NBA Northwest Division Preview
The NBA's Northwest Division has two very good teams that are just one notch below the league's top championship contenders, with the Denver Nuggets and Utah Jazz. The Northwest features the deadly Jazz, the offensive star-blessed Nuggets, and three rebuilding squads in the Portland Trail Blazers, Seattle Sonics and Minnesota Timberwolves.
BEST NORTHWEST DIVISION PLAYERS
Allen Iverson, Carmelo Anthony, Deron Williams, Andrei Kirilenko, Carlos Boozer, Marcus Camby, Brandon Roy, Al Jefferson, Kevin Durant, Mehmet Okur, Kenyon Martin, Kurt Thomas, Matt Harpring, Ricky Davis, Wally Szczerbiak, LaMarcus Aldridge, Nene, Channing Frye, Jarrett Jack, Chris Wilcox, Darius Miles, Robert Swift
INSIDEHOOPS.COM'S ALL-NORTHWEST TEAMS
Players may be used slightly of of position (within reason) to make the best possible teams:
ALL-NORTHWEST FIRST TEAM: PG: Deron Williams, SG: Allen Iverson, SF: Carmelo Anthony, PF: Carlos Boozer, C: Marcus Camby
ALL-NORTHWEST SECOND TEAM: PG: Brandon Roy, SG: Kevin Durant, SF: Andrei Kirilenko, PF: Al Jefferson, C: Mehmet Okur
ALL-NORTHWEST THIRD TEAM: PG: Jarrett Jack, SG: Ricky Davis, SF: Matt Harpring, PF: Kenyon Martin, C: Kurt Thomas
NORTHWEST TEAM ONE-LINERS
Seattle SuperSonics: Kevin Durant will get the green light to score 25 points per game as a rookie.
Denver Nuggets: Melo and Iverson's offense, Marcus Camby's defense and the return of Kenyon Martin sounds great.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Kevin Garnett is gone. Al Jefferson and lots of exciting young swingmen are in his place.
Portland Trail Blazers: With Greg Oden out for the year, Brandon Roy, Darius Miles, Channing Frye and LaMarcus Aldridge must carry the load.
Utah Jazz: This terrific team can get even better if they can maximize Andrei Kirilenko's skills.
THE NORTHWEST TEAMS TO WATCH
The Denver Nuggets have been a notch below the Jazz and other top West teams, but this is their shot to rise up. Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony have enough time now to develop chemistry. Kenyon Martin is back, though whether he'll be anything close to the ultra-versatile star who played both ends of the floor equally hard that he once was remains to be seen. Marcus Camby provides the defense, shot-blocking and rebounding. Nene bangs bodies. And JR Smith, when not angering George Karl with bad decisions or lackluster play, is capable of swishing open three-pointers. Watch the Nuggets and see if they rise to the next level. Also watch the Jazz to enjoy Deron Williams' brilliant point guard skills, and to see if they trade Andrei Kirilenko or keep him around and work him more into the offense. Watch the Sonics to see Kevin Durant. Watch the Blazers to enjoy Brandon Roy. And Watch the Timberwolves to see Al Jefferson and to see which of their swingmen rises above the pack.
MORE NORTHWEST DIVISION STORYLINES
Will George Karl use Allen Iverson at the same guard spot all season or change his mind a few times? ... Will JR Smith improve enough to warrant major minutes? ... Is Kenyon Martin all washed up after all his knee injuries or can the Grand Kenyon who played for the Nets re-emerge? ... Will Nene come close to earning the big salary Denver pays him? ... Can Al Jefferson become the man for the rebuilding Minnesota Timberwolves? ... What position should Randy Foye play, exactly? ... Will Sebastian Telfair rise up or will he remain a young fringe NBA talent? ... How will the crowded Timberwolves swingman spots, with Ricky Davis, Rashad Mccants, Corey Brewer and Gerald Green work out? ... Can Darius Miles make a comeback? And if so, will he ever become a consistent, reliable player? ... Who will turn out better, Channing Frye or LaMarcus Aldridge? ... Will Steve Blake steal minutes from Jarrett Jack? A lot of them? ... Who will get more minutes, Luke Ridnour or Earl Watson? Will one ever be the clear major-minutes starter, pushing the other to the bench? ... Should the Sonics play Kevin Durant at oversized shooting guard to maximize their lineup? ... Can the Sonics count on big scoring and great shooting from Wally Szczerbiak or is he too banged up? ... Can Jeff Green be an instant-impact rookie? ... Will Robert Swift become good this year? ... Will Kurt Thomas have a bigger impact on the Sonics than people realize? ... Is Deron Williams now an elite point guard, behind just a few superstars? ... Who will get the most minutes at the Jazz shooting guard spot? ... Will the Jazz trade Andrei Kirilenko? If they keep him, will he be more involved in the offense? Will he call off his trade request? ... is Paul Millsap ready to do big things as Utah's prime backup big man?
PREDICTED ORDER OF Northwest DIVISION FINISH
Utah Jazz: Right after the Spurs, Suns and Mavs, you have the Jazz.
Denver Nuggets: Melo and Iverson can combine for 55 or 60 any given night. Is this the year Denver rises?
Portland Trail Blazers: Some nice young talent here, though with Zach Randolph gone his points must be replaced.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Call them the Boston Timberwolves. Minnesota got much of the young Celtics talent and are packed with swingmen. They could do better than Portland.
Seattle SuperSonics: Decent point guards, rookie Kevin Durant and a few talented forwards could show flashes of decency once in a while. They may do better than the Wolves.