Catching Up on the 2017-18 NBA Offseason: The Northwest Division

Between the Nuggets, Timberwolves, Thunder, Trail Blazers, and Jazz, who got better this offseason and who got worse?

Yesterday, we began recapping the whirlwind NBA offseason by division, starting with the Atlantic. Today, we shift our gaze to the Northwest Division.

The goal is for this series to serve as a helpful guide for catching up on the numerous changes that went on in the Association this summer, while comparing how each team's moves stack up against those made by their most direct competition.

For said comparison, we'll be using our proprietary metric, nERD.

If you're not familiar with nERD, it combines several offensive, defensive, and usage factors to produce one number that is meant to project a player's overall value to his team. That final number is an estimate of how many games above or below .500 a league-average team would win over an 82-game season with the player in question as one of its starters. It's comparable to win shares, but is meant to be predictive (projecting an 82-game season) as opposed to descriptive (how many wins the player has contributed to his team in the past).

For our purposes, we'll use last season's nERD scores for every player on the move, focusing on total nERD in and nERD out for each of the NBA's 30 teams (leaving out rookies, overseas imports, and G League players with two-way contracts, since we have no idea how much they'll contribute).

The Northwest Division was the home of a lot of marquee player movement this offseason, with several All-Stars heading both in and out. Let's see how the five teams measure up now that the dust has settled.

Denver Nuggets

Player InHow?nERDPlayer OutHow?nERD
Paul MillsapFA3.5Danilo GallinariTrade6.1
Trey LylesTrade-3.6Mike MillerWaived-0.6

nERD in:
nERD out: 5.5
Net nERD: -5.6

Three players that made last year's Eastern Conference All-Star squad jumped over to the Northwest Division this summer, including Paul Millsap, who signed a three-year, $90 million deal with the Denver Nuggets. Last year was a bit of a down year for Millsap from an efficiency standpoint -- his 3.5 nERD was his second-lowest since his rookie campaign in 2006-07 -- but a bounce-back season from the 32-year-old isn't completely out of the question, since he registered a career-high nERD of 9.4 just two seasons ago at age 30.

The addition of Millsap was a huge get for the Nuggets, but they still come out of the summer with a net nERD of -5.6. This is largely due to the fact that Danilo Gallinari -- who was shipped to the Los Angeles Clippers in a sign-and-trade deal -- had an extra efficient 2016-17 season for the team, registering a career-high nERD of 6.1.

Based on last year's numbers alone, it looks like the Nuggets have gotten worse, but if Millsap manages to return to his usual efficient self when paired with budding star Nikola Jokic, and Gallinari continues his trend of missing a ton of games due to injury (he only topped 70 games once in his six seasons with the team), Denver is likely to come out of all of this on the positive side of the ledger.

Minnesota Timberwolves

Player InHow?nERDPlayer OutHow?nERD
Jimmy ButlerTrade17.3Ricky RubioTrade0.9
Jeff TeagueFA4.7Adreian PayneFA-0.1
Marcus Georges-HuntFA0.0Jordan HillWaived-0.3
Taj GibsonFA-0.1Nikola PecovicWaived-0.8
Jamal CrawfordFA-5.5Zach LaVineTrade-1.0
Omri CasspiFA-1.9
Kris DunnTrade-5.6

nERD in:
nERD out: -8.8
Net nERD: 25.2

The Minnesota Timberwolves had one of the busiest (and best) summers in the Association, landing a big fish when they acquired All-Star Jimmy Butler via trade, adding a former All-Star in Jeff Teague through free agency, and filling out their roster with depth pieces like Taj Gibson and Jamal Crawford.

Butler, with his monster 17.3 nERD from last season (fifth in our NBA Player Power Rankings), was enough on his own to greatly increase Minnesota's playoff prospects after a league-high 13 seasons sitting on the outside, but the Timberwolves not only succeeded in what they were able to bring in, but also in what they were able to ship out.

Six of the seven players leaving Minnesota had a negative nERD last season, and the only outgoing player who scored positively -- Ricky Rubio at 0.9 -- has always had his value capped by his inability to develop a shot (he's a career 37.5% shooter from the field).

The Timberwolves had a monster offseason and will likely be a very hard out this year -- something we haven't been able to say since the early aughts, when Kevin Garnett was in his mid-twenties. They were the kings of the summer with a net nERD of 25.2, and that's without even mentioning their budding young stars in Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. Look out.

Oklahoma City Thunder

Player InHow?nERDPlayer OutHow?nERD
Paul GeorgeTrade3.8Taj GibsonFA-0.1
Patrick PattersonFA0.1Norris ColeFA-0.8
Raymond FeltonFA-3.4Victor OladipoTrade-1.2
Domantas SabonisTrade-5.8

nERD in:
nERD out: -7.9
Net nERD: 8.4

Not to be outdone by the Nuggets and Timberwolves in adding star talent, the Oklahoma City Thunder acquired Paul George from the Indiana Pacers this summer, and all it took was Victor Oladipo (-1.2 nERD) and Domantas Sabonis (-5.8 nERD). We've seen what reigning MVP Russell Westbrook can do on an individual level, but now that the Thunder have a star replacement for Kevin Durant in PG13, perhaps we'll see them climb back to having success on a team level as well.

It's worth noting, however, that despite all of Paul George's star appeal, he grades out fairly conservatively in our metric due to his middle-of-the-road shooting efficiency and high turnover rate. Getting the opportunity to be a co-star instead of the only option might help in that regard, but if you've been stuck in an argument about which team improved the most this offseason between the Timberwolves and Thunder in their acquiring Jimmy Butler and Paul George, respectively, nERD says it was Minnesota by a mile.

Portland Trail Blazers

Player InHow?nERDPlayer OutHow?nERD
C.J. WilcoxFA-0.9Festus EzeliWaived2.4
Tim QuartermanTrade-0.5
Allen CrabbeTrade-0.6

nERD in:
nERD out: 1.3
Net nERD: -2.2

In a division filled with thrilling/heartbreaking transactions, the Portland Trail Blazers were the only team that did practically nothing. They should be commended for getting rid of Allen Crabbe's horrible contract -- four years and $75 million is a lot for a player whose 0.6 nERD in 2015-16 was not only a career high, but also the only positive mark of his career -- but that's literally the only thing they did that's worth noting here.


Utah Jazz

Player InHow?nERDPlayer OutHow?nERD
Ricky RubioTrade0.9Gordon HaywardFA12.0
Ekpe UdohFA0.0George HillFA5.9
Thabo SefoloshaFA-0.1Jeff WitheyFA2.0
Jonas JerebkoFA-1.1Shelvin MackFA-2.4
Boris DiawWaived-3.3
Trey LylesTrade-3.6

nERD in:
nERD out: 10.6
Net nERD: -10.9

The Nuggets, Timberwolves, and Thunder are all celebrating an offseason of renewed hope after acquiring a new All-Star this summer, but the Utah Jazz are dealing with the opposite. With All-Star Gordon Hayward bolting for Boston, and George Hill taking on a mentorship role in Sacramento, the Jazz have gone from being one of the most promising young teams in the Western Conference to being a fringe playoff contender.

They still have their top performer in nERD from last season in Rudy Gobert (whose 17.8 ranked him second overall in our NBA Player Power Rankings), and a potential bounce-back candidate in Derrick Favors (0.5 nERD), but new acquisition Ricky Rubio (0.9 nERD) would have to take a huge leap on his new team at age 27 in order to give the Jazz a chance of even sniffing the 50 wins they hit last year.


TeamnERD InnERD OutNet nERD
Denver Nuggets-0.15.5-5.6
Minnesota Timberwolves16.4-8.825.2
Oklahoma City Thunder0.5-7.98.4
Portland Trail Blazers-0.91.3-2.2
Utah Jazz-0.310.6-10.9

The Northwest Division has officially been shaken up with three bona fide All-Stars coming in and one going out. The Jazz clearly got worse in losing Gordon Hayward, and the Trail Blazers stayed more or less the same, so the big debate here is really which team of the Nuggets, Timberwolves, and Thunder took the biggest leap as a result of their new acquisitions.

While Paul Millsap, Jimmy Butler, and Paul George are all great players, our metric likes Butler the most, and it's not even particularly close. With a league-leading net nERD of 25.2, the Timberwolves not only had the best summer in the division, but arguably the entire NBA.