Catching Up on the 2016-17 NBA Offseason: The Northwest Division

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

Yesterday, we began recapping the whirlwind NBA offseason by division, starting with the Atlantic Division. Today, we're continuing with the Northwest Division.

In this series, we are hoping to provide you with a one-stop spot to catch up on all the player movement that took place in the NBA this summer, analyzing the changes within each division along the way and finishing it all off with an all-encompassing summary at the end.

For the sake of our analysis, we'll be using our proprietary 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 and overseas imports (since they're such unknown commodities).

When it comes to the Northwest Division's offseason, the Denver Nuggets barely did anything, the Portland Trail Blazers got incrementally better, and the Minnesota Timberwolves and Utah Jazz both added a little veteran presence.

The elephant in the room, of course, is how the Oklahoma City Thunder will basically never be the same again after this summer. They traded Serge Ibaka to the Orlando Magic on draft night and then lost one of the best players on the planet to free agency just a few weeks later when Kevin Durant signed with the Golden State Warriors.

The power in the Northwest has undeniably shifted. Let's take a look at the winners and losers.

Denver Nuggets

Players InHow?nERDPlayers OutHow?nERD
D.J. AugustinFA0.2

nERD in: 0.0
nERD out: 0.2
Net nERD: -0.2

The Denver Nuggets had one of the least eventful offseasons in the entire NBA. D.J. Augustin left and signed with the Orlando Magic, and that's about all there is to talk about in terms of player movement. The Nuggets' young core is a year older, and they added three first-round picks in this year's draft (including the very promising Jamal Murray), so this looks to be just another year of development for one of the youngest teams in the Association.

Minnesota Timberwolves

Players InHow?nERDPlayers OutHow?nERD
Cole AldrichFA3.7Greg SmithWaived-0.4
Jordan HillFA1.6
Brandon RushFA-0.3

nERD in: 5.0
nERD out: -0.4
Net nERD: 5.4

The Minnesota Timberwolves added some veteran presence this offseason to support their young and exciting core of Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, Ricky Rubio, and Zach LaVine, as well as drafting yet another top prospect in Kris Dunn. The additions of Cole Aldrich and Jordan Hill to go along with Towns, Gorgui Dieng, Nemanja Bjelica, Nikola Pekovic, and whatever's left of Kevin Garnett will make for a crowded frontcourt, so it will be interesting to see how new coach Tom Thibodeau distributes the minutes. Regardless, Aldrich and Hill are both solid and perhaps underrated pick-ups, as they both registered positive nERDs last season. In fact, Aldrich's nERD of 3.7 makes him the highest-rated player added by a team in the Northwest this offseason.

Oklahoma City Thunder

Players InHow?nERDPlayers OutHow?nERD
Ersan IlyasovaTrade1.2Kevin DurantFA19.7
Victor OladipoTrade-0.2Serge IbakaTrade1.3
Ronnie PriceFA-2.1Dion WaitersFA-4.9
Randy FoyeFA-6.3

nERD in: -1.1
nERD out: 9.8
Net nERD: -10.9

The Thunder got a good haul for Serge Ibaka on draft night (Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova, and rookie Domantas Sabonis) and were able to re-sign Russell Westbrook to a lucrative three-year deal, but they still had what has to be considered one of the worst offseasons in the entire NBA because they lost Kevin Durant, pure and simple. Durant and his whopping 19.7 nERD are headed to the Golden State Warriors, and that represents the largest outgoing nERD for a single player this summer. The addition of Oladipo is a plus, but his 48.9% effective field goal percentage and turnover proneness leave him with a nERD of -0.2, so don't expect him to make up for all the wins that go out the door with KD. The Thunder's championship contender status has been revoked and they'll even have a hard time repeating as division champs among up-and-coming teams like the Blazers, Jazz, and Timberwolves.

Portland Trail Blazers

Players InHow?nERDPlayers OutHow?nERD
Festus EzeliFA2.3Brian RobertsFA0.2
Evan TurnerFA-1.2Cliff AlexanderWaived-0.1
Shabazz NapierTrade-2.5Gerald HendersonFA-1.8

nERD in: -1.4
nERD out: -1.7
Net nERD: 0.3

The Blazers extended the reigning Most Improved Player award recipient, C.J. McCollum, this summer, and that's great for a team that is ahead of schedule in its rebuild after losing four-fifths of its starting lineup last summer. Along with the dynamic backcourt of McCollum and Damian Lillard locked up, the Blazers have established a nice foundation of solid, young role players carrying varying levels of breakout potential. This offseason, their moves were a little under the radar, but they improved their depth even more by adding Festus Ezeli and Evan Turner. Combine the downfall of the Thunder with another year of experience for this young Blazer squad, and Portland could be legitimate contenders for a division title this season.

Utah Jazz

Players InHow?nERDPlayers OutHow?nERD
George HillTrade2.3Trevor BookerFA1.9
Boris DiawTrade2.0
Joe JohnsonFA-6.6

nERD in: -2.3
nERD out: 1.9
Net nERD: -4.2

The Jazz have been on the cusp of the playoffs in each of the last two seasons, missing out on the postseason by a mere one game in 2015-16. A few savvy trades and a free agent signing this summer have netted the team some much-needed veteran presence in the form of George Hill, Boris Diaw, and Joe Johnson. Hill (2.3 nERD) fills a long standing point guard hole in Utah, while Diaw and Johnson provide nice depth for the team in the frontcourt and on the wing, respectively. Johnson's nERD of -6.6 drags the Jazz's Net nERD down to -4.2, but that's largely due to his slow start to 2015-16 in Brooklyn. After being waived by the Nets in February, Johnson was revitalized in Miami as a member of the Heat, where he posted a 60.3% true shooting percentage and 15.2 player efficiency rating (PER) in 24 games, as compared to the 51.2% and 10.7 he put up through 57 games of wallowing away with the lowly Nets.


TeamnERD InnERD OutNet nERD
Denver Nuggets0.00.2-0.2
Minnesota Timberwolves5.0-0.45.4
Oklahoma City Thunder-1.19.8-10.9
Portland Trail Blazers-1.4-1.70.3
Utah Jazz-2.31.9-4.2

The Northwest Division doesn't have a very clear winner of the offseason. Emerging teams like the Blazers, Jazz, and Timberwolves all made smart moves and improved on their budding young cores, but it's hard to say which team did the best job of it. Glancing at the names of incoming players, the Jazz look to have improved the most, but Joe Johnson's inefficient first half of 2015-16 keeps their projections in check. One thing we can all agree on, however, is that the Thunder are the clear losers this summer. Sure, the Nuggets stayed almost exactly the same after winning only 33 games last year, but the Thunder lost a bonafide superstar -- a top-three player in the universe -- for nothing, and that's about the worst thing that can happen to a team during an NBA offseason.