for Defensive Player of the Year and a perfect fit next to KAT. He’ll protect the rim on defense making everyone around him better while being a great pick and roll scorer on the offensive end of the floor. Kyle Anderson may not be the flashiest name, but he will help as a wing defender and happy to be an integral part of the offense without needing the ball much. Leaving Minnesota are Malik Beasley & Patrick Beverly. Beasley is a solid player, but had grown stale with the roster. Beverly’s leadership is a double edged sword and ultimately a distraction as he ages out of the league. Anothony Edwards is the favorite to win Most Improved Player and in line to make the jump we saw Ja Morant make last season becoming one of the best player’s in the NBA. All the keys to last year success remain on the team to improve and new pieces have been added to fill the gaps.

I’m projecting Minnesota to be 3.5 games better than the RSW total currently available and I happily bet over 48.5. This squad has everything you need to succeed in the regular season. Depth, scoring, defense, good coaching, it’s all there. I am hesitant to be bet on them to win the conference or the title though. Generally, teams need another season to gel, grow, and taste postseason success before being ready to win the title. Are you ready to put money down on KAT & Ant Edwards being championship level stars? At the very least, wait until December when you’ve had a month or so to evaluate and their schedule becomes easier.

Bets – Over 48.5 Regular Season Wins

Key Offseason Additions – Jerami Grant, Gary Payton II, Shaedon Sharpe

Key Offseason Subtractions – Eric Bledsoe, Ben McLemore

The Trail Blazers had one of the most disappointing seasons of any team in the NBA in 2021-22. You can see above that they finished with 17+ less wins than expected. Chauncey Billups’ first year as an NBA head coach was clunky at best. Damian Lillard played less than 30 games to go with a series of nagging injuries to other starters like Jusuf Nurkic, Robert Covington, Norman Powell, and CJ McCollum. The latter 3 were even traded midseason as it became clear Portland was not bound for the postseason. Lillard was shut down shortly after and the Trail Blazers limped to the end of the season with the 6th worst record in the league.

Well, it didn’t work last year, so why not try it again? Maybe Anfernee Simons can grow into CJ McCollum of a years ago? Damian Lillard couldn’t possibly miss a ton of games and be bad in the ones he does play again, right? Perhaps Jusuf Nurkic can player 60+ games for the first time in 4 years? Chauncey Billups will surely be better with a full year of experience under his belt, won’t he? Are you getting my vibe here? What are the chances that all that goes well? Now, what are the chances that if it all somehow does go well that this team is even top 8 in the West? How can anyone be optimistic about this?

My projections have them going under. Everything I know about basketball leads me to believe they will go under their RSW total. I think I’ve said enough.

Bets – Under 39.5 Regular Season Wins

Key Offseason Additions – Malik Beasley, Lauri Markkanen, Collin Sexton, Kelly Olynyk

Key Offseason Subtractions – Rudy Gobert, Donovan Mitchell, Bojan Bogdanovic, Royce O’Neale. Juancho Hernangómez

“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold…” – William Butler Yeats

This quote sums up the Jazz’s season pretty nicely. For the 3rd season in a row, Utah tried to do the same thing expecting a different result. Rudy Gobert continued to be a devastating defensive force, but his offensive limitations could not be covered up in high leverage situations. Mike Conley continues to age and not well. Donovan Mitchell basically repeated his previous season, but added nothing new to his scoring arsenal and continued to struggle with defensive effort. Offseason additions like Rudy Gay & Hassan Whiteside contributed little to the team’s success and offered nothing new to the team. Utah finished as the 6th seed and lost in 6 games in the first round to the Dallas Mavericks closing the door on this era of Jazz basketball.

Rudy Gobert was traded to Minnesota. Donovan Mitchell was traded to Cleveland. Bojan Bogdanovic was traded to Detroit. Royce O’Neale was traded to the Brooklyn Nets. That is 80% of the Jazz’s starting lineup from last year. All that remains is an even older Mike Conley. This year’s starting lineup will be filled with Central division castoffs and Malik Beasley. Well, at least until some of these guys get traded. The front office in Utah has made one of the fastest teardowns in recent memory and still have work to do. Conley, Sexton, Markkanen, Beasley, and Jordan Clarkson will all have value in the trade market, especially if they take advantage of all the playing time available on this roster. I expect this team to focus more on acquiring draft assets for the Victor Wembanyama & Scoot Henderson contest than winning basketball games this year.

This is a tough team to figure out for me. The starting five could be good enough to win some games, but not good enough to garner attention from teams willing to trade draft picks. Don’t get me wrong, this team is going to be bad, but it might be awful enough to win less than 30% of their games. Their schedule gets harder as the season progresses, so keep an eye out for a RSW total in December if they have an ok start to the season.

Bets – None 🙁

Key Offseason Additions – Chet Holmgren, Ousmane Dieng, Jalen Williams, Jaylin Williams

Key Offseason Subtractions – Derrick Favors, Isaiah Roby

The Thunder were expected to be bad last season and boy, they sure were pretty terrible. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continues to be a fun player, but his growth has stagnated and he has yet to take the next step to competing for an all star appearance. Luguentz Dort is a tremendous defender and an improving shooter, but is a contributor on a great team at best. Josh Giddey and Tre Mann showed flashes of brilliance, but are far from ready to lead a team. Oklahoma City certainly had some signs of progress and potential for future success, but it’s certainly still far in the distance and the front office knows it. This team clearly tanked and embraced any chance to take on a toxic asset attached to draft picks. It may not have led to wins on the court, but this is the plan for the Thunder until they get the premier, young talent they desire.

That plan is likely to continue this year. There are 2+ studs at the top of this draft who would immediately be the best prospect in OKC. Chet Holmgren, whom they took with the 2nd pick in the last draft, is going to miss the entire season. This team does have talent, but there is no veteran presence to drive the urgency to win every night. These players will be focused on developing their games and taking advantage of playing time while the general manager continues to accumulate as many draft picks as possible. I’m excited to see Josh GIddey’s second season, all the rookies, and  how Dort & SGA respond to making big money. I am not excited about this team’s chance to win games or compete for anything other than lottery ping pong balls.

My projections like the under, but only by 1.5 games. It’s difficult to quantify the impact of tanking, so my model may be optimistic at this point. The Thunder really have more to gain by losing than winning this year. I wouldn’t hold a bet on the under against you, but I won’t be betting it.

Bets – None 🙁

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

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Categories: NBA