Friday, 27 October 2006

2006 NBA Preview: Northwest Division

Now that I've previewed the East, it's time to move on to the stronger, deeper Western conference. Because that's just the natural progression of things.

Denver Nuggets - A lot of things will revolve around Carmelo, the great talent that he is, again, but a lot of how the Nuggets do will be determined by the health of the bigs. Marcus Camby is very, very good on both ends of the floor if he's healthy, K-Mart can be a solid contributor, and Nene is a solid big off the bench. Andre Miller's a rock at PG, I really do like JR Smith at SG... if the bigs stay healthy, I see another division title in their future.

Minnesota Timberwolves - KG at least has a little more help with the additions of Mike James and Randy Foye, but that doesn't mean the TWolves are anywhere near where they were a few years ago. Trenton Hassell is not a very good starter, and I'm not a big Ricky Davis fan. At center, Mark Blount just isn't very good at all. I'm sorry, but these guys will not be headed to the playoffs in the West, even with a top 5 player in KG. There's just not enough talent around him.

Portland Trailblazers - I like what the Blazers have done, getting rid of some of the bad seeds and bringing in a lot of young talent and hoping it develops. They're at least a year off from being a decent team, but at least they're going in the right direction. They've got young talent everywhere in Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge, Martell Webster, Jarrett Jack, Sergio Rodriguez, etc. At the very least, they should be entertaining at times to watch (until the inevitable Zach Randolph incident).

Seattle Supersonics - With Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis, the Sonics should be raining 3s and scoring lots and lots of points... on the other side of the equation, however, they can't stop anyone. They've got a lot of first-round big men, but so far that hasn't translated into much production down low. This should probably look a lot like last year... lots of offense, no defense, and no playoff berth.

Utah Jazz - Like Denver, a lot of Utah's success will be determined by the health of the big guys. Andrei Kirilenko, Carlos Boozer, and Mehmet Okur has not got to play a lot with each other because of injuries, but if they all stay healthy it's a potentially excellent, excellent combo. Plus, the depth up front leaves something to be desired, making good health even more imperative. In the backcourt, they have a very solid Deron Williams, who should improve a lot on year 2. They've got a whole host of other guys to play the 1-2-3 spots, including Gordan Giricek, Ronnie Brewer, Matt Harpring, and Derek Fisher. It all depends on the frontcourt.

Predicted Order of Finish
1. Denver Nuggets
2. Utah Jazz
3. Seattle Supersonics
4. Minnesota Timberwolves
5. Portland Trailblazers