Northwest Division Preview

by

PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS

Offseason Summary – The Blazers thought that they needed a starting small forward last year, and they almost landed one this summer. Hedo Turkoglu, fresh off his first NBA Finals appearance, was rumored to be ready to sign when he pulled a last minute Carlos Boozer and inked a deal with the Toronto Raptors (well, Paul Allen isn’t a philanthropic blind man). I’m not entirely certain Hedo would have been a significant improvement. He wouldn’t be enough to get them past the Lakers next year, and he’s getting older. They spent the leftover money on a new point guard, Andre Miller. They picked up four rookies who are unlikely to break the rotation.

Probable Starters

PG Steve Blake
SG Brandon Roy
SF Nicolas Batum
PF LaMarcus Aldridge
C Joel Przybilla

Key Reserves

C Greg Oden
PG Andre Miller
SG Rudy Fernandez
SF Martell Webster

I love this team. I think they lucked out by not signing Hedo. They have three very solid small forwards (or will once Travis Outlaw gets healthy), and they can swing Roy to the 3 and play Rudy at the 2 when they want to go quick and explosive. They play steady defense under coach McMillan. Przybilla and Oden dominate the boards and never take bad shots. They have a ton of scoring at the wings and everyone except the two 7 footers can shoot from deep. Roy is incredibly clutch. They have continuity coming into this season and are still young and getting better. The division is theirs to lose. The conference finals seems like a realistic goal for this season.

DENVER NUGGETS

Offseason Summary – The Nugs lost Linus Kleiza, Dahntay Jones, Chucky Atkins, and Jason Hart, all basically for nothing. They did pick up Arron Afflalo, who evidently had an amazing training camp, James White and Malik Allen, and they drafted NC point guard Ty Lawson. Basically a break even as long as Afflalo can replace Dahntay’s perimeter defense (and hopefully provide an upgrade on offense).

Probable Starters

PG Chauncey Billups
SG J.R. Smith
SF Carmelo Anthony
PF Kenyon Martin
C Nene

Key Reserves

F/C Chris Andersen
SG Arron Afflalo
PG Anthony Carter
F Renaldo Balkman
PG Ty Lawson

I love this team too. Last season B-B-B-Billups added some leadership and structure to the team. Carmelo began playing defense and paying attention to the boards. The Birdman returned and gave them the shotblocking and rebounding off the bench that they needed. The original KMart stayed healthy. They had a very strong season and promise to repeat their successes. Smith remains one of the most explosive scorers at the two guard, though he will miss a few games to start the season. I’m high on Mile High, I just don’t think they’ve got the internal improvements in them to stay ahead of the younger, bigger, more athletic Trailblazers.

UTAH JAZZ

Offseason Summary – The Jazz went out of their way to retain super-sub Paul Millsap, and Carlos Boozer went out of his way to hang around and collect a check as well. The Jazz also picked up about 17 rookies including Paul Harris out of Syracuse, a very nice scoring guard who could have used one more season of … seasoning, wearing the orange. Jarron Collins is gone, and word is that injuries and a career of slamming his way through screens may finally done in Matt Harpring. The Jazz did have some turnover, but as far as total team talent goes, they are probably right about even with last year.

Probable Starters

PG DeRon Williams
SG Ronnie Brewer
SF Kyle Korver
PF Carlos Boozer
C Mehmet Okur

Key Reserves

PF Paul Millsap
G/F C.J. Miles
F Andrei Kirilenko
C Kosta Koufos

The team is deeper than it looks above, I’m just not sure how Jerry Sloan is going to mix in the rooks with the vets next season. They should have sort of a bounce-back year if Boozer stays healthy and his pending free agency keeps his motivation high. Deron is so good (my favorite PG to watch these days), and Brewer is fantastic as well. They’ve got a great combination of forwards with Boozer, Millsap, and AK. Okur is a solid perimeter center. They still have a lack of shotblocking in their starting line-up, and they are going to begin the season without top reserve swingman C.J. Miles. This team has the talent to make it back to the WC Finals as long as chemistry issues don’t sprout up.

OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER

Offseason Summary – This summer the Thunder drafted James Harden, a supremely talented wing out of Arizona, to fill the shooting guard slot. They traded Damien Wilkins and Chucky Atkins for physical big man (and sometimes poet) Etan Thomas and a future second round pick. They also let go defensive guard Earl Watson and picked up defensive guard Kevin Ollie. They’ve signed a few more rookies as well to bulk out the summer league line-up.

Probable Starters

PG Russell Westbrook
SG James Harden
SF Kevin Durant
PF Jeff Green
C Nenad Krstic

Key Reserves

PF Nick Collison
G/F Thabo Sefolosha
PG Shawn Livingston
SG Kyle Weaver
C Etan Thomas

This team’s success is going to hinge on how quickly Harden catches onto the NBA game and just how good Durant wants to be this year. He can score all the time. If he is ready to start playing defense and making smarter passes, the Thunder should take a gigantic step forward. Not near the playoffs mind you, but gigantic for them. I’m not certain if Green is slotted to the starting 4 again. I like him off the bench behind a bigger player with more rebounding ability, but it also doesn’t make sense to bury young talent that could be getting much needed experience while the expectations remain low. This will be the season we find out if Westbrook is really a point guard as well. If he is, this team is a serious defensive center away from being very interesting.

MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES

Offseason Summary – Kevin McHale traded Al Jefferson and Kevin Love to the Celtics for two cases of Sam Adams and Danny Ainge’s 1998 Nissan Maxima. Oh wait. That was two years ago. This summer somebody other than McHale drafted back to back point guards with the 5th and 6th overall picks. The bad news is that Ricky Rubio could not find his way out of the Mediterranean into Minneapolis, and that pick cost them Mike Miller and Randy Foye. The good news? Jonny Flynn appears to be the real deal. They also drafted several other rookies including NC shooting guard Wayne Ellington. They picked up Ramon Sessions, Antonio Daniels, and Sasha Pavlovic as well, fleshing out their back court.

Probable Starters

PG Ramon Sessions
SG Antonio Daniels
SF Corey Brewer
PF Kevin Love
C Al Jefferson

Key Reserves

PG Jonny Flynn
PF Ryan Gomes
SF Damien Wilkins
SG Wayne Ellington

I used to live in Minneapolis and enjoyed some time at the Target Center, so I always pull for the Wolves, but I don’t see it happening this season. Many, many new faces to integrate, a lack of explosiveness at the wings, and lack of overall size up front. They should be exciting though with pace-pushing guards, a great outlet passer in Love, and a slimmed down and ready to run Big Al. New coach Kurt Rambis is committed to running and has been tutored at the knees of Pat Riley and Phil Jackson, so the team should be held accountable on both ends of the court. It’s a start.

Advertisements

2 Responses to “Northwest Division Preview”

  1. pmadavi Says:

    Portland will probably start Miller over Blake, no?

    • jpalumbo Says:

      mayhaps. i read somewhere that blake was still starting with the first team in practice… can’t remember where.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: