In a competitive western conference, the Northwest division was made to look like the weakest division in the NBA. In reality, it isn't a weak division. But in relative terms to the Western conference, it is still weak. But the western conference champion could just as easily come out of the Northwest.
Maybe the results are weak, but the best GMs in the NBA reside in the Northwest. In professional sports, it is all on the front office. If your front office can't function properly, the effects are rippling. You may have a okay record at first. But in the long run, with a bad front office - Your team isn't going anywhere. With a good GM, and good front office, your team will end up going places. You can almost bet on it.
Look at the Boston Celtics last season. They have a great front office right there. Championship teams have great front offices. It is the way professional sport works. Now let's look at the Northwest division, for now and in the future. Right now, Utah Jazz is top, they have a good GM and great front office. Portland, I believe their front office is the best in the league right now. That team is going places. Oklahoma, they recognised that they needed to rebuild and are doing an excellent job. They have stockpiled on draft picks and good young players. There is nowhere to go but up for that team. But then, look at Minnesota. Kevin "McFail" is their GM. It almost looked like they were on their way to improvement when they drafted OJ Mayo. But then they traded him. They can't ride Al Jefferson for his entire career. They did that with KG and it didn't get them far. The Denver front office, they looked like they did a great job getting Iverson, but their team doesn't have direction nor is it well organised. It we take that information with us, that can help us with the analysis of each team.
(#4) Utah Jazz
Last season their record wasn't worthy of a top four spot in the west, but they made the top four because they won their division. Their roster has only gotten better for this season. They lose Jason Hart at PG but gain the arguably better Brevin Knight. They also gain their newly drafted rookie Kosta Koufos.
Chris Paul is the only player that can really challenge Deron Williams overall. Having one of the top three players, in any position, is very valuable. Carlos Boozer doesn't have the greatest defense, but what he does on offense is so great that everyone seems to forget. First Malone and Stockton and now Williams and Boozer. The Jazz have played the same style for a number of years. It hasn't got Jerry Sloan a COY, nor has it got any of those player a championship, but you can't deny that it can win you games.
Mehmet Okur can come out and shoot the ball, clearing space for Boozer and the great thing is is that he can defend other C's, even down low. His defense isn't great, but when you can have a player that can create a mismatch on offense but not give up a mismatch on defense, that is invaluable. Brewer, Millsap, Korver, Knight and Kirilenko are all perfect compliments. All those players can come in, with no pressure and shoot the ball and they can pass the ball. When you have a bench to go with your starting lineup, along with a good front office and a coach that has been with the players for a long time - that can only spell success.
This year, I really believe they could win the championship. I don't think they will, but they are definitely capable of it. I would not be shocked if they won it all or got into the WCF. Utah should be able to compete with every team in a tough western conference and they will win the division again. Except this year, they will face a sterner challenge in the ever-improving Portland. Utah will get a lot of wins, but I believe that three or more western conference teams will have a better win percentage then the Jazz, which will relegate them to fourth seed for the playoffs for the second year running.
(#7) Portland Trail Blazers
They started with a hiss and a roar, but the young Portland side couldn't keep up their frantic pace. Finishing with a .500 record, there is obviously much improvement to be made, but even without player transactions etc, the team is always developing as they are very young. They were competitive last season, without Jerryd Bayless, Greg Oden and Rudy Fernandez - imagine what they'll be like this year.
Greg Oden along with LaMarcus Aldridge is a solid duo. They achieved so much even without Oden down low last season, they have improved in this area for sure. With Joel Pryzbilla, HurricaneDij39's favourite player Ike Diogu, Matrell Webster, Rudy Fernandez and Jerryd Bayless coming off the bench, the team looks just as deep as last seasons Lakers. Travis Outlaw is now playing good basketball and Brandon Roy is a true leader.
This team has what it takes, in 3-5 years. They are young, I really like them, but I just don't see that X-factor, that thing that will get them past other teams in the playoffs for instance. I see them finishing 2<sup>nd</sup> in the Northwest and 7<sup>th</sup> in the Western Conference. I think they can be as high as 5<sup>th</sup> during the season, but again they will drop off the pace. It will be good enough for a playoff spot in the end. First round exit, but the team has the best front office in the league and undoubtedly the best young squad in the NBA so the future is oh so bright for this young Portland team.
(#11) Denver Nuggets
Carmelo and Iverson sure do look good together. You just need to make sure you have at least one solid post player, and have good defenders around the team. Wait, the Nuggets don't have either of those. They lost Camby and Najera without a fight and they picked up no one with significance. Just another step backwards.
Last season the Nuggets only just made the playoffs. This season they lose Marcus Camby, the only guy who held down the paint for them. They have JR Smith and Anthony Carter as well, but they can't defend. The Nuggets have no defense, last year they had Marcus Camby, who overrated or not, did some the needed job. This year, nothing at all.
Nene and K-Mart are decent players, but not fantastic, and they don't do the job to save the Nuggets. I think #11 might be a bit harsh, but I think all 7 of last years other playoff teams will finish ahead of them, along with Portland, the Clippers and the Warriors. I could just as easily so they finish tenth. But I have no faith that they will be able to stop any team.
Overall, Melo and Iverson might be able to produce some flashy plays and a lot of points. It will be great to watch, but won't win enough games to get into the playoffs.
Likely the coach will get blamed and George Karl could be one without a job at the end of next season
(#13) Oklahoma City Thunder
We have a new WNBA franchise…oh the Thunder is an NBA name???!!! Okay, sorry about that, anyway the front office has done a good job getting young players together and piling up the draft picks, but this year it won't get them that far. I think they have a great roster though.
Russell Westbrook is a great pickup in the draft. I really like the kid and along with Earl Watson and Kevin Durant - the Thunder have great guard stocks. Jeff Green is a great young player and Desmond Mason is a good player to have off the bench. You could almost call him a mentor in that team. Wilcox, Joe Smith and Nick Collison are great in the frontcourt. Nick Collison will have good experienced players around him to show him a few things.
I really like what the front office has done. They have their future players, and have mentors with them as well. I think this team is more solid than the scoreboard will show. I don't see the "X-factor", per se, that will win them games in the first place. They have a good roster and they will continue to improve and they will continue to rise up the rankings in the West as teams like the Suns and Spurs get older.
They are much better than their 13<sup>th</sup> seed that I'm giving them will let on. Watch for this team in the future. One thing that I really hope doesn't happen, is that the coach gets fired after the Thunder don't win many games. The front office has done a great job putting the roster together but they can't expect miracles for a while. They need to sit back and be patient. Unless Phil Jackson suddenly becomes available, they should stick with PJ, at least for this season.
(#15) Minnesota Timberwolves
Harsh, 15<sup>th</sup> seed. But I think every team in the west has the ability to win games on any given night. There are tiers of teams, but all teams are fairly strong and there isn't an obviously weak team that should get smashed every night. Unlike in the East, with the Knicks and, for this season, the Nets.
Like I said earlier, the model they followed when they were unsuccessful is have a star player and hopefully he carries you to the playoffs. Now that KG is gone, they are doing the exact same thing with Al Jefferson. During the draft I thought finally, they are getting a player to join Al Jefferson - now they are going places. Now the trade wasn't uneven, it was just dumb though. Now they have Mike Miller and Kevin Love. Those players along with Al Jefferson aren't going to get you in the playoffs in the future. OJ Mayo was more likely to get you in the playoffs in future.
Apart from Miller, Love and Jefferson - They have a weak squad. Corey Brewer is starting…….Randy Foye is quite good though, but I'm not sure he has the options around him to do anything special.
Again, 15<sup>th</sup> seed isn't really 15<sup>th</sup> seed in the West. It just means, out of the lower teams, in the West you are more likely to be able to improve your team in the future, through a better draft pick. This team is better than 15<sup>th</sup> seed, but in a tough Western conference again, their record will be worse than they really are.
They aren't a horrible basketball outfit, but they won't be able to win games.
According to my predictions and analysis the Northwest division will again have two teams in the playoffs, but in future three teams are building great basketball franchises. The other two teams have NBA superstars on their teams, the Northwest division is on its way back up for sure. The Northwest may be the weakest division in the West but in the foreseeable future, it will always produce a possible conference finalist and possible NBA finalist. This year it is the Utah Jazz and in 3-5 years it will be the Trail Blazers. Possibly the Thunder after that, we don't know.
The Northwest can never be counted out and neither can the Jazz this year in the race to the WCF.