NBA Offseason Preview: Northwest Division

NBA Offseason Preview: Northwest Division

This article is part of our NBA Offseason series.

With the 2022 NBA season officially over, we'll take a division-by-division look at the roster decisions and draft considerations all 30 teams will need to make over the summer. The NBA draft and free agency are just days away, so let's examine the Western Conference Northwest Division.

Northwest Division

Utah Jazz: A 49-33 record ending with a first-round exit, Utah is exploitable in the playoffs and outdone by superstars. The Jazz are leaning more towards a seismic shift than a step deeper into contention. 

Denver Nuggets: Two-time reigning MVP Nikola Jokic looks forward to Jamal Murray and Michael Porter returning to health. An expensive trio, Denver's stars have championship-caliber upside.

Minnesota Timberwolves: A stout collection of talent, Minnesota fell in a competitive playoff series to the Grizzlies last season. Anthony Edwards is the new headlining act on a deep squad.

Portland Trail Blazers: Portland owns the No. 7 pick in the upcoming 2022 NBA Draft. After missing much of last season due to abdominal surgery, Damian Lillard returns to a barren roster.

Oklahoma City Thunder: Owners of the No. 2 pick in the upcoming draft, Oklahoma City is entering secondary stages of talent collection amid a notable rebuild.

Oklahoma City Thunder

Potential Departures: Isaiah Roby, Mike Muscala

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander begins his tenure in the spotlight – he'll now make over $30 million annually through 2027. Josh Giddey is his running mate. Luguentz Dort complements them as he enters a contract year.

Oklahoma City remains a blank slate everywhere else

With the 2022 NBA season officially over, we'll take a division-by-division look at the roster decisions and draft considerations all 30 teams will need to make over the summer. The NBA draft and free agency are just days away, so let's examine the Western Conference Northwest Division.

Northwest Division

Utah Jazz: A 49-33 record ending with a first-round exit, Utah is exploitable in the playoffs and outdone by superstars. The Jazz are leaning more towards a seismic shift than a step deeper into contention. 

Denver Nuggets: Two-time reigning MVP Nikola Jokic looks forward to Jamal Murray and Michael Porter returning to health. An expensive trio, Denver's stars have championship-caliber upside.

Minnesota Timberwolves: A stout collection of talent, Minnesota fell in a competitive playoff series to the Grizzlies last season. Anthony Edwards is the new headlining act on a deep squad.

Portland Trail Blazers: Portland owns the No. 7 pick in the upcoming 2022 NBA Draft. After missing much of last season due to abdominal surgery, Damian Lillard returns to a barren roster.

Oklahoma City Thunder: Owners of the No. 2 pick in the upcoming draft, Oklahoma City is entering secondary stages of talent collection amid a notable rebuild.

Oklahoma City Thunder

Potential Departures: Isaiah Roby, Mike Muscala

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander begins his tenure in the spotlight – he'll now make over $30 million annually through 2027. Josh Giddey is his running mate. Luguentz Dort complements them as he enters a contract year.

Oklahoma City remains a blank slate everywhere else on the roster. Aleksej Pokusevski is a name to watch, but it's too early and incongruous to declare any other pieces on Oklahoma City more than that. Already amid a quantified roster crunch, the Thunder dealt the No.30 pick in the 2022 draft, headlined by receiving a 2027 first-round pick from Denver. One of many future picks in storage.

A defining frontcourt asset will be coming to the Thunder via the No.2 pick. Chet Holmgren carries the demeanor of a champion and would set the tone on defense. Also owning picks No. 12 and No. 34, Oklahoma City should be craving a tailored skillset to grow the equation. It's time to begin building something instead of purely mining for talent. With GM Sam Presti at the helm, anything remains possible – including moving up the lottery from 12. Notably, Oklahoma City ranked last in field-goal percentage and three-point percentage last season.

Draft Considerations: Chet Holmgren, Paolo Banchero, Shaedon Sharpe, Johnny Davis, A.J. Griffin, Ochai Agbaji, Ousmane Dieng, Patrick Baldwin, Caleb Houstan 

Offseason Considerations: Take on salary attached to future assets, look to consolidate future assets into long-term talent and improved asset positioning. 

Portland Trail Blazers

Potential Departures: Anfernee Simons, Jusuf Nurkic, CJ Elleby, Ben McLemore

Two contractual years remain in the Damian Lillard era. Indications from Portland convey that Simons and Nurkic will both be re-signed. With the Trail Blazers' "big three" back in place, capitalizing on an existing $20 million trade exception would result in a giant step towards playoff success. Jerami Grant fits the exception and fills Portland's biggest need positionally. There are multiple routes, but a lot rumors suggest Grant to Portland is a very real scenario. Eric Bledsoe has non-guaranteed dollars that Portland can get off the books/create a separate trade exception for.

A tank job is skewing the metrics, but Portland had bottom-five rankings in field-goal percentage, rebounds per game and assists per game last season. Portland had the worst net rating in the league. It symbolizes a supporting cast that doesn't scream functionality. Josh Hart is the only proven, two-way role player. Nassir Little and Justise Winslow bring good physicality to the wings. Didi Louzada is worth developmental minutes. Trendon Watford is a sieve, but a nightly double-double threat. 

Selecting at No. 7 in the upcoming 2022 draft, new Assistant General Manager Mike Schmitz has Arizona roots and thorough knowledge on Bennedict Mathurin. However, this would not be an effective selection for Portland. A poor defender at this stage, Mathurin sharing the court with Lillard and/or Simons is a negative. Mathurin's offensive ceiling is high, but if Portland is trying to compete, there are better choices. Portland also holds picks No. 36 and No. 59

Draft Considerations: Jeremy Sochan, Kendall Brown, EJ Liddell, Christian Koloko, Ron Harper

Offseason Considerations: Strengthen the forward spots, shop Eric Bledsoe, center depth

Minnesota Timberwolves

Potential Departures: Taurean Prince, Josh Okogie

Anthony Edwards is blossoming into a go-to option on a contending team. He's gaining consensus recognition as such. Karl-Anthony Towns's shooting prowess is remarkable at the center position. D'Angelo Russell suffered a downturn offensively last season but was a healthy facilitator and is 26 years old heading into a contract season. Patrick Beverley is imperative. Jaden McDaniels is a quality young piece. Ditto for Jarred Vanderbilt. Malik Beasley is overpaid and expendable but still a valued shooter. Naz Reid is solid. Okogie grades well as a defender and knows the system. If the market doesn't saturate his value, he's retainable.

Minnesota going all-in on a title could be the move. John Collins is waiting to be acquired. He and KAT are good enough shooters to share the floor. Collins is capable of playing center when KAT is in foul trouble. Collins is under contract until 2026. He'd be expensive, but re-signing KAT to a maximum contract after two more campaigns, going into his age-29 season isn't a lock. Collins would guarantee contributions around Edwards. 

Owning picks No. 19, 40, 48, 50, in addition to full rights to the franchise's future selections, Minnesota has the capital to make a move. Regardless of a deal materializing, the picks remaining in the Timberwolves' possession should be devoted to solving what Collins would bring in relation to KAT, or to progress shooting.

Draft Considerations: Nikola Jovic, Wendell Moore, Jordan Hall, Caleb Houstan, Orlando Robinson, Moussa Diabate

Offseason Considerations: Pure shooter, defensive-minded back-up big and combo-forwards

Denver Nuggets

Potential Departures: Jeff Green, Bryn Forbes, Austin Rivers, DeMarcus Cousins, Facundo Campazzo 

Prepare for Nikola Jokic to be surrounded by the team that fought tooth-and-nail in an attempt to beat eventual champion LeBron James in the bubble. Jamal Murray and Michael Porter will be healthy to start the season. Aaron Gordon, Will Barton, Monte Morris and Bones Hyland are roster mainstays. That core of seven will cost a combined $140 million in 2022-23. 

Murray and Porter getting to re-acclimate in a sea of familiar faces is encouraging. The Nuggets will be true contenders if healthy. Chipping away with veteran-minimum signings and late-season buyouts over the next year will amount to that.

Denver shedding JaMychal Green's contract and prioritizing a 2022 first-round pick over a 2027 selection was wise. Cody Martin or Caleb Martin sliding into Denver's taxpayer MLE would ease scoring pressure off of the somewhat-volatile Barton. Hassan Whiteside could also be a candidate. Adding defensive depth to spell Jokic is a need. Owning selections at picks 21 and 30, that's a comfortable range to add lengthy guard/wing that would gel easily with the roster. 

Draft Considerations: Dalen Terry, Marjon Beauchamp, Kendall Brown, Andrew Nembhard 

Offseason Considerations: Add a two-way wing, center depth

Utah Jazz

Potential Departures: Hassan Whiteside, Danuel House, Eric Paschall 

Despite having the league's top offensive rating last season, Utah once again found no playoff success. All metrics adore the offense, but another year with the same team is unlikely to push for a Finals appearance. Utah has no draft picks in 2022, Mike Conley is a year older and Jordan Clarkson is now 30 coming off a career-worst shooting slash.

The tandem of Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert is approaching its expiration date. Michell deserves more blame than Gobert. He's been less efficient in three consecutive playoffs, he's not improving as a defender and his offensive game isn't making those around him better. Mitchell is partially to blame for the underutilization of Gobert as well. Quin Snyder departing is a monumental subtraction.

If the Jazz would like to compete for a championship in the Rudy Gobert era, the time to trade Mitchell is sooner rather than later. Utah can have super clean books by 2023-24. Mitchell is still a young star – a shake-up is in his best interest. Clarkson should still have league-wide appeal as a bench scorer. Bogdan Bogdanovic on an expiring contract is easily movable. Royce O'Neale's modest contract through 2024 is appealing on the market. Heading into next year's draft, Utah could look to clear house and emerge with a plentiful haul. 

Gobert makes player development easier. He is the system for defenders to align with. Josh Minott, Iverson Molinar, Jared Rhoden, Kellen Grady and Alex Barcello are names to remember from Utah's pre-draft workouts. 

Draft Considerations: N/A

Offseason Considerations: Utilize a $10 million trade exception to acquire draft capital through eating cap.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Henry Weinberg
Henry is a sports writer and analyst, specializing in NBA analysis, CBB coverage and draft prep. He's a freelance scout, passionate baseball fan, elite fantasy football player and former Butler Bulldog.
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