NBA Preview: A Look at the Northwest Division

By: Darian Ruderman

Thursday marked the first day of October, which means the NBA is back. On Wednesday, October 27, the 2015-2016 season kicks off. Although the Portland Trail Blazers were the only team from the Northwest Division to make it into the playoffs last season, some trades and draft picks made this offseason that will give fans something to look forward to this year. So, to get ready for this upcoming season, let’s take a look back at the Northwest Division’s previous 2014-2015 season and a quick look ahead to 2015-2016.

Denver Nuggets

2014-2015: 30-52, 12th in West

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Gaining a first round draft pick and top ten overall is a huge feat for the Nuggets who struggled last season. Drafting Emmanuel Mudiay with a top ten overall pick was huge for the Nuggets. Mudiay has great potential as a fresh-faced 19-year-old 6’5” point guard. Since starting point guard Ty Lawson was traded in the offseason to the Rockets, the question is, how much playing time will the rookie receive? He averaged 12 points per game, 3.5 rebounds per game and 5.8 assists per game in the 2015 Summer League, proving he can put up numbers as a first year player

The Nuggets also recently signed 15-year league veteran Mike Miller to a one-year contract, hopefully adding some knowledge to a struggling Nuggets team. Also adding some help to the team this year could be Danilo Galinari, assuming he stays healthy for the beginning of the season. After giving the Nuggets some well needed help at the end of the season last year, he was able to re-establish himself in a big way. Here’s hoping Galinari makes it through the majority of the season, since he hasn’t played much due to injury.

Minnesota Timberwolves

2014-2015: 16-66, 15th in West

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At 16-66, the Timberwolves had the worst record in the league last season. But I guess coming in last does have its perks, as the Timberwolves had the first pick in the draft, selecting Karl-Anthony Towns, a 6’11” center from Kentucky. Joining the 2014 first overall draft pick, Andrew Wiggins, there is no doubt that Towns will add a much-needed spark to the Timberwolves. With such young players, Minnesota has great potential, but how will this young and fresh team face the likes of older, all-star players?

Oklahoma City Thunder

2014-2015: 45-37, 9th in West

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Just missing the 8th playoff spot in the Western Conference was the perfect ending to one of the most disappointing seasons in OKC history. Despite Russell Westbrook’s break out year and league-best 28.1 PPG, the Thunder missed the postseason for the first time in six seasons. OKC got off to a slow start, as both of Oklahoma City’s all stars sat the first month of the season, thanks to Kevin Durant’s foot troubles and Russell Westbrook’s broken hand. While Durant’s foot would fail him completely, only making an appearance in 27 games, Westbrook had one of his best seasons ever. This will be a pivotal season for the Thunder as they look to put themselves back on the map. Although they lost Kendrick Perkins, assuming everyone stays healthy, I think this could be a very big year for the Thunder.

Portland Trail Blazers

2014-2015: 51-31, 4th in West

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The only team in the Northwest Division to make it to the playoffs last season, the Trail Blazers had a pretty successful year. It will be very interesting to see how the team will move forward without their big man, LaMarcus Aldridge, who they lost to free agency. Adding some needed height for Portland is 6’10 center, Ed Davis, who previously played with the Los Angeles Lakers, averaging 8.3 PPG and 7.6 RPG with them last season. Davis has big shoes to fill for the Trail Blazers this season. No doubt the leader of the team this year will be PG Damian Lillard, with top big men Aldridge and Robin Lopez gone. Portland’s game may shift to small ball dominated but I expect them to do big things with their new leader.

Utah Jazz

2014-2015: 38-44, 11th in West

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Just missing the .500 mark last season, the Utah Jazz will be looking to make some improvements and a name for themselves in the West. Despite starting the 2014-2015 season with a record of 19-34, they made a come back following the All Star break, finished up 19-10. With no huge names on the Jazz, no one has seen them as a threat for a while in the West. But, do not underestimate them as a sleeper team, as the young Jazz will be looking to make big moves this year. If Utah plays as well as they did the second half of last season, they will have no problem making the playoffs this year and become a contender again in the West.

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