In 2019-20, the Northwest Division was by far the most closely contested divisional race, with three of the five teams staying in the hunt until just about the last day of the regular season. Not only was this the only division where the champion won by a margin of less than two games — but it actually had two runner-ups that finished just 1.5 games back of first. The Nuggets remain the favorites after winning last year, while the Jazz and the Trail Blazers aren’t too far behind in terms of the betting odds, either. The Wolves and Thunder have gone into more of a rebuild mode for this season, and they round out the bottom of the division.
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Championship Odds: +2000
Western Conference Odds: +1000
Team Win Percentage Over/Under: 60.5%
MVP Contenders: Nikola Jokic +2000
Most Improved Player Contenders: Jamal Murray +1200, Michael Porter Jr. +2000
Despite dealing with constant injuries, the Nuggets were one of the best teams in the NBA last season and improved in the playoffs, even with injuries to key players like Will Barton and Gary Harris. Jamal Murray stepped up in a big way and was nearly single-handedly responsible for pushing the Nuggets past the Utah Jazz, and it got even better from there as the Nuggets managed to knock off the Clippers despite trailing three games to one. The Nuggets roster is largely the same this year, with Nikola Jokic leading the way as one of the favorites for MVP, while Murray and Michael Porter Jr. are two of the best bets for the Most Improved Player award.
Championship Odds: +3500
Western Conference Odds: +1500
Team Win Percentage Over/Under: 57.5%
6th Man Contenders: Jordan Clarkson +800, Joe Ingles +2500
DPOY Contenders: Rudy Gobert +250
The Jazz were edged out by the aforementioned Nuggets in both the regular season and the playoffs, but it was a successful season overall and one that didn’t require them to make any substantial moves going into 2020-21. The Jazz will field virtually the exact same team this year as they did last year, hoping for further development from them their best young talent in Donovan Mitchell. This Jazz team continues to be built on depth, as Jordan Clarkson and Joe Ingles are two of the favorites for this season’s 6th Man of the Year award. Utah’s defense also struggled at times last season which is why Rudy Gobert fell out of the DPOY race, and they’ll need to regain their once-elite status if they’re going to compete deep into the Western Conference Playoffs.
Portland Trail Blazers
Championship Odds: +5000
Western Conference Odds: +2500
Team Win Percentage Over/Under: 55.5%
MVP Contenders: Damian Lillard +1600
The Blazers surged late in 2019-20 thanks in large part to improved play from Damian Lillard, who was probably just one or two more 50-point games away from really entering the MVP conversation. The Blazers ran into the Lakers in the playoffs and were clearly overmatched, but this year’s roster is improved from a season ago. A full season of Jusuf Nurkic will obviously help on the defensive end, and the acquisition of Robert Covington will do the same while also adding more perimeter scoring. The 2020-21 Blazers look deeper and more balanced, which helps explain why they have such lofty expectations, at least according to the betting odds.
Championship Odds: +20000
Western Conference Odds: +10000
Northwest Division Odds: +5000
Team Win Percentage Over/Under: 41.5%
Rookie of the Year Contenders: Anthony Edwards +450
The Wolves were never really in contention in 2019-20, but they’ve leaned further into the rebuild even with Karl Anthony-Towns still on the 2020-21 roster. The Wolves selected Anthony Edwards first overall in the NBA Draft, and while he’s among the Rookie of the Year favorites, it’s probably going to take him some time to be an impactful NBA player. This team does have a few other established players like D’Angelo Russell and Ricky Rubio, but for the most part, it’s an extremely young team without a ton of depth. The betting odds reflect this, too, as the Wolves are among the longest of long shots to win both the Western Conference and the NBA Finals this year.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Championship Odds: +20000
Western Conference Odds: +10000
Northwest Division Odds: +15000
Team Win Percentage Over/Under: 33.5%
Most Improved Player Contenders: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander +1200
The Thunder were somewhat of a contender in the 2019-20 season, almost winning this division and then nearly beating the Rockets in the first round of the playoffs. Despite that success, Chris Paul and Danilo Gallinari were traded away and this year’s team doesn’t seem to stand much of a chance to do anything more than secure a lottery pick. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is one of the favorites for Most Improved Player and a clear bright spot for OKC, but after him there’s just not a lot to be excited about. The future draft picks and cap space are encouraging for the future, but the payoffs are likely going to take some time.
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