Golden State and Houston may have been the best two teams in the Western Conference and all of basketball last season, but the Northwest division was the best division top to bottom. All five teams finished at least 10 games over .500, each within three games top to bottom. The division title wasn’t decided until the final day of the regular season with Portland defeating Utah to win the division with a 49-33 record. Entering the 2018-19 season, all five teams have NBA season win totals great than 41; or projected above .500 again.
Northwest Division NBA Season Win Totals
Denver Nuggets 47.5
Minnesota Timberwolves 41.5*
Oklahoma City Thunder 49.5
Portland Trailblazers 42.5
Utah Jazz 48.5
Denver is +350 to win what looks like the most competitive division in the western conference. The Nuggets missed the playoffs last season by 1 game despite a solid 46-36 record. Many pundits expect improvement for the up-and-coming Nuggets and their young trio of strength with Jamal Murray, Gary Harris and Nikola Jokic. They’re also listed at -480 to make the playoffs, which is top-5 in the Western Conference. The implied probability suggests odds of near 21% to miss the playoffs. No value, and in this division we would have to play under or pass on this one in NBA season win totals.
Minnesota ended a 14-year playoff drought as the No. 8 seed last season following a 47-35 regular season. The Timberwolves’ NBA season win totals come with an asterisk as 4-time All-Star guard Jimmy Butler demands a trade. The team couldn’t finalize a deal with Miami Oct. 8, but expect Minnesota to eclipse 41 wins with improved defense under coach Tom Thibodeau. Recall Minnesota was 34-18 vs. Western Conference teams last year; tied for second best behind NBA champion Golden State. Elite center Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins lead the T’Wolves back to the playoffs.
Oklahoma City has the highest mark in NBA season win totals in the division, and star guard Russell Westbrook and Paul George will try to keep the offense as one of the best after finishing last season as the 7th best per 100 possessions. The defense was top-10 too, and when Andre Roberson returns from injury in December, they will have a shutdown perimeter. Russell Westbrook’s arthroscopic knee surgery in September is a concern as the team likely starts a little slower with a young core being built around those three after trading Carmelo Anthony. The Thunder lacked consistency and struggled against non-playoff teams last season, and I would consider less than 50 wins a preferred play.
Portland won 49 games and the division on the final game of the season last year to reach the playoffs for the fifth straight season. They improved by 8 wins last season but are expected to fall back in wins this year. Solid guard play and scoring leads the Blazers again with CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard, and the addition of Seth Curry. But Portland’s offensive efficiency was league average last season while the defense was top 10. Less wins is most likely, but tough call with the near 7-game reduction. Lean under against Portland in NBA season win totals.
Utah was the No. 1 team in the West in defensive efficiency last season, and Donovan Mitchell burst on the scene as a rookie sensation scoring 24 points per game. The Jazz had the Western Conference’s third best point differential last season (plus 4.3), and accomplished that despite Rudy Gobert, their best defensive player, missing 26 games. The Jazz had the biggest increase in pace from the previous season, and led the league with 53 drives per game while running the most pick-and-roll plays. Utah’s expected wins were higher than actual wins last season, and believe they will reach at least 50 wins this season.
Fairway Jay is a professional handicapper based out of Las Vegas. He focuses primarily on the four majors along with college football and college basketball. You can follow him on Twitter @FairwayJay.