NBA 2021-22 Northwest Division Season Preview

NBA 2021-22 Northwest Division Season Preview

TheSportsGeek’s NBA preview continues with a glance at the Northwest Division in the Western Conference. The reigning MVP is in the Northwest on the Denver Nuggets. Nikola Jokic rightfully won the league MVP award. However, it wasn’t enough to lead the Nuggets to a Northwest title.

The Utah Jazz were the surprise contenders of last season, finishing with a record of 52-20 to beat the Nuggets by five games. The Nuggets were fine at 47-25, but that’s not going to be good enough to compete with the top contenders in the Western Conference. I think a lot of people are expecting the Jazz to regress after that season, while the Nuggets overtake Utah and win the Northwest.

The odds don’t suggest that’s going to happen, though. While the public might be undervaluing the Jazz and falling in love with the Nuggets, the oddsmakers most certainly aren’t. If sportsbooks are seeing Denver money, then it isn’t showing up on the odds board yet. The Jazz are convincing favorites to win the Northwest in late September.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that the Jazz are a stacked team despite not playing in a big market city. They didn’t win 50 games a season ago by mistake. With their core together going into the 2021-22 campaign, there’s no reason to believe that the Jazz are going anywhere. Public perception is believing in a way that last season was a fluke, though.

Is there any value on the Jazz to win the Northwest in 2021-22? That’s what it all comes down to for me. Head below for our free NBA 2021-22 Northwest Division preview.

Utah Jazz

Notable Additions:

  • Rudy Gay
  • Eric Paschall
  • Hassan Whiteside

Notable Departures:

  • Derrick Favors
  • Georges Niang

When Derrick Favors is the biggest name leaving a team that won the Northwest Division it has to be a good sign. The Utah Jazz are healthy favorites to win the Northwest as a result of their talent returning. While the Jazz added some depth pieces in the offseason, they have their team from last season together.

The Jazz return all of their top contributors, as Donovan Mitchell, Jordan Clarkson, Bojan Bogdanovic, and Rudy Gobert are back on the court. Mitchell led the Jazz with 26.4 points per game. The combo of Mike Conley, Mitchell, and Clarkson in the backfield provides the Jazz with a lot of options.

Conley played banged up and missed time in his first season with the Jazz, though he still made an impact with 16.2 points per game and led the team in assists with 6. Clarkson off the bench might be the most important facet of this team. As important as Mitchell and Robert are, I’m confident that the Jazz wouldn’t have taken off without Clarkson.

The former Laker scored 18.4 points per game on 42.5% shooting in a reserve role. For his efforts, Clarkson won the Sixth Man of the Year award last season. There’s a decent chance that the 29-year-old repeats and wins the Sixth Man for the 2021-22 campaign as well.

The Jazz are a well built team and have one of the better rotations in the NBA. My only concern with the Jazz is their odds to win the Northwest. They should win, but you’ll have to pay -275 if you want a Jazz ticket. I just can’t do that when a couple of injuries would set them back a step.

The following odds are courtesy of BetOnline:

Utah Jazz Northwest Division Odds
UTAH JAZZ

Denver Nuggets

Notable Additions:

  • Jeff Green

Notable Departures:

  • JaVale McGee
  • Paul Millsap

There aren’t any big moves to report from the Denver Nuggets in the offseason, but Jeff Green wasn’t a bad replacement for Paul Millsap. JaVale McGee spent what feels like five minutes in Denver.

Green joins the Nuggets after scoring 11 points off the bench on 49.2% shooting. I think it’s the perfect replacement for Millsap, who swapped spots with Green, signing with the Brooklyn Nets.

The Nuggets are going to have the centerpiece of their franchise back on the floor this season. Nikola Jokic isn’t going anywhere, as he looks to defend his status as the MVP of the NBA in 2021-22. Jokic was the clear favorite to win the award from early in the season, and he carried on in the second-half.

Jokic averaged 26.4 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 8.3 assists per game. For a guy less than 2 assists per game from averaging a triple double, the only logical answer for MVP was Jokic.

His numbers went up from 19.9 points, 9.7 rebounds, and 7 assists per game the previous season. However, to get past the Jazz, they might need a healthy Jamal Murray back on the court.

That doesn’t appear to be the case, as Murray continues to work himself back. With Murray absent in training camp, the Nuggets are planning on using a healthy dose of Will Barton and Austin Rivers. I’m high on Michael Porter Jr. in 2021-22, so he could be the catalyst in the absence of Murray.

I still believe that the ceiling is winning with Northwest without Murray, but they’re going to have to catch a break. Murray would put the Nuggets in close contention with the Jazz, and while they’re still going to have a chance, Utah has a serious depth advantage on the Nuggets.

Like I said, though, all it could take is an injury or two, or the Nuggets make a trade to improvement. Porter Jr. has a chance to really come on and get to the next level this season. If I’m going to play the price game, I can only bet the Nuggets here over the Jazz.

The following odds are courtesy of BetOnline:

Denver Nuggets Northwest Division Odds
DENVER NUGGETS

Portland Trail Blazers

Notable Additions:

  • Ben McLemore
  • Larry Nance, Jr.
  • Patrick Patterson
  • Tony Snell
  • Cody Zeller

Notable Departures:

  • Carmelo Anthony
  • Zach Collins
  • Enes Kanter

The Portland Trail Blazers disappointed last season, and didn’t live up to the lofty expectations that Charles Barkley put on the team. According to Barkley, he had $100,000 on the Trail Blazers to win the Western Conference.

That didn’t go well. The Trail Blazers finished sixth in the West with a record of 42-30. That was good for third in the Northwest Division and ten games behind the Jazz. It sounds fine, but fine wasn’t what the Blazers were going for last season.

Portland was expecting a lot more than finishing sixth in the West. Damian Lillard is high on the list of best players in the NBA, so with those kinds of accolades comes big expectations. No doubt more criticism is going to be levied on Lillard if he can’t lead this team deep into the playoffs, but he isn’t the problem.

It’s not to say this roster doesn’t have talent either. CJ McCollum, Norman Powell, and Jusuf Nurkic are a pretty good supporting cast for Lillard. However, Enes Kanter is gone, and depending on Nurkic to stay healthy is not realistic.

While Nurkic has talent, he can’t stay on the floor with a healthy body. He does no good for the Blazers in the doctor’s office consistently. For the Blazers to have success, Nurkic must elevate and stay in the game this season.

I was a huge Chauncey Billups fan in his playing career, especially when he was with the Detroit Pistons. Watching him play then he always looked like the coaching type, so no surprise almost 20 years later he’s a head coach. The Blazers will be good, but not good enough, again.

The following odds are courtesy of BetOnline:

Portland Trail Blazers Northwest Division Odds
PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS

Minnesota Timberwolves

Notable Additions:

  • Patrick Beverley
  • Taurean Prince

Notable Departures:

  • Ricky Rubio
  • Juancho Hernangomez

The Minnesota Timberwolves are looking for improvement, and it really comes down to whether Karl-Anthony Towns. The Timberwolves finished with a record of 36-46 two years ago, and then checked in with a record of 19-45 last year.

Much of their struggles were a reflection of the absence of Towns who was battling COVID. Towns also lost seven family members to the disease including his mother. Basketball was the last thing on his mind last year.

Towns is back hoping to play a full season without any complications. If he can stay on the floor then the Timberwolves should steal some games this season. That doesn’t mean the Timberwolves aren’t going to be inconsistent.

The Timberwolves bid farewell to Ricky Rubio, who spent only one year in Minnesota. Rubio scored 8.6 points and 6.4 assists per game. The Timberwolves were expecting more out of him, but he was limited on this team without KAT in the lineup.

I’m not expecting anything to come of the Timberwolves this season. They could go full rebuild mode with a KAT trade. That could be on the table, especially if they’re losing hard and he isn’t happy in Minnesota.

What to expect from the Timberwolves this season? They are going to get blown out in spots, show up when you least expect it, and probably lose a lot of games. KAT needs help, but he’s not going to be receiving much.

The following odds are courtesy of BetOnline:

Minnesota Timberwolves Northwest Division Odds
MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES

Oklahoma City Thunder

Notable Additions:

  • Derrick Favors
  • Josh Giddey
  • Tre Mann

Notable Departures:

  • Al Horford
  • Tony Bradley

It’s all about the future for the Oklahoma City Thunder. The LA Clippers sold their future to the Thunder, as OKC has a whopping 36 draft picks over the next seven years. That includes 18 first-round picks.

This was all to keep Kawhi Leonard happy and lure him to the Clippers with a trade for Paul George. It worked for the Clippers, but at what cost? They might be a better team than the Lob City Clippers, though I can’t see them winning.

If the Clippers don’t win a championship, then it’s a massive fail for Steve Ballmer. The Thunder made out like bandits and were glad to send George to LA for all of the draft picks that they obtained.

It’s up to the front office in OKC. They have to draft appropriately and bring in the right talent. It’s hard to mess this up, but we’ve seen teams that just botch the draft time after time. I have faith that the Thunder will make good on these picks.

What about this season? Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is going to be a player to watch. The Canadian missed much of last season with an injury, including Olympic qualifying, but is ready to go for the 2021-22 campaign.

I’d be surprised if Gilgeous-Alexander isn’t an all-star this season. He scored 23.7 points and 5.9 assists per game before exiting. Gilgeous-Alexander only played in 35 games.

Another Canadian, Luguentz Dort, has to be watched closely this season as well. Dort showed great improvement from his rookie campaign. He went from 6.8 points to 14 points per game in his sophomore campaign.

There just isn’t much depth here for the Thunder. That’s going to change over the next decade, but for now, expect the Thunder to compete with the Timberwolves to stay out of the basement in the Northwest Division.

The following odds are courtesy of BetOnline:

Oklahoma City Thunder Northwest Division Odds
OKC THUNDER
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Kyle E / Author

Kyle is a veteran of TheSportsGeek and has spent nearly a decade providing accurate sports picks and writeups here. He has been a sports handicapper for 10+ years and started sharing his picks and thoughts in 2011 at TheSportsGeek. His expertise spans across multiple sports, including the NFL, NCAAF, MLB, NHL, and horse racing. Prior to writing for TheSportsGeek, Kyle was a fantasy football expert, who ultimately parlayed it into a successful sports betting career. You can find his picks daily only at TheSportsGeek.

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