2017 Offseason Playlist: Northwest Division
With the Eastern Conference covered, the 2017 NBA Offseason Playlist is rolling along! This week, the series will be jumping into the stacked Western Conference by reviewing the Northwest DIvision, which had an eventful past few months. Per usual, I will call on various artists in various genres of music to describe the summer for the five teams in the division. The East lost some big dogs this summer, and I had quite some thoughts about it – check out all of the songs I chose for the 15 teams in the conference below.
- Atlantic Division, led by the voice of Drizzy Drake
- Central Division, featuring artists ranging from Chance the Rapper to Jack Johnson
- Southeast Division, explained by Ice Cube, Beyonce, and other big names in music
As a brand new feature, every song used in the Offseason Playlist is on an actual Spotify playlist now and will be updated as the series continues!
With the exception of the Portland Trail Blazers, the Northwest Division has a completely new look for the 2017-18 season. Three Eastern Conference All-Stars took their talents out west one way or another, and it will be exciting to see how they mesh with their new rosters. There’s a lot to discuss in this segment so let’s get to it.
Oklahoma City Thunder: Take A Chance on Me (ABBA)
“If you change your mind, I’m the first in line
Honey, I’m still free – take a chance on me”
The Thunder blew everyone’s minds this summer by adding the four-time All-Star Paul George next to Russell Westbrook. When I heard the news, I was shocked that it was OKC that was the one who managed to snatch PG13. When I read what the actual deal was, though, I was even more puzzled. Sam Presti got a steal here for a star wing player. I know that there’s a good chance that this only turns out to be a one-year rental for George, but who cares. If you can have the services of an athletic All-Star for the price of Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis – even if it’s for one season – you do it. You take that chance every time.
More importantly, all of the “Paul George to L.A.” talk is not definite. Sure, it is assumed that he wants to be a Laker next summer when he is a free-agent. But George has also stated how he simply wants to be in a position to win. I think the Thunder put themselves in a prime position to be a possible long-term landing spot for PG13. If he has a great season in OKC this year – both individually and as a team – then OKC will surely be in the back of his mind during his free-agency. And that’s where this ABBA tune comes in.
If George changes his mind about playing for the Lakers, the Thunder want to be first in line. It may not be a big market, but take a chance on the little team in OKC that you can shine and win with. Hey PG13, the Thunder are, in the words of ABBA, “Gonna do [their] very best and it ain’t no lie. If you put [them] to the test, if you let [them] try.”
And whether he likes it or not, he will be giving OKC a try in 2017-18. If he likes what he sees, maybe he’ll stick around. If he doesn’t, well, it was worth a try.
Portland Trail Blazers: Growth Spurt (Dame D.O.L.L.A.)
“My life been a puzzle, jigsaw
I went from a puppy to a big dog”
In: Zach Collins, Caleb Swanigan, C.J. Wilcox
This is certainly a special track to select for Damian Lillard’s Trail Blazers. For those of you who may be unfamiliar with rap (or Lillard’s extracurricular activities), Dame D.O.L.L.A is Lillard’s stage name. While he’s quickly emerging as one of the best guards in the league on the court, the Portland star also goes hard in the recording booth. I touched on this when I wrote about the root between hip-hop and the NBA (still one of my favorite articles ever). DAME D.O.L.L.A released his debut album, The Letter O, in 2016 and the dude’s got some serious skills on the mic. When I hear him spit, he reminds me of a young Jay-Z. So yeah, I think he’s pretty talented.
Back to basketball, though. Lillard’s own song, Growth Spurt, is all you need to know about Portland’s summer. They hardly made any roster moves, and that’s perfectly fine. With Lillard and fellow backcourt-mate C.J. McCollum, they have a killer duo for years to come. Both players have hit massive growth spurts in the league, and that growth is only going to continue into this season. In fact, I think McCollum will be a top-15 player in the league alongside Lillard and the third best SG this season only behind The Beard and The Greek Freak (if you even want to consider him a SG).
On top of Lillard and McCollum, Portland will see growth from 23-year-old Jusuf Nurkić, rookie Zach Collins, 22-year-old Noah Vonleh, and their other young pieces. No need for Portland to do much this summer when they have a strong young core that will continue to experience growth spurts in their games.
P.S. This song is even in NBA2k18. For those who have played “My Career”, you may recognize the hook from when your player met Lillard in the booth and he rapped it.
Utah Jazz: Goodbye My Lover (James Blunt)
“Goodbye my lover, goodbye my friend
You have been the one – you have been the one for me”
Here’s a live look at every Utah fan on this past July 4th:
So dramatic, I know. This song is notorious for its overly depressing and sorrowful vibes, but there’s no hiding how much Gordon Hayward’s departure is going to hurt the city of Utah. Heartbreak is a son of a gun.
Their number one priority this offseason was to secure Hayward. As a sign of devotion to him, they went out of their way to bring on a pass-first point guard, Ricky Rubio. That was supposed to encourage their All-Star to stay in town. Yet, four days after the Jazz traded for Rubio, Hayward took his talents elsewhere.
Jazz fans don’t need to listen to this whole song by James Blunt – they just need a little taste of it. That’s all it takes. They’re getting rid of their Hayward posters and memorabilia, trying to say goodbye to the only star they’ve come accustomed to. Now I know they still have a bad, bad man holding down the fort in Rudy Gobert. I’ve already discussed the impact he has on the game and how he may have already been their most important player last season. Without Hayward, though, their offense will greatly regress.
This offseason for the Jazz was all about saying goodbye to their lover, their friend, the player who has been “the one” for them – Gordon Hayward – after unsuccessfully convincing him to stay.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Howlin’ For You (The Black Keys)
“There’s something wrong, with this plot
The actors here have not got a clue…baby I’m howlin’ for you”
Get it? Cause they’re the Wolves? And wolves howl??
Really though, this extremely catchy song works well here on a couple of levels. First off, the Minnesota Timberwolves aren’t pups anymore. One of the youngest and most inexperienced teams in the NBA made the transformation from a wandering wolf cub to a fearless wolf howling in the night. Their youth got them into a lot of trouble last season – they were constantly blowing late leads and were a terrible fourth quarter team. Although this issue would have naturally resolved itself over time, Minnesota accelerated the process by making a handful of moves this summer.
The big catch was obviously Jimmy Butler, who is now reunited with his former coach and will instantly serve as a reliable constant for a squad that was incredibly up-and-down last year. When Minnesota needs to close out a game, they now have a guy they can turn to. And a great one, at that. I loved this trade from the Timberwolves’ perspective and am pumped to watch him alongside KAT and Wiggins.
They weren’t done, though. They traded Ricky Rubio and replaced him with a better-shooting Jeff Teague. While Rubio already supplied them with some experience, Teague was part of a top-seeded team on the Hawks and has many playoff victories under his belt – unlike Rubio. The Timberwolves then went out and grabbed a great rebounder in Taj Gibson and a lethal sixth-man who is as seasoned as they get, Jamal Crawford. These veterans will make tremendous role players for a roster that was starving for some reliable veterans.
Now, these former wolf pups are showing their teeth and howling at opponents, eager to attack their prey this season.
Secondly, this popular track by The Black Keys provides a great analogy of how the president of basketball operations and head coach Tom Thibodeau felt this offseason. As the song states, “there’s something wrong, with this plot. The actors here have not got a clue.” In other words, Coach Thibs is accustomed to capable players who are constantly grinding. In Chicago, he had a roster full of experienced players who didn’t really need time to find their niche in the league. In Minnesota, the plot seems wrong to him and the players naturally seem more “clueless” since they’re so young. This made Thibs reach out for Butler, probably saying something like “baby I’m howlin’ for you.”
Oh, the wolves are howlin’, alright. The league better take caution with them.
Denver Nuggets: Perfect Fit (Van Morrison)
“What you are asking fits with everything on my list
This could be the perfect fit”
The Denver Nuggets had some very clear needs this summer. They have found a star at the center position in Nikola Jokic. They have two talented guys under the age of 22 in their backcourt in Emmanuel Mudiay and Jamal Murray. The gaping hole in the heart of their lineup sat at the forward position, so this was their top focus this offseason.
On top of that, another thing on the Nuggets’ wishlist was defense. Denver’s offense excelled in the 2016-17 season – they were first in the NBA in offensive efficiency from mid-December on. However, they were suspect on the defensive end, checking in 29th in defensive efficiency.
The Nuggets addressed both of these issues by signing Paul Millsap, a great talent who plays power forward, can guard multiple positions and is a highly underrated defensive stud. Denver hit it out of the park with this signing by killing two birds with one stone. Millsap is the perfect fit in the frontcourt next to Jokic. Both guys are versatile and unselfish players with great ball-handling, passing, and shooting skills for big men. At the other end, Millsap’s defense will hide Jokic’s underwhelming rim protection.
Millsap fits with everything on Denver’s offseason list. He fills the void at the forward spot while also adding some much-needed defense. The could be the perfect fit.
On Deck: Pacific Division
Let’s hear your song picks for these teams!