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NBA League Preview: Northwest Division

October 10, 2012

Basketball, Features, NBA

Denver Nuggets

I talked about the Nuggets in my Dwight Howard article a few weeks ago, so I will try to make this quick: I think Denver with Iggy is a much improved team, and has a good shot at making the playoffs. This division isn’t particularly as tough as the others, but I feel like Denver has a good shot at winning it. I’m curious to see how quickly Iguodala clicks with his new teammates, but I think they’ll be just fine.

The team has a good amount of depth, and that’s always a good thing. Lawson will play strong, as will McGee and Gallinari. With Miller coming off the bench, I think that George Karl is able to relax a little bit with such a veteran (and to mention, very reliable) coming off the bench. I’m imagining that Kenneth Faried will be splitting minutes with Anthony Randolph, so that’ll keep both players fresh and ready to go.

I think Denver does make the post-season, but I’m not 100 percent sure they win the division. Even so in getting to the post-season, I don’t think they’ll do a whole lot. I just find it hard pressed to convince myself that the Nuggets have enough talent to compete with the big name west teams in the Thunder, Spurs, and so on.

Minnesota Timberwolves

Oh how the tides have turned Minnesota. Kevin Love is a double-double, gold medal winning beast who is bent on leading his team to the playoffs for his first ever playoff game. It’s interesting, because I think this team has a firm chance of winning the division. The Timberwolves have managed to add ex-Portland Trailblazer (and at one time Rookie of the Year) Brandon Roy. The question I’ve proposed to several friends and colleagues of mine is: do you think Roy can still ball? I’ve almost always received a resounding yes. I suppose I don’t blame them, because there’s technically no evidence saying he can’t. He hasn’t played in a season because of a pre-mature retirement due to his failing knees. The Wolves and Roy himself, say this is NOT the case anymore, and he’s noticing improvements for the first time in a long time. I think that 82 games for anyone is difficult, but for an ex-All-Star who hasn’t played in a season? Even worse. The good news is, he’s certainly not going to be relied on as heavily here as he previously was in Portland and he’ll be playing with the best point guard and power forward’s he’s ever played with. So, that’s great news and should be much easier on his knees. Another great thing about Roy is hopefully with him, they now receive someone used to preforming in the fourth quarter, where games are won.

Speaking of point guards though, Ricky Rubio. What’s not to say about the Spaniard? He’s one of the most fun players on this planet to watch, and I myself have described him as “Steve Nash without the shot, but when he gets it, watch out, and it is certainly a case of when”. Rubio is a great point guard, but he’s just going to need to stay healthy. I imagine he’ll be back with a vengeance come December or January, and he’s not going to let Kevin Love do everything on his own. Expect Rubio to play well, because ever since he was a kid, he’s handled the pressure. Let’s hope his body does the same.

Playing at small-forward is a player I forgot existed until the Olympics: Andrei Kirilenko. AK47 used to be a forced to be reckoned with in Utah, and he’s been away playing in Russia but played like a force in the Olympics this year. He’s ready to go and offers the Wolves a great piece at the three spot.

Starting at the five spot is Nikola Pekovic. He averaged around 26 minutes a game last season, although I’m sure he’ll end with a few more than that this season provided he’s not splitting minutes with Love.

Enough with the starters. The biggest difference with this Timberwolves team is they actually have depth now. With Barea and Ridnour coming off the bench to back up young Rubio (although Ridnour will start due to Rubio’s injury), there is stability there. Provided Derrick Williams gets sometime to develop and the proper mentors, he’ll be a heck of a force behind Love. I was furiously annoyed when I heard that Kahn was willing to get rid of the young Williams for Pau Gasol. Don’t take it the wrong way, I really do like Pau Gasol and I dislike a lot of the critics for bashing him when in my opinion, a lot of Laker woes weren’t his fault. I just still don’t see the point in acquiring Gasol, being over 30 and over paid should actually matter. Moving on, the team just signed Lou Amundson, and he’ll provide quality minutes as well. I mean it, this team actually possess a bench as well as a potent, albeit old and/or often injured, starting line up.

Do I think that the Wolves make the playoffs? Oh yes, I certainly do. If they stay healthy anyway, and if they do, I think that they can actually make a run into the playoffs. It’s all about match-ups right? But if the often injured stars stay injured, the Wolves will go no-where, and all this hype will be wasted time and energy.

Oklahoma City Thunder

The reigning Western Conference Champions ladies and gentlemen. It’s hard to complain about the Thunder. They really haven’t changed a whole lot from last season. The first thing is first: The Thunder have re-signed Serge Ibaka to multiyear extension. I (among everyone else) really do enjoy this signing. Ibaka is a beast, and has done nothing but improve since given the chance to get quality minutes. The biggest problem I’ve heard (and there are several people here at The Farm Club that feel this way) is that the team just can’t afford to re-sign Harden. Let’s be honest, they really can’t. As my colleague Steven Nardo brings up in his article “The Offseason Move No One Is Talking About”, the team can’t afford it for the long term. They’re committing a huge chunk of change to Durant, Westbrook and Ibaka alone. That’s just three players. Signing Harden will throw them well over the luxury tax. I won’t go too much into depth here, Steven did that just fine. The only thing I’ve read that truly makes sense to me, is to re-sign him, and try for about two years or so, and trade him. You still get the best of Harden, but you’re able to get something out of it (provided he stays playing strong).

I honestly don’t have much to say in terms of the make-up of this team. The Thunder remain the same team (more or less) as last year, and have just as much firepower as ever to make it back to the NBA Finals. They’ll obviously be in the playoffs, but they’re good to need to continue to use this season to mature, and not turn the ball over down the stretch. Also, you can’t allow another team to shoot nearly 60 percent from beyond the arc in the NBA Finals.

Portland Trailblazers

Oh Portland, I remember when you were somewhat relevant in the NBA. When you had Brandon Roy, and when I hate to see the Phoenix Suns play against you in the playoffs, because you made my life utter hell when I wanted Nash to so badly get a ring. Good times, right?

Obviously we know the rest here, you picked Oden in the draft. Then, Roy’s knees officially gave out, and so did he. And you faded into NBA purgatory. Is that going to change this season? Probably not. Actually, it won’t. There is no probably to it. This Portland team (now without big time defender Wallace) really has only one All-Star on the roster (LaMarcus Aldridge), and only one other, in my opinion, quality starter in Nicolas Batum. Other than that, this team has depth, it’s just that none of the depth is really all that astounding. I think they can use this time to gather themselves, and develop young talent, such as Nolan Smith, they ex-Duke guard who now has a year of NBA experience under his belt.

I do have to give Portland this: this city loves their team. Even through the bad, they continue to stick by and sell out the arena, and that to me is priceless, and alone is a good reason to come play in Portland. They won’t be irrelevant for too much longer, and as a young, rising star you have a chance to have a great fanbase behind you. So, Portland fans, this is to you. Continue to stick by your team. Don’t let the bad decision that was Oden hold you down. As for the players: don’t try to go out of your way, just play smart, develop and have that dream of a title, and do not give up. We’ll see you in the playoffs soon, if I know Portland at all.

Utah Jazz

Here is another team that faded into being irrelevant but in a seemingly different move. Ever since the living legend Jerry Sloan stepped down from coaching, they Jazz have been mediocre at best. The thing about this that is promising, is that they still find a way to weasel their way into the playoffs, like last year for example.

The Jazz haven’t done too much to themselves (if anything) this offseason, and I can’t say I blame them. They have quite a bit of young talent, as well as an All-Star caliber player in Paul Millsap, so there’s no reason to think they need to add a whole lot.

With the Jazz not changing a whole lot, I find it hard to say too much about them. Of course, they’re still developing that young talent, and I do think they’ll make the playoffs this year. (or they’ll be close.) Portland will finish at the bottom of this division, so the Jazz do not quite have to worry about that.

If the Jazz make the playoffs, I think they only way they advance out of the first round is to somehow manage to end up in the four seed (which is not going to happen). Utah is very good at home, and every team (not the Spurs, obviously) would like to avoid their road to the championship going through Utah. Without that homecourt though, the Jazz will be knocked out in quite a hurry (again). So good luck Utah.

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Check out Curtis’ previews of the Southwest, Pacific, Central, Southeast, and Atlantic Divisions.

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About Curtis Dasch

Curtis Dasch is currently a student at Bowling Green State University, majoring in English. He is a go-to for NBA opinions and knowledge of the intangibles, but enjoys most sports in general. Considered a "jack-of-all-trades," he also hosts a weekly gaming podcast known as Satellite Gaming's Satellcasts.

View all posts by Curtis Dasch

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4 Comments on “NBA League Preview: Northwest Division”

  1. Curtis Dasch Says:

    I forgot about Jefferson to be honest, and he’s definitely an all-star caliber player. Their roster is a tad overloaded with mediocrity though, and Mo Williams…? Williams isn’t really that good. He’s a score-first, below assist average point guard (and you can make an argument that he’s over paid), and while that’ll win you games, it won’t get you a winning season. As for Marvin Williams, I have nothing negative to say, but nothing positive either. He’s just average at the moment.

    As for Favors, I hope you’re right. I’d like to see him do well.

    It’s not so much distribution of minutes I’d worry about, it’s the fact that you have literally no one to truly distribute the ball.

    Reply

  2. Josh Sund Says:

    Utah’s All-Star caliber player, if they have one, would have to be Al Jefferson. 19 and 9, along with 1.7 blocks per game. They really need to figure out how to distribute the minutes. Derrick Favors is ready. He’s a 20 and 15 guy over 48 minutes of basketball. The Mo Williams and Marvin Williams pickups round out this team very well, they just need to get hot and hope Hayward keeps improving at a steady rate.

    Reply

  3. frankwoodford34 Says:

    Loved the article, I am a Northwest guy so I grew up watching these teams. I agree with your views on the Wolves and Thunderm both should have solid seasons!

    I am however a huge Blaxer fan, so the question I pose is, how can you preview the Blazer season and not mention Damian Lillard who will be in the running for Rookie of the Year?

    Reply

    • Curtis Dasch Says:

      Thanks a lot for the comment man.

      Now, to answer your question, a big part of it was ignorance on my part honestly. You’re absolutely right, I should have mentioned him.

      The only thing I really have an issue with when it comes to Lillard, is while I get he’s at the point, he’s mainly a scorer. With guys like Aldridge, I really don’t think he needs to be that much of a scorer all the time. If he evolves his passing, and plays more like CP3 instead of Mike Bibby, he’ll be deadly. In your defense, the guys still a rookie, so it’s okay for him to have some flaws for now.

      Reply

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