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  • With every team's preseason win total set over .500, the Northwest looks to be the NBA's most competitive division from top to bottom this season.
By Zachary Cohen
October 15, 2018

Four teams from the Northwest Division made the playoffs last season, and the fifth—the Nuggets—were only one game away from the postseason. With high expectations all around, how will Northwest squads fare against their preseason win totals in 2018-19?

Utah Jazz

2017-18 Record: 48-34

2018 Win Total: 48.5

Last year, the Jazz rattled off 30 wins in the final 38 games of the regular season—which just so happened to be when Rudy Gobert returned from the knee injury that cost him the previous 15 games. As soon as the 2018 NBA Defensive Player of the Year got back on the floor, everything clicked for head coach Quin Snyder’s team. Star rookie Donovan Mitchell continued to torch the rest of the league, Ricky Rubio played the best basketball of his life and both Derrick Favors and Joe Ingles played their roles to perfection. With the team healthy heading into the season, it’s hard to imagine the Jazz not hitting the 50-win mark. Mitchell is only going to get better—look for him to become more efficient in Year 2—first-round pick Grayson Allen is the perfect culture fit and oft-injured Dante Exum may finally be able to take some steps forward after receiving a nice contract extension over the summer. The Jazz also have a number of interchangeable reserve wings that they can be comfortable throwing on the floor. In the era of position-less basketball, the value of that can’t be ignored.

Bet: Over 48.5


Oklahoma City Thunder

2017-18 Record: 48-34

2018 Win Total: 48.5

The Thunder are dealing with some injuries entering the season, as Russell Westbrook could miss a few weeks after undergoing a minor knee surgery and defensive specialist Andre Roberson suffered a setback during the rehab for his knee injury. But the reality is that once Westbrook is back, this team is going to win plenty of games. A lot of that has to do with the unmatched intensity that Westbrook brings to every game he plays. As long as he is on the floor, his team has a chance to beat almost anyone. Plus, Oklahoma City got better this offseason. In shedding Carmelo Anthony, the Thunder should experience an addition by subtraction. Anthony was a sieve on the defensive end and he wasn’t much better on offense, where he struggled with his jumper and settled for bad shots too often. And then there’s the fact that secondary star Paul George will be a lot more comfortable this season. George is no longer going to be dealing with constant rumors about heading to Los Angeles, so he can finally focus on only basketball. A big year should be expected out of both him and the always reliable Steven Adams. The Thunder also bolstered their bench over the summer, acquiring Dennis Schroder—who should be more focused on both ends of the floor now that he’s playing for a competitive team—and Nerlens Noel, who has plenty of incentive to have a productive year after signing for much less than he felt he was worth in the offseason. Also, don’t be surprised if former 76er Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot proves to be another savvy Sam Presti pickup.

Bet: Under 48.5


Denver Nuggets

2017-18 Record: 46-36

2018 Win Total: 47.5

The Nuggets were a game away from making the playoffs last season, and are largely expected to break through and make the postseason this year. Four-time All-Star Paul Millsap is healthy after missing 44 games last year, and he should be able to provide a ton of help on both ends of the floor this season. Denver also added Isaiah Thomas as some instant offense off the bench—he’ll miss the early portion of the season as he recovers from hip surgery, but he should be ready to go before long. Meanwhile, star Nikola Jokic is looking like a dark-horse candidate to win the MVP award, and guards Jamal Murray and Gary Harris are ready to take the next steps in their development. Harris is already one of the premier two-way players in the game, and Murray has the potential to be one of its best perimeter scorers. But despite the fact that this team is loaded with guys that can contribute, it’s hard to imagine them hitting the over this year. The Western Conference is filled with excellent teams and not everybody can win 48 games. The Nuggets won’t necessarily have to in order to make the playoffs.

Bet: Under 47.5


Portland Trail Blazers

2017-18 Record: 49-33

2018 Win Total: 42.0

The Trail Blazers left a bad taste in the mouth of the public by getting swept by the Pelicans in last year’s playoffs, but people should try not to put too much weight into that one series. New Orleans might have exposed Portland a bit, but this is still a team that has won an average of 47.8 games per year over the past five seasons. With star Damian Lillard coming off a career year and still very much in his prime, it’s hard to see the Blazers not finishing over .500—which would at least guarantee a push. But Portland won’t be settling for just that. This team will be looking to get right back into the playoff picture and, in an improved Western Conference, all it will take is some internal improvement from guys like C.J. McCollum—who is already phenomenal offensively—and Jusuf Nurkic. Both players need to make strides defensively if Portland is going to take another step forward, but they’re already good enough to help the Blazers hit the over on this disrespectful win total. Head coach Terry Stotts has an abundance of useful role players at his disposal in Al-Farouq Aminu, Seth Curry, Evan Turner and Mo Harkless. The only problem we can see here is that this is too good to be true.

Bet: Over 42.0


Minnesota Timberwolves

2017-18 Record: 47-35

2018 Win Total: 41.5

It’s no secret that Jimmy Butler wants out of Minnesota, and the Timberwolves would be foolish not to meet his demands. The team can either let him walk for nothing at the end of the year or turn him into some helpful pieces now. And despite head coach Tom Thibodeau’s desire to keep Butler around, owner Glen Taylor is going to have to step in and move the four-time All-Star eventually. With that being the case, it’s hard to take the over on this team. While Karl-Anthony Towns is clearly a top-tier talent in this league, he is far from ready to lead his own team to the postseason. Towns was once considered a promising defensive prospect, but he has not developed on that end of the floor as well as many have hoped. That might happen one day, but this team isn’t going to get better defensively if it trades one of the best wing defenders in basketball. And in Andrew Wiggins, the Timberwolves have yet another prospect that isn’t quite turning into what they’d hoped for—only this case is a lot more extreme. If Maple Jordan doesn’t improve significantly this season, then there’s a good chance that Minnesota wins something like 35 games. You could argue that the Timberwolves will be getting some good players back in a Butler deal, but the market has been relatively dry so far. Overall, the core of this team is not where it needs to be right now. 

Bet: Under 41.5

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