It has been one of the craziest off-seasons in recent history and with all of the player moves some division races have some huge questions. One of those is in the Northwest where there are a full three contenders. Most online sportsbooks see last year’s third-place finisher, Utah, as the overall favorite. The Jazz added point guard Mike Conley and shooting guard Bogan Bogdanovic, which gives them the edge over Denver. Here’s our take on the odds to win the NBA Northwest Division.
The Favorite The Jazz was one of the best defensive teams in the league and got even better when they added Conley, one of the league’s better on-ball defenders at the point. Donovan Mitchell is only going to get better and Bogdanovic adds another long-range shooter to the offense.
Mitchell will play for Team USA in the 2019 World Cup while 7-foot-1-inch center Rudy Gobert, the league’s two-time defending Defensive Player of the Year, will play for France. Joe Ingles will play for Australia. A number of NBA players have turned in breakout seasons after having played in the World Cup. Just saying.
The roster is strong. The defense is outstanding. Utah is the clear favorite at -105, but not really the sexiest bet.
Say No to Thunder, T-Wolves The Thunder’s roster looks remarkably different in 2019-20 than a year ago. No more Russell Westbrook or Paul George. Sorry, but Chris Paul surrounded by Danilo Gallinari and Steven Adams just doesn’t have the ring of Northwest Division champion. Say no to Oklahoma City at +2000.
The same can be said for Minnesota (+1750) where Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins cannot carry the T-Wolves. The NBA is a guard-driven league and Minnesota just isn’t strong enough at the position yet to contend for a division title.
Look for a Nugget Last year’s Northwest Division champs, the Denver Nuggets, make for a nice bet at +125. They return leading scorer Nikola Jokic who averaged 20.1 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 7.3 assists per game. Point guard Jamal Murray (18.3 ppg) returns as do Gary Harris (12.9 ppg) and Paul Millsap (12.6 ppg, 7.2 rpg).
The Nuggets are deep and, like Utah, one of the top-10 NBA defenses in terms of opponents points scored (106.7 ppg allowed). Jokic is a star and the backcourt of Murray and Harris is good enough. They proved it last year in winning the division.
More Than a Nugget The only thing better than Murray and Harris in the backcourt in the Northwest is Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum in Portland. The pair makes quite possibly the best backcourt duo in the NBA and helped the Trail Blazers finish just a game behind Denver in the division last year.
Yes, Jusuf Nurkic is still recovering from that gruesome leg injury suffered last March, but the Trail Blazers signed 7-footer Hassan Whiteside (12.3 ppg, 11.3 rpg, 2.0 bpg) as insurance. Nurkic will likely return around the All-Star break, just in time for Portland to make a run at the division title. At a price tag of +600, it makes the Trail Blazers a very appealing wager heading into the 2019-20 season.
A native of Western Pennsylvania, Rick, a Generation X-er, who now lives just north of the Motor City, Detroit, Michigan. A former high school, college, and professional football player, Rick now spends his time as a high school coach and as a personal quarterback trainer. An all-state high school quarterback, he went on to become an Academic All-American at Division II Indiana University of PA. He later coached at his alma mater helping lead the program to the 1990 NCAA Division II national championship game. Rick has also served as a high school head coach and as an assistant in Pennsylvania, New York, and Michigan.
His passion for sports writing started when he was the sports editor for his high school newspaper and continued when he worked as a sportswriter for the Jamestown (New York) Post-Journal in the early 1990s. A true sports fanatic, Rick enjoys all things Pittsburgh: Steelers, Pirates, and Penguins. The Immaculate Reception, the 1979 We Are Family Pirates, and the ’91-’92 Penguins are among his favorites. After working as an educator and athletic director for several years, he again took up sports writing and has contributed to several websites and publications, including Coach & Player magazine, X & O Labs, American Football Monthly, and many others.
When not consumed with coaching, watching, thinking about, or writing about football and other seasonal sports, he finds himself working out like he was still in college and reading everything from military history to Brad Thor novels. Rick has also been chasing rock god stardom as a drummer who has played with bands that have opened for the likes of Fuel, Days of the New, and Alien Ant Farm. He continues to play with his church worship group. Most importantly, Rick is married to the love of his life, Lisa, and has two beautiful daughters.