The Northwest division belongs to the defending champions Denver Nuggets winning 53 games with the Utah Jazz as second place last season with an identical winning slate. But this season it looks like the Nuggets and the Jazz will be in for a tough challenge with the Portland Trail Blazers and the improving Oklahoma City Thunders. Let’s try to evaluate each team and try to look at each acquisitions going to the season.
NORTH WEST DIVISION
Al Harrington and Shelden Williams
Carmelo Anthony seems like he is staying with the Nuggets but he has no intention on signing the three year $64 million contract extension that puts everything now on limbo. He is still in Denver but his other foot is already on its way out. Denver needs to get a good complimentary player if they ever think about trading him. Losing Melo might give them a deeper hole that is hard to cover but if healthy the Nuggets is still a good team especially with Kenyon Martin who could give them the versatility on defense and offense.
Maurice Ager, Kosta Koufos, Luke Ridnour, Sebastian Telfair, Anthony Tolliver, Martell Webster and Michael Beasley
Lazar Hayward, Wesley Johnson and Nikola Pekovic
Minnesota is still a rebuilding team but with their new additions it looks like they are really heading to something big. I like the idea of signing a veteran point guard in Luke Ridnour and with Michael Beasley who had shown some versatility in the court. Wesley Johnson will become a revelation for the Wolves. He has many upside, scoring 13 points in 18 minutes on his game debut against the Sacramento Kings. They could win more games this season than their last but still I don’t see them make it to the playoffs next year.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Daequan Cook, Royal Ivey and Morris Peterson
Scott Brooks used the starting lineup for 76 games last season and it works in wonders winning 50 games and a trip to the playoffs wherein they gave the defending champion Lakers some scare. Russell Westbrook still fresh from Team USA’s championship win has slowly become the vocal leader in the court. With Kevin Durant who is an early candidate for the MVP this year the Thunders are off to a brighter season. This is a young team who is hungry for recognition and will be playing with intensity and tenacity in the court. This season they will either top the North West division or double the feat they did last season moving on to the next round of the playoffs.
Portland Trail Blazers
Fabricio Oberto and Wesley Matthews
Luke Babbit, Armon Johnson and Elliot Williams
The Portland Trail Blazers has the deepest bench in the NBA today. They have talents such as Rudy Fernandez, adding a swift shooter in Luke Babbit and a slasher in Wesley Matthews. They can post you up and over power you. They rarely play a run and gun type of offense because their strengths lie on a set offense. They always play well in the season but they always falter in the playoffs. In spite of their roster they still need someone who could provide them a third or fourth option and Matthews and Oberto are good role players but not someone who could take on games. Luke Babbit can provide them that with his shooting but you can’t put a chip on a shoulder to carry that load especially when the guy is still a rookie.
Rajah Bell, Al Jefferson and Earl Watson
Jeremy Evans and Gordon Hayward
They look good on paper signing a good veteran Power Forward Al Jefferson to fill in the void left by Carlos Boozer but the Jazz has one problem to solve, and that is chemistry. With 6 new players on the rotation they are still finding their identity. Starting the season with 0-2 record it looks like they are in for a long season. They will just have to play through it and hopefully things will happen and hopefully find their identity as a team.
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