The Thunder is the best team in this division. Superstars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have playoff experience, and have been to a championship before. Durant is the reigning MVP, and even though he won’t start the season on the court because of a stress fracture in his foot. Oklahoma has enough talent to hold water until Durant gets back.
The impediment this team seems to have is their inability to stay healthy in the playoffs. Last season their shot blocking expert, and third best player Serge Ibaka got hurt against the Spurs, and missed two games. The year before that Russell Westbrook went down with a knee injury. The Western Conference is tough. Therefore, any injuries suffered to top stars in the playoffs will seal your fate. Oklahoma will win enough games to finish top three in the Western Conference. However, if they can’t stay healthy it will be another disappointing season for Thunder fans.
Portland is the only team in the Northwest Division that will give the Thunder a run for their money. They had an incredible season last year, and beat the Rockets in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.
LeMarcus Aldridge is arguably the best low post player in the NBA, and has more moves than a professional ballroom dancer. Damian Lillard became a breakout star in the post season, and proved to be one of the best point guards in the NBA.
There are two things that are crucial for Portland to maintain their success. Robin Lopez and Aldridge have to continue playing well on the interior. Secondly, the backcourt has to do a better job of defending pick and rolls, and denying penetration from opposing guards. The Blazers will be a force to be reckoned with in the Western Conference, if they can accomplish those tasks.
As a Timberwolves fan all you can hope for is Andrew Wiggins living up to his number one overall draft pick status. The T-Wolves were smart to trade their best player Kevin Love for Wiggins. Love was not going to resign with the team once his contract was up.
Experts think that the T-Wolves are destined for a depressing season. However, the T-Wolves do have talent. Point guard Ricky Rubio and power forward Thaddeus Young need to develop chemistry, and run the floor as much as possible. It will make the games exciting for their fans, and give them a reason to watch them play.
In addition, their young guys have to commit to playing high-energy defense. It will force opposing teams into turnovers that will lead to fast breaks and easier points. It wont be a good year for Minnesota, but it doesn’t have to be a boring one.
Denver is going to be a decent team this year because their team has good chemistry. Most players have been together for at least three years, and they understand what it takes to make the playoffs.
The problem with the Nuggets is they lack the star talent to compete in the Western Conference. Wilson Chandler, Ty Lawson and Danilo Gallinari are decent players, but have never had breakout superstar seasons.
Denver needs Javale McGee to become the dominant center he once was projected to be. He is huge, supremely athletic, and mobile. Nonetheless, he has never been able to develop a solid offensive game. Javale needs to come out this year and take the league by storm. It is the only way Denver can make the playoffs.
The Jazz are a young team focused more on developing their young players than getting victories. Most of their team is under the age of 26. Head coach Quin Snyder will have his work cut out for him trying to keep this young, and inexperienced team focused on his game plans.
However, they have good young talent in power forward Derrick Favors. Moreover, rookie guard Dante Exum has impressive skills, and the potential to be explosive, and elusive. The beauty of Utah fans is they will support the team no matter what. Therefore, it will be an exciting season for Jazz fans that want to see their talent grow.
2014 Northwest Division Prediction
1- Oklahoma City Thunder- 58-24
2- Portland Trailblazers- 51-31
3- Denver Nuggets- 35-47
4- Minnesota Timberwolves- 27-55
5- Utah Jazz- 24-58