Draft prep: Northwest Division Preview

Sergio Gonzalez

Heading into the start of the NBA preseason, we offer a team-by-team look, including projected starting lineups and what to watch for in October as each team sets their rotations for the start of the regular season on Oct. 28.

Denver Nuggets

Expected Starters: PG Allen Iverson , SG J.R. Smith , SF Carmelo Anthony , PF Kenyon Martin , C Nene
What to watch: Jamaal Tinsley ?; Kenyon Martin /Nene; Anthony Carter vs. J.R. Smith
Fantasy Analysis: Word out of Denver is that the team is expected to complete a trade with Denver that would net the Nuggets point guard Jamaal Tinsley with Steven Hunter and Chucky Atkins going to Indiana. Such a trade would shake up the starting lineup, allowing Allen Iverson to move back off the ball to shooting guard and once again bumping J.R. Smith to a reserve role. That is something that obviously is worth keeping an eye on. Also, with Marcus Camby out of town, the team is left with a big void to fill on the glass. Who will be their big rebound guy? Kenyon Martin ? Nene? Both have had their injury problems in the past and neither player is viewed as a particularly aggressive rebounder. But with the amount of shots Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson chuck up there every game, someone is sure to see their rebound totals rise dramatically. And if there is no Tinsley trade, the Nuggets will be trying to decide on which unit is more effective in the long run. Will it be Anthony Carter at the point and Allen Iverson at the two? Or will it be Iverson at the point and J.R. Smith at the two guard spot? Smith has more Fantasy upside as a scorer than Carter does as a distributor alongside a guard that handles the ball as much as Iverson does.

Minnesota Timberwolves

Expected Starters: PG Randy Foye , SG Mike Miller , SF Ryan Gomes , PF Kevin Love , C Al Jefferson
What to watch: Ryan Gomes vs. Corey Brewer ; Rashad McCants
Fantasy Analysis: The addition of rookie Kevin Love in the offseason will shake up the lineup this fall. At small forward, the Timberwolves have an interesting decision to make. Ryan Gomes should get pushed from power forward to small forward, but he'll have some competition from Corey Brewer and guys like Rodney Carney and Kirk Snyder for minutes. Rashad McCants could also conceivably play some at the small forward spot if the team needs more of a scoring option. Keep tabs on how this situation shakes out.

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Portland Trail Blazers

Expected Starters: PG Steve Blake , SG Brandon Roy , SF Travis Outlaw , PF LaMarcus Aldridge , C Greg Oden
What to watch: Greg Oden ; Steve Blake vs. Jerryd Bayless , Rudy Fernandez vs. Travis Outlaw
Fantasy Analysis: The NBA will finally get a chance to see what Greg Oden has to offer starting this October and he's one of the most intriguing players to watch for Fantasy purposes this preseason. How good can he be? Is his knee fully recovered from microfracture surgery? These are questions he can start to answer this preseason. If he gets off to a slow start this year, it could just mean that he's still not back to 100 percent after his knee surgery, but historically players who have had that procedure tend to pick up steam as the season goes on. The team will also be getting their first real look at rookie Jerryd Bayless , who is a combo-type guard that the team will try to mold into a true point guard alongside Brandon Roy in the back court. Steve Blake is penciled in as a starter to begin the season, but that's why pencils have erasers. A strong October showing could change that for Bayless. An injury to Martell Webster that will keep him out until at least December creates a void in the starting lineup at the three. Travis Outlaw fits the starting lineup best because he is a small forward by nature, but the team could also opt to move Rudy Fernandez into the lineup with Roy playing a point-forward role at the three. Fernandez has already become a favorite of head coach Nate McMillan . One player will have to take on the sixth man, scoring role off the bench and that's actually the player who can be more valuable in Fantasy. The sixth man could get more of a chance to score on the second unit than he will playing alongside Roy, Aldridge and Oden.

Oklahoma City Thunder

Expected Starters: PG Earl Watson , SG Kevin Durant , SF Desmond Mason , PF Chris Wilcox , C Johan Petro
What to watch: Earl Watson vs. Russell Westbrook ; Desmond Mason vs. Jeff Green ; Center position
Fantasy Analysis: The team with a new home will also have a couple of new faces. Russell Westbrook will compete for the starting point guard job with incumbent Earl Watson . Westbrook is a solid defender who could earn himself minutes with good, solid defense. But he'll have to produce on the offensive end to win a starting job down the line. Desmond Mason is back with the same franchise he played for from 2000 to 2002, but in a new city. No holdovers remain from his days as a SuperSonic. He'll battle second year player Jeff Green for minutes and has the advantage of being the more polished player at the moment. But the future is Green, who was selected as a first rounder last summer in the NBA draft. Pay attention to see how the minute distribution will shake out at small forward. At the center position, the Sonics have a few options. Nick Collison is the most productive player on paper, but he's a bit undersized and the team would like to use him more at power forwrad. Johan Petro has size, but is very raw.

Utah Jazz

Expected Starters: PG Deron Williams , SG Ronnie Brewer , SF Andrei Kirilenko , PF Carlos Boozer , C Mehmet Okur
What to watch: Kyle Korver
Fantasy Analysis: The Jazz are one of those teams that has their starting lineup locked in and even most of their reserves are in place and already know their roles. This preseason will be Kyle Korver first with the Jazz and it will allow him to fully digest the team's season and figure out a role that suits him best. He could return to being a useful perimeter player with some Fantasy upside as an outside shooter if he can fit in alongside Andrei Kirilenko and Ronnie Brewer .

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