I covered the East’s Southeast Division yesterday and today we turn our attention to the Western Conference’s always interesting Northwest Division. There’s a big asterisk on this division at the moment with all the talk surrounding Carmelo Anthony’s future with or without the Denver Nuggets. I’ll give it my best shot but I’m telling you now, if Anthony leaves Denver I will be revising my predictions.
If Carmelo stays, the Nuggets will again be in the mix this season come Playoff time. As always there will be a few teams nipping at their heels, most notably the Oklahoma City Thunder who I believe will win this division comfortably. Portland and Utah will again be thereabouts, however barring a major trade I can’t see them causing too much of a Playoff stir. And then there’s the Minnesota Timberwolves, who quite frankly may struggle to win 20 games this season.
Here’s my predicted finishing order:
- Oklahoma City Thunder
- Denver Nuggets
- Portland Trailblazers
- Utah Jazz
- Minnesota Timberwolves
The swinging vote here as mentioned will be measured by what happens with Melo and Denver. If he leaves the Nuggets, I immediately place Denver in 4th and out of the Playoff race no matter who they get in return. Portland have a healthy Brandon Roy back in action as well as an in-form Nicholas Batum after his strong play at the World Championships in Turkey. The Blazers will also be looking to get a good return for the unhappy Rudy Fernandez who has recently bought himself a trade request for $25k ala Stephen Jackson last year.
The Minnesota Timberwolves and David “Willy Wonka” Kahn made some predictably unusual moves this off-season but I think everyone would still be comfortable putting them last in their mock Northwest Division. The additions of Michael Beasley, Anthony Tolliver and Luke Ridnour give the Wolves a new look but it’s unlikely to provide much of a different result than last season’s 15-67 finish.
Utah will be interesting to watch this season with the exit of Carlos Boozer and the inclusion of Al Jefferson. I was looking forward to seeing Al play with a top-tier point guard until I looked at the rest of the roster. Raja Bell is a solid performer at best and Kirilenko can still play, but who else is going to steal the opposition’s attention on the perimeter? Jefferson will be lucky to isolate 1-on-1 against his opponent more than 3 times a game at this rate!
So this leaves us with the Oklahoma City Thunder, who some people see as a genuine threat to the Lakers this season. I’m not sure yet how legitimate those claims are, but one thing is certain and that is the reality that we are entering the Kevin Durant era. We can also expect some new tricks from Russell Westbrook, Jeff Green and James Harden. The OKC Thunder will be a great team to watch this year and I expect them to finish first in the Northwest Division.
That’s the Southeast and Northwest taken care of, tune in soon for the Eastern Conference’s Central Division.