Oklahoma City Thunder
Build confidence in players not named Durant and Westbrook. It’s no debate that the Thunder have two of the top players in the NBA, but when it comes to the playoffs, the role players become so crucial. Serge Ibaka, Enes Kanter, Andre Roberson, Dion Waiters and other players all become very important. Not that they’re not important now, but it’s a whole new ball game come April, and these guys will need to have confidence to perform at a high level if they want any chance of winning a championship.
Look to shake things up this offseason. The Jazz have been consistently bad the past two years. Even though they currently sit at the eighth seed in the Western Conference, Utah is still a sub -500 with a 6-13 record against teams with winning records. This team needs a spark. The injury to Dante Exum hurt them this season and now they have more players missing time with Rudy Gobert, Alec Burks, and Rodney Hood all out with injuries. A squad full of young talent with no player older than 30, Utah could possibly pull a few trades to get some solid veteran experience in there to help turn things around.
Portland Trail Blazers
I must admit that I thought the Portland Trail Blazers would be one of the worst teams this season, but they have shocked me and many others with how they’ve come out and played this season. Going into the New Year, I would like to see some more fluidity throughout their offense. This team relies so much on isolation basketball from Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, and like I said earlier, that’s only going to get you but so far. Portland ranks 21st in assists per game amongst the league and more than 60% of both Lillard’s and McCollum’s points have come unassisted. Ball movement is the key to success, just look at the two teams atop the Western Conference.
I believe this is the year the Nuggets should shop Kenneth Faried. In the fifth year of his career, Faried hasn’t really turned in to what Denver expected. He’s shown glimpses of greatness with 20-20 games and 30+ point performances, but he hasn’t been able to produce at a high level consistently. Denver has struggled the past three seasons and it’s time for a change of scenery for both Faried and the Nuggets. They just drafted a young guard in Emmanuel Mudiay who has a lot of potential and they could also get another quality piece or two and/or a draft pick with a Kenneth Faried trade. This is something that could benefit both parties. Denver could make a right step in the rebuilding phase with some new faces and Kenneth Faried could have a fresh start on a new team.
When it comes to the Minnesota Timberwolves, it’s all about getting better. Continue to grow and continue to improve should be their mantra going forward. Minnesota has a core of young guys that are very talented that management can build around. Just a few pieces from turning this ship completely around, the Timberwolves are headed in the right direction and on their way to success behind Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns.