The first Western Conference division for the 2024 NBA season preview is the Northwest Division, home to the NBA Champion Denver Nuggets.
Additions: Justin Holiday, Julian Strawther (29th pick of 2023 Draft), Jalen Pickett (32nd pick of 2023 Draft), Hunter Tyson (37th pick of 2023 Draft), Jay Huff (two-way), Braxton Key (two-way)
Subtractions: Bruce Brown, Jeff Green, Ish Smith, Thomas Bryant, Jack White
Other: Vlatko Cancar out for the year with a torn ACL, Re-signed Reggie Jackson to 2 year $10M deal, Re-signed De’Andre Jordan to vet minimum
Outlook: The 2023 NBA Champion Denver Nuggets had a quiet offseason, with most of their activity coming in the draft. The biggest move was the one they weren’t able to make, which was bringing back 6th man and core piece Bruce Brown. Brown’s defense, playmaking, and versatility were key to the Nuggets’ run, and they’ll miss him. Outside of that, they have largely the same roster, though depth is further weakened by the departure of Jeff Green and Vlatko Cancar (injury). The Nuggets will be relying a lot more on their young guys like Christian Braun, Peyton Watson, and Zeke Nnaji, which has a wide range of outcomes. All that said, the Nuggets’ starting lineup, the best big-minute unit of last season, is back, and every player on it is healthy and in their prime. Even more than that, the Nuggets still have Nikola Jokic, who has claimed the “best player in the world title”. They’ll be just fine.
Prediction: 54-28 (Last year predicted 55-27, actually 53-29)
Additions: Troy Brown Jr., Shake Milton, Leonard Miller (33rd pick of 2023 Draft), Jaylen Clark (Two-way)
Subtractions: Taurean Prince, Austin Rivers, Jaylen Nowell, Nathan Knight, Matt Ryan
Other: Signed Anthony Edwards to a 5 year, $260M extension
Outlook: On one hand, the Wolves were a massive disappointment last year after trading their entire future (and several solid role players) for Rudy Gobert last summer. On the other hand, despite Karl Anthony-Towns missing most of the season, Gobert struggling for the first half of the year, and the now-departed D’Angelo Russell stinking up the joint, the Wolves still won 42 games. While I’m not as high on Anthony Edwards as some (I worry about playmaking and decision-making), his stardom, Mike Conley’s steadiness, and hopefully better health from Towns should make the Wolves a better regular season team next year. I also like the Troy Brown and Shake Milton additions and loved the Leonard Miller pick. It’s possible the Wolves are very good in the regular season, but I’m a bit skeptical after last year – and I still have no faith in the Towns-Gobert pairing in the postseason. We will see.
Prediction: 45-37 (Last year predicted 51-31, actually 42-40)
Oklahoma City Thunder
Additions: Cason Wallace (10th pick of 2023 Draft), Vasilije Micic, Victor Oladipo, Davis Bertans, Usman Garuba, TyTy Washington, Jack White, Keyontae Johnson (Two-way)
Subtractions: Lindy Waters III, Dario Saric, Olivier Sarr, Jared Butler
Other: Got Chet Holmgren (2nd pick of 2022 Draft) back after he missed the 2023 season
Outlook: Judging by the players added above, it would seem the Thunder had a busy offseason. That’s not really the case. They currently have 20 players on their roster with some kind of NBA deal, which is allowed in summer but will need to be trimmed in camp, so it’s very likely at least three of those additions are cut in October. The Thunder are remaining patient in their rebuild, not trying to add too many (or any, really) win-now, expensive player. Instead, they’re keeping and adding to their core, and while they already have several guards, Cason Wallace seems like an ideal fit as an eventual 6th man or off-guard next to superstar Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Also, it will be great to see Chet Holmgren back in action after he missed all of last season with injury. It wouldn’t be shocking to see the Thunder stagnate or take a step back, but with Holmgren’s addition and another year of seasoning for their young guys, I think they’ll continue to progress in the right direction.
Prediction: 43-39 (Last year predicted 28-54, actually 40-42)
Additions: John Collins, Taylor Hendricks (9th pick in 2023 Draft), Keyonte George (16th pick of 2023 Draft), Brice Sensabaugh (28th pick of 2023 Draft), Omer Yurtseven, Joey Hauser (Two-way)
Subtractions: Rudy Gay, Damian Jones, Juan Toscano-Anderson, Udoka Azubuike, Micah Potter
Outlook: Outside of adding John Collins for virtually nothing in a steal of a move, the Jazz continued to turn over veterans for young players. Collins alongside standout second-year player Walker Kessler and All-Star Lauri Markkanen is an intriguing frontcourt, but it’s hard to see this team being good enough on the playmaking front with a backcourt led by Jordan Clarkson and Collin Sexton. Keyonte George was awesome in Summer League, Sensabaugh is a lights-out shooter (if he can stay healthy), and Hendricks is a ready-now kind of forward. The Jazz should still be competent, especially with excellent young coach Will Hardy at the helm, but they’re still firmly in a rebuild and might continue to sell veterans as the season continues.
Prediction: 33-49 (Last year predicted 31-51, actually 37-45)
Additions: Scoot Henderson (3rd pick in 2023 Draft), Kris Murray (23rd pick in 2023 Draft), Rayan Rupert (43rd pick in 2023 Draft), Ibou Badji (Two-way)
Subtractions: Drew Eubanks, Trendon Watford, Justise Winslow, Cam Reddish, Greg Brown III
Other: Damian Lillard’s trade request is still out there, Re-signed Jerami Grant to 5 year, $150M deal, Re-signed Matisse Thybulle to 3 year, $32M deal
Outlook: Damian Lillard’s trade request remains unfulfilled, but one of the three best players in franchise history is still determined to exit. That’s brutal, and colors this entire Blazers’ roster and era at large. It’s hard to really grade the Blazers’ summer with the trade still loomig, but I love Scoot Henderson and thought the rest of their draft was good too. Jerami Grant’s contract is a little much, but the Blazers should still be able to move it if they want to. Ultimately, it’s impossible to predict the Blazers’ record, since many of their veterans could be gone at the deadline. Even with a Lillard trade, his return plus Grant, Anfernee Simons, and the rest of their talent is enough the Blazers shouldn’t be horrible. They will still probably be bad though, and will tank hard down the stretch.
Prediction: 27-55 (Last year predicted 47-35, actually 33-49)