We finish our preview and predictions for the NBA’s Western Conference with another deep division that’s nearly impossible to predict. The Northwest Division has no weak teams and will likely be a dog fight with the lucky and healthy making it to the playoffs.
Only the Oklahoma City Thunder are a lock and given the schedule they are also our pick for the best record in the West this season. Everyone else has a ton of potential but winning and losing is a binary thing and even more so in this shortened season, the game within the division will be key.
Here’s how we see the Northwest Division playing out. Picks for the Southwest and Pacific Divisions are here and here.
Oklahoma City Thunder:
The OKC Thunder are understandably everyone’s favorite pick to win the Western Conference this season and I don’t see any reason to buck that trend. The Thunder bring back the same team that went to the WCF last year and will have a full season with Kendrick Perkins. The young core of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and Serge Ibaka should be able to handle the tough schedule as well as any team in the league.
Prediction: 48-18, 1st place Northwest Division
Portland Trail Blazers:
The Trail Blazers are officially moving on without Brandon Roy and will almost certainly not see Greg Oden on the floor this season. Those two healthy would make Portland a legitimate title contender, but even without them they are still loaded with talent. LaMarcus Aldridge, Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum, Gerald Wallace and Raymond Felton is still a powerful starting line up. Depth will be an issue but there is some young talent with Luke Babbit andNolan Smith.
Prediction: 36-36, 2nd place Northwest Division
The T-Wolves have one of the most talented and exciting young rosters in the league with a handful of valuable vets sprinkled in as well. New coach Rick Adelman will have plenty of options to work with but will also have his hands full with all the young energy. Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio, J.J. Barea, Wesley Johnson, Anthony Randolph, Derrick Williams, Michael Beasley, Martell Webster, Darko Milicic, Brad Miller and Anthony Tolliver make this one of the deepest rosters in the league.
The Timberwolves are expected to be bad because they’ve been bad for a long time but with all this talent we think experienced coach Rick Adelman could shock some people if he can mange the minutes, shots and egos that will fill this young locker room.
Prediction: 35-31, 3rd place Northwest Division
The Utah Jazz enter their first season with out Jerry Sloan at the helm since Theodore Roosevelt was in office. They will also be without staples like Deron Williams and Andrei Kirilenko. In their place will be a new generation of Jazz players led by rookie Enes Cantor and 2nd year forwards Derrick Favors and Gordon Hayward. Vets like Devin Harris, Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap will try and keep things together but this team feels like it is still in transition.
Prediction: 32-34, 4th place Northwest Division
Denver has manged to retain center Nene Hilario by throwing more money at him than any other team could and will partner him with Danilo Gallinari, Al Harrington and a back court led by Andre Miller and Ty Lawson. RFA Arron Afflalo is still unsigned which is odd but the Nuggets did pick up Rudy Fernandez and Corey Brewer from the Mavs and added rookies Kenneth Faried and Jordan Hamilton. The roster is interesting but features no star players and a lot of disparate parts that may or may not fit together.
Prediction: 32-35, 5th place Northwest Division