NBA offseason grades: Breaking down the moves in the Northwest Division

NBA offseason grades: Breaking down the moves in the Northwest Division

On the cusp of a new campaign, we’re recapping the summer moves made by each NBA franchise, whether through the draft, trades, or free agency.

The Denver Nuggets have hopes of repeating after winning their first NBA championship. The Minnesota Timberwolves extended a rising star, while the Oklahoma City Thunder await the return of their top prospect. Elsewhere in the division, the Utah Jazz added someone familiar to trade rumors, and the Portland Trail Blazers prepare to move forward from their most iconic player.

Be sure to check out our breakdowns for all six NBA divisions.

Atlantic | Central | Southeast
Northwest | Pacific (Oct. 8) | Southwest (Oct. 9)

Denver Nuggets

Last season: 53-29 (.646), won championship

Matthew Stockman / Getty Images Sport / Getty

The Nuggets reminded us last campaign that hitting on offseason moves can push teams over the edge. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Bruce Brown were the perfect complements to the Big Three of Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Michael Porter Jr. However, Brown is now with the Indiana Pacers after his postseason play landed him his first big-time contract.

Christian Braun‘s ascension as a 3-and-D wing made Brown more replaceable, while Justin Holiday will serve as a perimeter depth piece. Reggie Jackson and DeAndre Jordan will return to bench roles after disappointing seasons. The veteran Jackson will need to find his groove again as the backup to Murray.

Denver also has a group of young players ready to crack the rotation. The franchise made three top-40 picks in June’s draft: shooter Julian Strawther, guard Jalen Pickett, and forward Hunter Tyson. In addition to the trio of rookies, Peyton Watson and Zeke Nnaji are expected to challenge for frontcourt minutes. However, if these players aren’t ready for playing time, the Nuggets will need to make an in-season move to help repeat as champs.

Grade: C+

Minnesota Timberwolves

Last season: 42-40 (.512), lost in Western Conference first round

Mitchell Leff / Getty Images Sport / Getty

After a monumental offseason in 2022, the Timberwolves continued to commit long-term money to key pieces. Minnesota extended rising star Anthony Edwards on a five-year, $260-million contract, locking in the core of Edwards, Rudy Gobert, and Karl-Anthony Towns. Versatile big man Naz Reid was also brought back on a three-year, $42-million extension.

The T-Wolves waived Taurean Prince to save some money, which they used to sign Shake Milton and Troy Brown to short-term deals for more wing depth. They also re-upped trade deadline acquisition Nickeil Alexander-Walker after he played well defensively in the first round of the playoffs.

Despite some fit questions, a starting lineup of Mike Conley, Edwards, Jaden McDaniels, Towns, and Gobert seems to be a formidable collection of players. With a full season under their belts and Edwards’ continued ascension, a deep playoff run could be on the horizon in Minnesota.

Grade: B+

Oklahoma City Thunder

Last season: 40-42 (.488), lost in Western Conference play-in tournament

Zach Beeker / National Basketball Association / Getty

The Thunder came close to reaching the playoffs last season for the first time since 2020, losing in the play-in tournament. Despite missing the postseason by the skin of its teeth, the franchise improved from 24 wins in 2021-22 to 40 last campaign. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander averaged 31.4 points en route to an All-NBA first-team selection.

Oklahoma City didn’t make any drastic moves over the summer. The Thunder made a draft-day trade with the Dallas Mavericks for Kentucky guard Cason Wallace and sharpshooter Davis Bertans, and they added decorated Serbian guard Vasilije Micic and the injured Victor Oladipo. However, their biggest addition is Chet Holmgren. The 2022 No. 2 pick will make his rookie debut after missing last season with a Lisfranc injury.

The Thunder may need to flip part of their war chest of young players and future draft picks sooner rather than later. Faced with a roster crunch, Oklahoma City waived recent first-round picks TyTy Washington and Usman Garuba before training camp even started. However, a playoff showing with this roster might entice the next disgruntled star to come play for the Thunder.

Grade: B

Utah Jazz

Last season: 37-45 (.451), missed playoffs

Melissa Majchrzak / National Basketball Association / Getty

The Jazz exceeded many expectations after trading away the duo of Gobert and Donovan Mitchell last summer. Lauri Markkanen, the main return from those moves, took a gigantic leap and stabilized a roster full of new players by averaging 25.6 points per game to win the Most Improved Player award.

This offseason, Utah added to its existing strength in the frontcourt. The Jazz drafted UCF forward Taylor Hendricks ninth overall and acquired Atlanta Hawks big man John Collins. Hendricks’ potential as a floor-spacer and defender makes him an intriguing fit with Markkanen, but Collins did neither well last season, shooting a career-worst 29.2% from deep. The 26-year-old will need to find his form in both areas.

There’s potential for Utah to be a quality team again. Jordan Clarkson is back on a reasonable three-year, $55-million extension, while rookies Keyonte George and Brice Sensabaugh will provide scoring punch along the perimeter. But the Jazz will need to play to near perfection in order to sniff a playoff spot in a deep Western Conference.

Grade: B-

Portland Trail Blazers

Last season: 33-49 (.402), missed playoffs

Steph Chambers / Getty Images Sport / Getty

The Damian Lillard era is over in Portland. The Trail Blazers traded arguably the most iconic player in franchise history to the Milwaukee Bucks after many expected him to be dealt to the Miami Heat. Portland also netted former No. 1 overall pick Deandre Ayton and Jrue Holiday, whom the team flipped to the Boston Celtics for reigning Sixth Man of the Year Malcolm Brogdon, Robert Williams, and picks. In total, the Blazers got five selections stemming from the Lillard trade.

Teams are putting together offers for Brogdon, but the Blazers reportedly plan to keep Time Lord. Williams, along with Ayton, Shaedon Sharpe, and heir apparent point guard Scoot Henderson, is part of a nucleus of quality young talent. Anfernee Simons, despite being only 24 years old, can act as a stabilizing factor as the now-longest-tenured member of the team.

Portland also retained Jerami Grant and Matisse Thybulle on long-term deals. While Grant’s new five-year, $160-million contract might be a little rich for a team on the rebuild, the 29-year-old can either help the team as a solid veteran presence or be traded to a contender.

There’s no guarantee the Blazers will develop or acquire another player of Lillard’s caliber. He’s a seven-time All-Star and a member of the NBA’s 75th Anniversary Team. But Portland now has a better chance to compete in the future with young prospects such as Henderson and Ayton, as well as a bunch of draft picks.

Grade: A-

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