2012-13 NBA Preview: Northwest Division Edition

The Northwest Division has become one of the most intriguing, competitive and entertaining divisions in the NBA. After the Thunder, anyone has a chance to move up and secure a spot in the postseason, three out of five teams made playoff appearances last season more than most other divisions and the 2012-13 is no different. Here’s what I expect to pan out and what our Division will end up looking like.

You can view the Blazers 2012-13 season preview here

OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER – There’s simply no doubt when it comes to the Thunder that they will only continue their tremendous success and quite frankly win it all this year. After creaming the reigning champions Dallas, LA Lakers and San Antonio in route to the Finals, the Thunder were brought to a halt by the hands of LeBron James and the eventual champion Miami Heat after a hard-fought series.

While the Heat are looking for a repeat, the Thunder can’t be dealt with winning just the division, they now want to win it all and they sure as hell can. The Thunder are young, fast and now have proven playoff experience to be the most elite teams in the league. They kept most of their roster from last year but giving an extension to Serge Ibaka and finding a way to retain reigning Sixth Man of the Year James Harden is going to be interesting how OKC handles this situation.

Plus I have to mention that Kevin Durant (who is going to win another scoring title), Russell Westbrook and Harden won gold in London during the Olympics. You can’t beat that. Oklahoma City is the super heavy favorite to win not only this division but battle the Lakers for Western supremacy.

DENVER NUGGETS – To me the Nuggets are the dark horse of the Northwest that no one really is giving much attention to. I think Denver wants to keep it that way, they were one of the top offensives in the entire league last year just pouring in points left and right. The Mile High City lucked out in bringing in stud Andre Iguodala from the Dwight Howard trade, not only adding a decent scoring option, but a terrific defender.

Iggy will probably get more touches and scoring in Denver rather than he did in Philadelphia and will blend right in to the Nuggets’ style of scoring quickly and often. Could he be the number one scoring option the Nuggets’ have been looking for since Carmelo left?

Having center JaVale McGee for an entire year rather than bringing him in halfway through the season will hopefully make him more dominate presence in the paint. Their starting five of Ty Lawson, Kenneth Faried, Danilo Gallinari, Iggy and McGee make them not to be taken lightly. The bench might just be somewhat slim: Wilson Chandler, Corey Brewer, Andre Miller and Quincy Miller will fill out the rotation and this team will eventually make the playoffs once again and hope to see life past the first round.

MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES – No longer the laughingstock of the Northwest Division, the Wolves have become not just a surprise team out West but now might be included in talking which playoff seed they will reach. Personally I see the Wolves making picking either seven or eight but those final spots will be tough to retain.

The Wolves were super busy this offseason, dumping players who couldn’t play in coach Rick Adelman system and picked up vets and young pieces that could be sleeper hits. The biggest addition was the signing of former Trail Blazer guard Brandon Roy, who sat out the entire 2011-12 season for retirement and underwent a knee operation that seems to have given him a new life.

He is also the biggest question mark and risk, if he manages to stay healthy and take some scoring off of Kevin Love, the Wolves would have struck gold. Another key post-injury player to keep an eye on is Spanish sensation Ricky Rubio, who was close to nabbing a R.O.Y. before blowing his knee near the end of the season and taking the Wolves with him.

If the roster can stay healthy and build chemistry, the Wolves could finally see some light going into the postseason. (Extra side note: the Wolves are pretty much trying to be Portland in their roster and front office, just take a look at current and former Blazer players: Brandon Roy, Dante Cunningham, Chris Johnson, Martell Webster, Anthony Tolliver, Kevin Love ((from Lake Oswego, Ore.)), GM David Kahn is a former beat writer for the Blazers and coach Adelman used to be a coach here. And Minnesota almost got Nic Batum).

UTAH JAZZ – The Jazz last season shouldn’t have made the playoffs but they did nabbing the eighth seed and proceeded to get clobbered by the Spurs. They were just happy to be there and were swept quickly 4-0 into summer vacation.

The Jazz now playing in a full 82-game schedule should not have the firepower to contend with the West even when they are solid with big men. Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter make up a big lineup and make no mistake, Utah will get some nice wins but the rest of the roster doesn’t scream playoff potential.

They added Mo Williams who will be a good pickup at the point with swingmen Randy Foye and Marvin Williams dropping some nice numbers. They are a nice team who sit in the middle of the pack and will continue to do so.

photo courtesy of nwsportsbeat.com