NBA Denver NuggetsMinnesota TimberwolvesOklahoma City ThunderPortland Trail BlazersUtah Jazz

Ranking the Northwest Division

There may only be one team in the Northwest Division that will dominate this year and take first place and that’s the Oklahoma City Thunder. The other four teams in the division will be looking up to OKC throughout the season, but that does not mean that the Thunder are the only team in the Northwest that will make the post-season. There may be one or two more that will be playing in late April as well.

The Denver Nuggets have ever since trading Carmelo Anthony a few years ago been a very good team. They made the post season twice without Anthony and now by trading for Andre Iguodala the Nuggets have kept themselves in the mix as a playoff contending team. Do not forget that this team still has Ty Lawson, Andre Miller and Corey Brewer and of course their head coach George Karl. There is no doubt that the Nuggets will make the post-season.

The past two seasons the Nuggets have lead the league in scoring with 105.8 a game and I believe that they will continue to lead the league in scoring now with Andre Igudala bringing about 15 points a game and probably being the number one guy that the team goes to, so he’s scoring stats will rise a little higher. The Nuggets should be good enough to win 48-50 games and a sixth seed in the West. If the Nuggets do make the post-season they may not be able to take down the Lakers or Thunder, but if they end up facing the Spurs, Mavs or Clippers they may make a surprise and advance to the second round of the post-season this season.

For the Portland Trail Blazers they may struggle all season long since they only have one player on their team and that’s LaMarcus Aldridge. We do not know yet if he is 100% ready to go for the season opener in a few months. Even if he is who knows how he is going to be on the court after having season ending hip surgery last season. Although, Aldridge is on the team I do not see the Blazers winning no more than 25 games this year and of course they would have a lower seeding due to they are in a rebuilding mode right now even if some people do not think so.

As for the team in Salt Lake City, the Utah Jazz, they may be the team that will be fighting for a playoff spot at the end of the season. With a team of Derrick Favors, Jamaal Tinsley, Randy Foye, Al Jefferson and Mo Williams you would think that the Jazz would be just fine this season. If they were in the East that would work, but being in the Western Conference with teams like the Lakers, Spurs, Thunder, Mavs, Clippers and teams on the rise like the Grizzlies and Nuggets, the Jazz may have a hard time keeping up this year. I do, however, see this team becoming a playoff contending team in the next coming seasons. Expect the Jazz to have a season that contains a period of 5-6 winning streak as well as 5-6 losing streaks throughout this season, and that right there will hurt their chances in reaching the post-season as an seventh or eighth seed.

A team that may be on the rise is the Minnesota Timberwolves. The key word of that sentence is “may”. We all know what Kevin Love can do on the court. He scored 26 points a game last season and 13.3 rebounds a game. We all know as long as Love is on the team the T’Wolves may have shot in becoming a team that they once were when they had Kevin Garnett. However, Minnesota does not have players other than Love that are impressive. If the Timberwolves struggle the first few months of the NBA season then expect Love to start getting unhappy and frustrated and that will hurt the team’s chemistry, the coaching staff and management. I honestly think the Timberwolves will be a team that wins no more than 35 games and that may raise some questions next off-season about the loyalty that Kevin Love has with this team as he may want to play elsewhere if they do not show him that this is the place to play by signing key players to help him lead this team back to a playoff contending team.

As for the only team that will probably dominate the Northwest Division is the Oklahoma City Thunder and who could argue? The Thunder will enter this season as the team to beat in the West when they defend their Conference Championship. One problem that should raise concerns about the Thunder is James Harden. We all know that he is an assist to have as the sixth man, but we saw what he did in the Finals against the Heat in June. Nothing! He didn’t perform like he did throughout the season and being a young player like he is we do not know how he will respond this year. That’s another problem I see this team might have is that they are a young team. A young team that lost the NBA Finals and who knows how they will respond as a team coming off that lost. We should see in the first few months if the Thunder will be the team that we saw all throughout the lockout season.

One this is for sure about the Thunder is that they do have Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and James Harden which means that the Thunder should have another great season and another division title. The problems I mentioned that they may have should not be a factor throughout the season as we saw last year as they are a great regular season team. This is a young team and a hungry team after losing four straight to the Heat in the Finals and they should be ready to handle the pressure that comes with losing the Finals. However, now with the Lakers and Clippers upgrading their roster it may not be such an easy ride to the Finals as it was this past season.

 

PROJECTED STANDINGS

1. Oklahoma City Thunder 55-27

2. Denver Nuggets 48-34

3. Utah Jazz 41-41

4. Minnesota Timberwolves 34-47

5. Portland Trail Blazers

 

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