2017-18 Season Preview: Northwest Division
NBA.com Global on Oct 15, 2017 09:35 AM
Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook, left, drives to the basket as Denver Nuggets guard Gary Harris defends in the second half of an NBA preseason basketball game Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017, in Denver. The Thunder won 96-86. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
By Shaun Powell, NBA.com
No division in basketball was juiced by immigration this off-season more than the Northwest, the new home of Paul George, Jimmy Butler and Paul Millsap, three very respected veterans who were the All-Stars and lead singers on their previous teams. Of course, the division also suffered a defection as well, and with Gordon Hayward gone to Boston, what are the odds that the division champ, Utah, will repeat? (Not great.) The Jazz won 51 games to take the crown, and Minnesota was dead last, and there’s a chance those teams will swap places in 2017-18. Butler with Minny, George with OKC and Millsap with Denver should if nothing else cause a hike in star potential in the Northwest Division.
1. Oklahoma City Thunder
2. Minnesota Timberwolves
3. Portland Trail Blazers
4. Denver Nuggets
5. Utah Jazz
Team On The Rise
Minnesota Timberwolves -- A mini-makeover brings veterans Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson, Jeff Teague and Jamal Crawford on board to teach the talented youngsters what it takes to win.
Team On The Decline
Utah Jazz -- Subtracting All-Star Gordon Hayward from the reigning division champions could spell trouble. It's nothing major, but Jazz will slip noticeably unless star center Rudy Gobert turns into a savior.
Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder -- He just had one of the best seasons of all time and what’s scary is he could come close to matching it. The reigning Kia MVP now has someone riding shotgun, too, in Paul George.
Player On The Rise
Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves -- You could argue that he has already arrived. But, there’s so much more ceiling to this rim-protecting, versatile, 21-year-old center who averaged 25.1 points per game and 12.3 rebounds per game last season.
Tom Thibodeau, Minnesota Timberwolves -- This division has no slouches for coaches and all of them bring the goods, but Thibs is more of a proven winner than the rest.
Coach On The Hot Seat
Terry Stotts, Portland Trail Blazers -- No, his job isn’t in jeopardy. But the Blazers need to shore up their defense or else it’ll be a second straight season of below expectations for Damian Lillard and company.
Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz -- He’s a high-energy, relentless guard who stood out in the Las Vegas Summer League and could bring immediate sizzle to the Jazz backcourt.
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