The NBA’s Northwest Division features one of the best battles at the top. The Utah Jazz and Denver Nuggets are among the best teams in the Western Conference, while the Portland Trail Blazers are a perennial playoff squad.
Can any of these teams separate from the pack this season? Let’s dive in on DraftKings Sportsbook.
Championship Odds: +1500
Western Conference Odds: +650
Division Odds: -250
Win Total Over/Under: 51.5
MVP Contender: Donovan Mitchell (+3000)
Sixth Man of the Year Contenders: Jordan Clarkson (+500), Joe Ingles (+1200)
Defensive Player of the Year Contender: Rudy Gobert (+340)
The Jazz were the best regular-season team last year, but they once again failed to get over the hump again in the playoffs. They did make it to the Western Conference semifinals, but they were defeated by a Clippers squad that was playing without Kawhi Leonard. That’s not good.
They’ll run it back with roughly the same squad in 2021-22. They return their top seven players from last year, and their big additions were Rudy Gay and Hassan Whiteside. Neither of those really move the needle.
Donovan Mitchell took a step forward last year, averaging a career-best 26.4 points per game while shooting 38.6% from 3-point range. Mitchell gets help from Joe Ingles and Jordan Clarkson, who are two of the frontrunners for Sixth Man of the Year. Clarkson won the award last year thanks to an average of 18.4 points per game, while Ingles is capable of contributing in every category across the board.
That said, the Jazz’s best player during the regular season is probably Rudy Gobert. He’s a defensive force, winning the Defensive Player of the Year award in three of the past four seasons, and he’s the favorite to do it once again in 2021-22. The Jazz still have to figure out how to properly utilize Gobert during the postseason – that’s been a recurring issue over the past few years – but his on-court impact during the regular season is among the best in the league.
Championship Odds: +2000
Western Conference Odds: +900
Division Odds: +320
Win Total Over/Under: 47.5
MVP Contender: Nikola Jokic (+1500)
Most Improved Player Contender: Michael Porter Jr. (+900)
Like the Jazz, the Nuggets are bringing back essentially the same squad as last year. That’s a very good team, but one that probably isn’t capable of winning the Finals.
They’re led by last year’s MVP Nikola Jokic, who is one of the most skilled big men in league history. He was absolutely dominant last season, averaging 26.4 points, 10.8 rebounds and 8.3 assists per game. He also played in every game last season, so it’s hard to see him taking a huge step forward this year.
Michael Porter Jr. is the best chance for this team to improve this season. He was rewarded with a max extension during the offseason, and he was a highly efficient scorer last year. He averaged 19.0 points per game while shooting 54.2% from the field and 44.5% from 3-point range.
Porter is going to have to take on a larger role this season to make up for the absence of Jamal Murray. There’s currently no timetable for his return after suffering a torn ACL last season and he told reporters he still has “a long way to go” in his recovery. That’s one of the reasons why Porter is one of the favorites to win the Most Improved Player this season.
Championship Odds: +8000
Western Conference Odds: +3500
Division Odds: +750
Win Total Over/Under: 44.5
MVP Contender: Damian Lillard (+1400)
The Blazers made the decision to switch coaches this offseason, hiring Chauncey Billups to replace Terry Stotts.
That said, that’s really the only difference between this year’s squad and last year’s. They did bring in Larry Nance Jr. as a free agent, but he’s not a real difference-maker.
Damian Lillard will once again be asked to put the team on his back. He’s coming off another excellent season in 2020-21, averaging 28.8 points and 7.5 assists per game. Both marks were the second-highest of his career, which was enough to get him on the All-NBA Second Team.
C.J. McCollum and Norm Powell are strong compliments to Lillard on offense, but their defense has been a major problem. They ranked 29th in defensive efficiency last season, and they’ll never be true contenders if they can’t improve in that department. That problem won’t happen as long as Lillard and McCollum are occupying the same backcourt.
Championship Odds: +25000
Western Conference Odds: +13000
Division Odds: +10000
Win Total Over/Under: 35.5
MVP Candidate: Karl-Anthony Towns (+9000)
Most Improved Player Contender: Anthony Edwards (+3000)
The Timberwolves were one of the worst teams in basketball last season, but they had a million things break wrong for them. The biggest was that Towns was out or limited for most of the year. He played just 50 games, but he was still incredibly good when on the court. He averaged 24.8 points, 10.6 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game while shooting efficiently from every level. He’s definitely more talented than his current MVP odds indicate, but his team’s lack of success will hold him back.
The team hopes they have given him a quality running mate in Anthony Edwards, who flashed at times during his rookie season. He struggled as a shooter, making just 41.7% of his shots from the field and 32.9% from 3-point range, but the talent is definitely there. Malik Beasley has also given the team some excellent scoring numbers since arriving from Denver.
D’Angelo Russell is the X-factor. He played at an All-Star-caliber level with the Nets in 2018-19, but he has struggled to reach those heights in Minnesota. If he can return to that level this season, the Timberwolves have the potential to be a fun offensive team. They likely won’t play enough defense to be real contenders, but they could sniff one of the final spots in the play-in tournament.
Championship Odds: +100000
Western Conference Odds: +35000
Division Odds: +50000
Win Total Over/Under: 23.5
Most Improved Player Contender: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (+1500)
Rookie of the Year Contender: Josh Giddey (+3000)
The Thunder are in the early stages of a rebuild, and this could be another painful season for them. Their war chest is loaded with future first-round draft picks, but that won’t help the team on the court in 2021-22.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is their clear top option, and he had an excellent year last season before getting injured. He ultimately played in just 35 games before getting shut down for the year, and it wouldn’t be a huge shock if something similar happens this season. The Thunder have embraced the tank, so expect them to do anything possible to improve their draft position down the stretch.
The rest of the roster is arguably the weakest in basketball. Lu Dort has proven himself as a capable defensive wing, but his offensive game is a work in progress. Darius Bazley and Aleksej Pokusevski have displayed some upside, but both players were atrocious from an efficiency standpoint last year.
Josh Giddey should have a chance to make an impact immediately as a rookie, which does give him some sleeper appeal for Rookie of the Year. He’s looked good during the preseason, averaging 13.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists through his first two games, and he should get plenty of playing time on this roster.
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