Catching Up on the NBA Offseason: The Northwest Division

Which team has had the best offseason so far in the Northwest Division? Can the Trail Blazers still win some games this year?

Last week, we started recapping the whirlwind NBA offseason by division. We opened with the Atlantic Divison, and then moved out west for a look at the Southwest Divison. Earlier this week, we shifted back east to break down the Central Division, and today we're going back west once again to analyze the Northwest Division (noticing a pattern?).

In this series, we hope to provide a one-stop spot for you to catch up on the flurry of trades and signings that have happened so far this summer, just in case you've fallen a bit behind or want an idea of the overall picture now that most of the dust has settled. For the sake of our analysis, we'll be using our in-house nERD metric as a point of comparison, focusing on nERD in and nERD out for each team.

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 the sake of this study, we'll use last season's nERD scores and leave out rookies (since they're so dang unpredictable).

There haven't been any marquee free agents signings in the Northwest Division this summer, with the highest nERD of any player coming in belonging to Ed Davis, who signed a three-year deal with the Portland Trail Blazers (and whose 5.0 nERD is subtly excellent at 34th in the league, for whatever that's worth). No, the biggest thing that happened in the division -- unfortunately for those Trail Blazers -- was the fact that Portland lost 80% of their starting lineup to trades or free agency, headlined by LaMarcus Aldridge bolting for the San Antonio Spurs.

Beyond that, though, things were pretty quiet in the Northwest. Without any big or splashy players coming in, which teams still managed to get better and which got worse?

Denver Nuggets

Players InHow?nERDPlayers OutHow?nERD
Joey DorseyTrade0.4Ty LawsonTrade1.6
Nick JohnsonTrade-1.3   
Kostas PapanikolauTrade-2.2  

nERD in: -3.1
nERD out: 1.6
Net nERD: -4.7

The only player movement that happened for the Nuggets this offseason outside the draft was the Ty Lawson trade, although that one move alone does change the makeup of their roster pretty significantly. They've basically said that the Emmanuel Mudiay era is on in Denver, while adding relatively inconsequential players to the backend of their rotation. The Nuggets have taken the "starless" approach the last few years since trading Carmelo Anthony and this year it looks like they'll be taking that to a whole new level (sorry Kenneth Faried).

Minnesota Timberwolves

Players InHow?nERDPlayers OutHow?nERD
Andre MillerFA-1.2Justin HamiltonEurope0.2
Damjan RudezTrade-1.5Robbie HummelEurope-1.3
   Chase BudingerTrade-2.7
   Gary NealFA-4.2

nERD in: -2.7
nERD out: -8.0
Net nERD: 5.3

The above moves made by the Timberwolves this summer will likely be inconsequential, given that the biggest name going either way was probably Chase Budinger (Andre Miller is too old to count). The Wolves' future relies heavily on the last two first-overall picks in Andrew Wiggins (2014) and Karl-Anthony Towns (2015) anyway. Minnesota subtly had the highest gain in Net nERD in their division at 5.3 this offseason, but don't plan the championship parade just yet. There will be plenty of growing pains over the next few seasons as they continue their rebuild. That said, they've been doing one heck of a job of setting themselves up for future success since the Kevin Love trade and they could very well be in for a few more wins this year than the 16 they put up last season.

Oklahoma City Thunder

Players InHow?nERDPlayers OutHow?nERD
   Jeremy LambTrade0.7
   Perry Jones IIITrade-2.3

nERD in: 0.0
nERD out: -1.6
Net nERD: 1.6

The only movement out of Oklahoma City this summer was their giving up on projects Jeremy Lamb and Perry Jones III, who they traded to Charlotte and Boston, respectively. Of course, the Thunder hope to be welcoming back a healthy Kevin Durant this year (whose last healthy season in 2013-14 yielded a league-leading 27.0 nERD and an MVP trophy), so they'll probably be ok. Especially seeing as how they made their most important acquisitions at the trade deadline this past season when they picked up Enes Kanter, D.J. Augustin, and Kyle Singler. With Kanter and Singler re-upped, we're about to see -- once and for all -- if this iteration of the Thunder can win a championship before Durant hits free agency in the summer of 2016.

Portland Trail Blazers

Players InHow?nERDPlayers OutHow?nERD    
Ed DavisFA5.0LaMarcus AldridgeFA6.5
Mason PlumleeTrade2.5Wesley MatthewsFA4.6
Al-Farouq AminuFA1.2Robin LopezFA3.8
Noah VonlehTrade-0.2Nicolas BatumTrade0.8
Phil PresseyFA-1.0Steve BlakeTrade-2.0
Mike MillerTrade-1.9Arron AfflaloFA-5.2
Gerald HendersonTrade-2.3  

nERD in: 3.3
nERD out: 8.5
Net nERD: -5.2

The Blazers have officially torn it down. LaMarcus Aldridge is a Spur, Nicolas Batum is a Hornet, Wesley Matthews is a Maverick, and Robin Lopez and Arron Afflalo are Knicks. Portland did manage to lock down Damian Lillard for another five years, but he's the closest thing to a true impact player the team has left. A frontcourt of Ed Davis and Mason Plumlee will probably be ok, at least defensively, but there simply aren't that many effective scorers left. You probably could have guessed this, but our numbers have pegged Portland as having had the worst offseason of any team in the Northwest Division with a net loss of -5.2 nERD.

Utah Jazz

Players InHow?nERDPlayers OutHow?nERD
   Jeremy EvansFA1.7

nERD in: 0.0
nERD out: 1.7
Net nERD: -1.7

The only move (or non-move) that the Utah Jazz made this offseason was letting Jeremy Evans walk. You would normally think that such a lack of tinkering would spell doom for a 38-win team, but the Utah Jazz came on strong to finish last season, going 19-10 after the All-Star break (the Association's sixth-best record over that span). In other words, they'll be fine with the budding core they already have (not a single starter over 25), and it should be exciting to see what another year of experience and chemistry building can do to for this team as is.


TeamnERD InnERD OutNet nERD
Denver Nuggets-3.11.6-4.7
Minnesota Timberwolves-2.7-8.05.3
Oklahoma City Thunder0.0-1.61.6
Portland Trail Blazers3.38.5-5.2
Utah Jazz0.01.7-1.7

Picking a winner of the offseason-to-date in the Northwest Division would not be an easy task. The Portland Trail Blazers have the most combined nERD coming in, but they also lost the most by a fairly wide margin, making their Net nERD of -5.2 the lowest in the division. It's pretty obvious that they had the worst offseason of these five teams, but who the heck had the best? The biggest single-player gain in nERD that the remaining teams brought in was Denver getting Joey Dorsey's 0.4 (who just came back from a three-year NBA hiatus to play 12.4 minutes per game for Houston in 2014-15). Let's just say that the four teams in the division that didn't lose four starters with positive nERDs this summer won the offseason in a four-way tie, shall we?