It’s undeniably the strongest conference compared to the Eastern teams. You can pick four title contenders in the East starting from The Cavaliers, Magic, Boston and Miami but when we talk about the Western teams we can talk all about a handful of title contenders emerging. Let’s try to tackle the North West division this division doesn’t follow the norm of Western teams which have bigger and deeper bench but the North West division particularly the Denver Nuggets made it all the way up to the conference finals. With two teams on the rebuilding stage that leaves three best teams leading this division.
NORTH WEST DIVISION
Denver Nuggets (54-28)
New Acquisitions: Arron Affalo, Malik Allen,
Rookie/Rookies: Ty Lawson 1st round (18th pick)
Losing Dahntay Jones to the Pacers and getting Ty Lawson in return the Nuggets are getting a younger and a better backup to Chauncy Billups but when Denver re-signed Anthony Carter it moves Lawson to the third option in the point. Arron Affalo can give some of the offense vacated by Jones but still Dahntay’s defensive presence will be missed. Luckily Jr. Smith is still on the roster and other than Jones; Denver is pretty much the same team that went toe to toe with the Lakers on the conference finals. Usually teams like Denver don’t need much change when they are doing pretty well. Why fix it when it’s not even broken.
Minnesota Timberwolves (24-58)
New Acquisitions: Chucky Atkins, Mark Blount, Ryan Hollins, Oleksiy Pecherov, Darius Songalia and Damien Wilkins
Rookie/Rookies: Ricky Rubio 1st round (5th pick), Jonny Flynn 1st round (6th pick), Wayne Ellington 1st round (28th pick) and Henk Norel 2nd round (17th pick).
The busiest team in the West drafting 3 first round picks and 1 second rounder but the most notable pick would definitely be Ricky Rubio the 18 year old phenom who will be playing with a target on his head. Many teams would like to try out Rubio’s greatness but amidst all the hype Rubio still has a contract with Juventud which barred him from wearing the T’wolves uniform and will continue to play in Spain for the next two years maybe that’s the reason the Wolves drafted reliable point guard Jonny Flynn. The Wolves will still be a rebuilding team this coming season and expect a lot of roster changes especially in the forward and Center position with 8 players playing the same position.
Oklahoma City Thunder (23-59)
New Acquisitions: Kevin Ollie and Ethan Thomas,
Rookie/Rookies: James Harden 1st round (3rd pick), BJ Mullens 1st round (24th pick) and Robert Vaden 2nd round (24th pick).
FYI the Thunders drafted BJ Mullens as the 24th overall pick while Robert Vaden is also the 24th pick on the second round. Serge Ibaka the 6-foot-11 center is also drafted by the Thunders as the 24th overall pick in the 2008 draft so what’s with the no.24 for the Thunders? Anyways the rebuilding Thunders team have a mixed of young and athletic backcourts with solid defensive presence in the middle but this team still lacks the experienced with only Kevin Ollie as a 12-year veteran who is not a starter but a solid backup point. This team has a franchise player in Kevin Durant and slowly his maturity is improving. The Thunders are in no hurry especially Durant and Jeff Green showing a glimpse of greatness.
Portland Trail Blazers (54-28)
New Acquisitions: Andre Miller
Rookie/Rookies: Victor Claver 1st round (22nd pick), Jeff Pendergraph 2nd round (1st pick), Dante Cunningham 2nd round (3rd pick) and Patrick Mills 2nd round (24th pick).
The Blazers are a solid unit which gave the Lakers problem all season long but what’s eminent was they lack the experienced during pressure times. Slowly adding details to the puzzle and luckily got the missing piece when Andre Miller was available on the roster of free agents. Miller provides the experienced that can also post-up smaller guards and provides another option in offense. Brandon Roy and Lamarcus Aldridge will be the pillars of the team and adding Miller to the mix gives them a deeper and experienced team. They are still a young team but they will always be the dark horse of the Western conference and the record speaks for itself. Will Miller be the missing ingredient to the championship hopes of Portland? That still remains uncertain but certainly it’s a probability.
Utah Jazz (48-34)
New Acquisitions: none
Rookie/Rookies: Eric Maynor 1st round (20th pick) and Goran Suton 2nd round (20th pick).
The Utah Jazz will be the team to look out to why? Because they got the steal of the draft and I wonder why Atlanta, Minnesota and other teams didn’t draft the only pure point guard of the draft Eric Maynor.
The Jazz is pretty much the same team last season but this season I believed they would be even better. With Deron Williams emerging as one of the best point guard in the West, sky is the limit for the Jazz. The only problem would be Carlos Boozer who is vocally stating he will be looking for another team when his contract ends. .. It would be fun to watch the Utah Jazz this season and Maynor has something to do with it.