This year’s installment of the offseason in the NBA has been nothing short of entertaining. All throughout the league, star players have been on the move since the Finals ended.
While the Association saw an influx of franchise-changing talent move westward to continue stacking the Western conference as a whole, potentially no other division within the league added as much star power as the Northwest Division.
Over the course of last season, both Jimmy Butler and Paul George were talked about most frequently when it came to star players potentially on the move. In two separate deals this offseason, they wound up in the Northwest. Free agency was also utilized greatly this summer by big time veterans looking for a new home and a fresh start. Paul Millsap took his opportunity to move west and landed in the Northwest Division as well.
But for all of the great established players that joined the ranks of the Northwest Division this summer, there was an influx of fresh blood that could potentially shift the balance of power in years to come. However, for the time being, the Northwest is holding as much star power as any other division in basketball.
Oklahoma City Thunder acquire Paul George from Indiana Pacers in exchange for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis
When Paul George being traded from Indiana became inevitable, the return expected by fans was probably a lot more than what it turned out to be. Nevertheless, a deal was struck by the Pacers and Thunder involving one of the game’s top-12 players, a starting shooting guard, and a big man entering his second season.
Clearly, for the time being, at least, the Thunder are the winners of this trade deal. Pairing George with reigning MVP and triple-double machine Russell Westbrook gives the Thunder that 1-2 punch they lacked last season after Kevin Durant bolted for the Bay Area.
There is still the caveat, however, that George can walk after next season as a free man into free agency. But in order to truly contend in the Western Conference, a team needs at the very minimum two established stars. Now that Oklahoma City is wielding both Westbrook and George, they at least make things interesting heading into next season.
Minnesota Timberwolves acquire Jimmy Butler in exchange for Zach Lavine, Kris Dunn, and the No. 7 overall pick
On a draft night stunner, Minnesota formed their new big three.
By parting ways with Lavine and Dunn, Tom Thibodeau was able to entice his old employer just enough to send his former star player to his current team. As a result, the Timberwolves field a squad that boasts Butler alongside Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins.
And just to throw salt in the wound of Bulls’ fans, Chicago also somehow had to include the No. 16 overall pick on draft night to get the deal done, which Minnesota used to select 7-footer Justin Patton.
Giving Thibodeau his old star, a legitimate two-way veteran, to pair with his two budding stars in Towns and Wiggins allows the coach to turn the corner in the contending process for the Timberwolves. As Butler enters the strides of his prime and Towns and Wiggins continue to grow their already impressive skill sets, the Golden State Warriors biggest threat in the league very well may be in Minnesota.
Denver Nuggets sign Paul Millsap
Chalk up Millsap as the third Eastern Conference star from last season to suit up in the Northwest Division next year.
During this wild bout of free agency, Denver went all-in on their continued plan of contention by inking Millsap to a three-year $90 million deal. Adding an established All-Star to the fold around a core of young promising players gives Nuggets fans a reason to be excited about next season, and many seasons to come.
By leaving Atlanta and the roadblock in the East that is LeBron James, Millsap gets a fresh start in the Mile High city sharing a frontcourt with one of the league’s most promising young big men, Nikola Jokic. Alongside each other, Millsap and Jokic seem to be a perfect fit. Millsap is a versatile power forward who can defend at a high level and also stretch the floor with his shooting ability. Jokic, on the other hand, has a knack for finding the open man, even as a center. Last season, Jokic averaged nearly five assists per game. Placing a sweet shooting four alongside him could work wonders for the Nuggets.
With the talented youth Denver possesses, adding in Millsap makes them more than relevant in the stacked Western Conference and they should be one of the more fun teams to watch next season.
Minnesota Timberwolves sign Jeff Teague
After trading for Butler on draft night, Minnesota just kept pouring it on the rest of the division once free agency hit by inking Teague to a three-year $57 million deal.
After trading away two guards in the Butler deal, the Timberwolves essentially replaced those two roster spots with more established players. Pairing Teague and Butler in the backcourt, while having Wiggins on the wing and Towns on the block, the Timberwolves legitimately have four impact players on the court to start the game.
Teague also fits the Thibodeau mold as an athletic and aggressive defender. The Timberwolves perimeter defense could look scary next season after the players and Thibodeau work in the chemistry.
In an offseason where adding Teague isn’t your biggest move, you know you’re doing pretty well. For the Timberwolves, their front office work this offseason has positioned the team as a true heavyweight in the NBA.
Utah Jazz acquire draft rights to Donovan Mitchell in exchange for Trey Lyles and draft rights to Tyler Lydon
Losing Gordon Hayward is going to sting for a while in Utah, but after the performance Mitchell put on in Summer League, there seems to be a silver lining for the future.
By trading up on draft night for Mitchell, Utah installed a fail-safe option for the talent level on their team should Hayward ultimately decide to walk. After their star small forward took his talents to Boston, the Jazz wasn’t left completely empty handed in the “hope” department.
Mitchell brings one of the purest shooting forms in his draft class to Utah, and with a feisty attitude on the defensive end of the court, he presents the potential of turning into a very solid two-way player in the NBA.
The 6-foot-3 guard from Louisville set Twitter ablaze during Summer League when he went off for a tournament-high 37 points in 34 minutes, while also registering eight steals. In another performance, he checked up No. 3 overall pick Jayson Tatum, holding him to just 12 points.
Utah may have lost their current star player this summer, but from the early returns on Mitchell, they may have added their next star player this summer as well.
Portland Trail Blazers trade Allen Crabbe to Brooklyn Nets in exchange for Andrew Nicholson
Normally, trading a player who shot 44 percent from three-point range last season wouldn’t be considered an ideal move. But for the Trail Blazers, shedding Crabbe’s overbearing salary makes parting with his shooting well worth it.
Portland already boasts the likes of Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, and Jusuf Nurkic. Their core is established, and moving forward the best possible way to contend is to build a roster cost-effectively around those three players.
Set to make roughly $56 million over the next three seasons, Crabbe does not fit that mold.
By ridding themselves of Crabbe’s contract, the Trail Blazers now possess the flexibility to move forward and shape out the rest of their roster around the key players they already have under contract. On top of that, just the simple removal of Crabbe’s deal drops Portland’s tax bill from $48.3 million to $4.4 million. Talk about a relief.
Finding a trade partner like Brooklyn, willing to eat a bad contract, provided Portland with a much needed addition-by-subtraction move this offseason.
While the entire league was busy this offseason wheeling and dealing, arguably no division saw as much movement as the Northwest. With a bevy of new arrivals for next season, this division could find itself in one of the hotter races throughout the league, potentially adding some much-needed spark to regular season competition. With some shiny new toys on display in the Northwest Division, the rest of the league will be smart to keep an eye on what takes place there next season.
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