The Baseline With Laz Jackson: NBA Preview Edition (Western Conference – Northwest Division)

lazAs much as it kills me to do so, I have to say that Utah will win this division. Deron (don’t call me Day-ron) Williams and Boozer get it done night in and night out. Portland should give them a run for their money, though.

Follow the jump for a rundown of the Northwest Division!

Denver Nuggets
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Motto:”Winning 155-148 for three years.”
Major Acquisition: PG Chauncey Billups
Major Loss: C Marcus Camby, SG Allen Iverson
Ceiling: 52-30, 8th in the Western Conference, first-round exit.
Floor: 41-41, out of playoffs.The major problem with this team is that they can’t play defense. Not WON’T play defense; CAN’T play defense. They lost their only good defensive shot-blocker/rebounder in Camby, meaning they’re leaning on Kenyon Martin, veteran-of-the-IL Nene, and Linas Kleiza (???) for rebounding/defense. Sure, they’ll win in the regular season (maybe), but that ceiling is being nice: this team is on its way down in the West.

Minnesota Timberwolves
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Motto:”We engineered a championship run last year! It was for the Celtics though…”
Major Acquisition: SG Mike Miller
Major Loss: SF/PF Antoine Walker
Ceiling: 39-43, out of the playoffs.
Floor: 30-52, out of the playoffs.
Yes, they have talent. The key is, it’s young talent. Mr. Miller adds veteran leadership, but with no TRUE point guard (Foye is an undersized 2, and Sebastian Telfair is… no. Just no), how is anyone going to get all that talent to gel on the court? This team is two years and a decent point guard away from making the playoffs. Coulda had Deron Williams, coulda had Deron Williams.

Oklahoma City THUNDAARRR!!!

Motto:”No, we’re not the Hornets. Why does everybody keep asking us that?”
Major Acquisition: PG Russell Westbrook
Major Loss: Team Identity
Ceiling: 45-37, out of the playoffs.
Floor: 39-43, out of the playoffs.
This just in: Kevin Durant (above) is good. Like, future HoF good. Too bad I don’t see this team contending. Who rebounds/defends here? Chris Wilcox? Johan Petro? I-Was-A-College-Superstar Nick Collison? Not in the West. The Jeff Green-Russell Westbrook-KD trio is one to watch out for, though. Again, wait two years for the team to gel and they could make the playoffs.

Portland Trail Blazers

Motto:”If everybody picks us as a sleeper team, are we really slept on?”
Major Acquisition: PG Jerryd Bayless, Healthy C Greg Oden (above).
Major Loss: PG Jarret Jack.
Ceiling: 55-37, 6th in the West, first-round exit.
Floor: 48-34, out of playoffs.
Okay, as we stated in the motto, this is everyone’s sleeper to do some damage in the West. Problem is, they’re not going to be higher than a 6 seed. That means playing Dallas/San Antonio/Utah/New Orleans, and that ain’t happening. Make no mistake, I LOVE this team. Experienced young talent across the board, a stud rookie point (with underrated vet Steve Blake behind him), big guys who can play both sides of the ball (LaMarcus Alderidge/Greg Oden) and a clear team leader (Brandon Roy). Damn, I love this team.

Utah Jazz

Motto:”Winning consistently since before you were born.”
Major Acquisition: None
Major Loss: None
Ceiling: 58-24, 3rd seed in the Western Conference, NBA Champs.
Floor: 53-29, 5th seed in the Western Conference, second-round exit.
Yes, that’s the right Ceiling. This team is good enough to make it out of the West alive and feed on whoever comes out of the East. Will they? Probably not. But Boozer-Williams is new-age Malone-Stockton, Jerry Sloan always has his team ready for the regular season, and AK-47 looked happier last year.