With the season just 9 days away, got some of my colleagues to go over the Northwest Division.
Oklahoma City will win the divison
Derek James, 612sports.net: True. I’m not sure it will be particularly close either because of the advantage they have in talent compared to the other teams in the division. Their closest competitors – the Jazz and the Blazers – could both potentially be rebuilding by the trade deadline and likely have a ceiling of a 6-8th seed if they don’t have to begin the fire sale. Otherwise, the Nuggets just don’t have enough pieces, even with Nene returning, and the Timberwolves have much to prove to even receive consideration. Really, it’ll be the battle for second place for teams that are not the Thunder.
Chuck Chaney, ThunderObsessed: True. Thunder are by far the most talented team in the division, let alone the league. With Portland adding pieces, they’ll make a push. However, that’ll be in from the Northwest Division. Denver has too many question marks with players over season. Minnesota is young and not very talented. Utah is not the same Utah as in the past.
Joseph Falinski, NBATradebuzz: True. When you’re as talented as Oklahoma City is and you have already have Western Conference Final experience, it’ll be fairly hard not to win the Northwest Division. Although Portland will be an excellent team and no doubt will reach the playoffs, I think it’s just too tough to pick against Oklahoma City, who many have as the favorites out of the West heading into the season. I have no doubt in my mind that this team has the talent and the drive to 45 games this season.
Utah is the division’s most unpredictable team
Derek James, 612sports.net: True, but not by much. For me, it’s a toss-up between them and Portland, but the Blazers appear to be set to either make another run or begin rebuilding at the deadline. What makes the Jazz so unpredictable is that they will have to strike a balance between the youngsters and the veterans of this roster, especially in that front court. If they can, they could be talented and deep team, but if not, they could wind up with a very frustrating situation on their hands.
Chuck Chaney, ThunderObsessed: False. Let’s give that to the Nuggets. Nuggets have three key players overseas in China and cannot come back until after their league is over. At the least, they’ll miss 31 games with the Nuggets. How will Denver respond without key players? It’s going to remain to be seen. If they can adapt to George Karl’s offense and defense, they just might make a push for a seventh or eighth playoff spot with the return of their players.
Joseph Falinski, NBATradebuzz: False. Although the Jazz are terribly unpredictable, it’s tough not to go with the Denver Nuggets here. The team will face the most adversity in the division during the 2011-12 season because they still have a number of players (J.R. Smith, Wilson Chandler, and Kenyon Martin) who cannot return from their respective overseas clubs because they never signed opt out clauses. That being said, the Nuggets are in for one unpredictable season. They could win 25 games; they could win 45. No one really has a standard pinpoint.
Minnesota will move out of the cellar
Derek James, 612sports.net: False. There’s just too much uncertainty surround the young Timberwolves with a new coach, new system and some new fresh faces. Youth doesn’t win games in the NBA and the Timberwolves added 3 rookies to last season’s team that was the youngest in the league. However, next season could be a different story.
Chuck Chaney, ThunderObsessed: False. While there are some pieces there, Love, Rubio, There is a lot of questions marks there. Where is actual scoring to come from besides Kevin Love. What about the horrible defense that was played by the Wolves, will that improve? You would have to think with a new coach, they’d have to find some way to play defense if they want to move out of the bottom.
Joseph Falinski, NBATradebuzz: True, although realistically they could finish anywhere from three to five and I wouldn’t be surprised in the least bit. When you take a look at the T’Wolves roster, “depth” is the one word that comes to mind. With Ricky Rubio, who finally has taken his talents to the Land of 10,000 Lakes 30 months after being selected; Derrick Williams, who many declared the most NBA ready player of the 2011 draft class; and J.J. Barea, also a point guard who has veteran experience (don’t forget that he played an integral role on a championship team), you have a team that is well-prepared for the shortened season. Denver and Utah are thinner and might struggle to adapt to the changing schedule.We invite you to follow Thunder Digest on Twitter and like Thunder Digest on Facebook. Don't forget to subsribe on Youtube! Our Podcast is on iTunes and on Stitcher. We also have a Thunder Digest Instagram account if you love fun Thunder photography!