The Utah Jazz have been one of the most consistent franchises in the NBA, but they are now in full rebuilding mode after some playoff flops.
That means there will be a new team at the top of the Northwest Division, where the Jazz have been at the end of the last two seasons. Denver is the most obvious team to fill the void but Minnesota is making a play for the top too.
Matt Wiesenfeld's NBA Division futures
Oklahoma City is still lost in the wilderness with all of its young players and draft capital. Top pick Chet Holmgren is out for the season and top player Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is questionable for the opener.
There does not appear to be much on-court drama expected in the Northwest Division this season. Let's see where the best values are.
Nikola Jokic has won back-to-back MVP awards and there is no reason to think he is going to start slowing down anytime soon. Denver's prospects for a big year are conditional upon the health of Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. Both are All-Star caliber players and if they play the majority of the season Denver is going to be really good. The Nuggets do not have great depth, so it will be interesting to see how they manage that throughout the season.
Futures Take: Denver is my pick to win the division but I am looking for better payoffs if you are going to hold my money for that long.
The Timberwolves finished only three games behind Utah in the division last season. Anthony Edwards came on as a scorer last year, and the trio of him, Karl-Anthony Towns, and D'Angelo Russell were effective. Rather than lean on organic development Minnesota made a major move to get Rudy Gobert, the best defensive big man in the league. It is exactly the kind of move that might bump them up in the regular season, though it has questionable playoff value given what we have seen from Gobert in the past.
Futures Take: I can get behind Minnesota having a strong season and winning just their second division title. The payoff is solid for that outcome.
Portland is a team that might have the most questions about it in the league. Damian Lillard is the anchor, but he is hardly a rock in terms of health and you have to wonder if Anfernee Simons, who showed a lot last season, can do his thing with Lillard around. They brought in Jerami Grant, who is an upgrade at the 4, but Grant has been a disappointment often throughout his career. They have lots of great athletes, including top pick Shaedon Sharpe, but at some point, there has to be production too.
Futures Take: It is hard to see the Blazers moving up or down from this position in the division.
This team is playing for 2030 now. They have gone from a team with a couple of All-Stars to one of misfit toys. If they let him go, new guard Collin Sexton could be among the scoring leaders. He and fellow newcomer Malik Beasley have never seen a shot they didn't like. Point guard Mike Conley Jr. has always been about good fundamentals, so it will be interesting to see how he manages on this squad. This is an interesting group because they are going to be bad but are not especially young at the same time.
Futures Take: Don't even bother with a sprinkle.
Where do you start with OKC? It seems like every time they take a step forward it is followed by one backward as well. Josh Giddey was a nice find as a rookie last season but Holmgren's injury already sheds doubt on his selection. SGA can be very effective but he is now battling a rap of being "always injured." This might be a roster of just role players and it is hard to win that way in the NBA.
Futures Take: The Thunder are a high-effort team so they always get a few wins they shouldn't but it will be nowhere near enough to make them relevant in the division race.