Welcome to the NBA Season Previews, where the crew does the three-man weave today on the NorthWest Division. Enjoy as Earl, Joao and David kick off the NBA Season.
|1.||Oklahoma City Thunder
|Oklahoma City Thunder||Oklahoma City Thunder|
|Portland Trail Blazers||Portland Trail Blazers|
|Minnesota Timberwolves||Minnesota Timberwolves|
|Utah Jazz||Utah Jazz|
Earl: Andrew Wiggins. I don’t think he’ll come into the League and become a rookie sensation and I’m not even sure he’ll start with the T-Wolves but he is a player that will make a contribution early on the defensive end. His offense might be slow to come, but he can make a huge impact on that end of the ball.
Joao:It is very easy, really. Either Andrew Wiggins is Rookie of the Year, or very close to that, or he is an instant bust. With Anthony Bennett also on the squad things are kind of strange in that sense.
Earl: I’m not sure there is one in this division but for the sake of answering the question I’ll say Trevor Booker. Booker with the Jazz will be a backup big man, who can grab some rebounds and give you five fouls on defense.
Joao: This division saw some important trades but not a whole lot of important free agent signings. The signing of Chris Kaman, previously with the Lakers, by the Blazers, was one of those under the radar moves which will eventually pay off. Kaman has being trying to find the previous form he had when playing for the Clippers and he is capable of posting 10 PPG and 10 RPG, helping LaMarcus Aldridge and Robin Lopez down low. Lopez will be the starter but Kaman will be a quality big man coming from the bench.
David: Damn you Joao. I was gonna go with Kaman. I love this signing. If he can give the Blazers 4 fouls and 8 boards, and take some of the load off of Aldridge, this team could be a darkhorse in the West.
MVP of the Division
Earl: Russell Westbrook. I just said that to be different. Nah, who am I kidding? It’s Kevin Durant. It has to be Kevin Durant.
Joao: Kevin Durant and it is not even close. He will most likely lead the NBA in scoring again.
David: Ty Lawson. UNC love baby! Oh wait. Kevin Durant. Watch Aldridge though, we could see 55 wins out of this team.
Earl: Nate Robinson. I like little Nate, I really do, but I don’t get his value to the Denver Nuggets. He’s got Afflalo ahead of him, and likely Randy Foye as well. Nate can have the occasional big night, but he’s not necessary for the Nuggets.
Joao: Can someone explain why Kendrick Perkins is a starting center on a contender? Perkins is extremely ineffective, has low basketball IQ and ball handling skills are worse than mine. Look for Steven Adams to pry the starting job away from him.
David: I’m getting tired of repeating here. Perkins is the answer, but I’ll go with Wesley Matthews. He averages 16 PPG, and other than that, really doesn’t add much to the team. He only makes 2 threes a game. He shoots 40%, but he needs to gun more and help spread the floor more for LaM and Kaman/Lopez. With the Rebounders they have- I mean you have a SMALL FORWARD getting over 7 boards a game! GUN WES GUN! If I coached the Blazers I would fine Matthews 10 grand a game if he didn’t shoot 10 threes a game.
|PG||Russell Westbrook||Russell Westbrook||Russell Westbrook|
|SG||Aaron Afflalo||Gordon Hayward||Aaron Afflalo|
|PF||LaMarcus Aldridge||LaMarcus Aldridge||LaMarcus Aldridge|
|C||Nikola Pekovic||Gorgui Dieng||Nikola Pekovic|
Earl: I don’t think Minnesota has any choice. Ricky Rubio can play. He just can’t shoot. If by some miracle he can pick up a decent jumpshot, he’d be a keeper for the Wolves, but I think it would be smart of Minnesota to not talk contract with him until the end of the season. Let him prove his worth and see how hard he works to make himself a better offensive player.
Joao: Ricky is a good point guard. Some might argue for “very good”. But I don’t think he will ever be elite, essentially because of his shooting. He is a wizard in terms of court vision and distribution but his jump shot just isn’t there. In 3 seasons his field goal % has improved but his 3-point % has declined. On top of that, with Kevin Love out of the picture Rubio will have to take on more offensive responsibilities. If his shooting doesn’t improve – and there are no indications it will – then the Timberwolves have a solid starting point guard but they won’t have an elite PG.
David: I don’t think he’s a top 10 point. You need to have some defensive skills in the NBA, or some serious wing defenders to cover him. Pekovic is a solid guy- but unless he’s playing with OrlandoHoward, he is just too much of a liability to be a serious building block.
Earl: No. I saw the Blazers play in person early last season and came away impressed but I don’t think they are a threat in the West. I like Aldridge, and I like Lillard but for them to be a threat in the West they would need another big player on that roster because I don’t trust Batum or Matthews to be a legit third option.
Joao: The Trail Blazers were a surprise last year and they are poised to have another strong season in 2014-15. They were able to keep their core intact and bring in some pieces (Kaman, Blake) to complement the trio of Aldridge – Lillard – Batum. There is reason for optimism and conditions are in place for a deep playoff run: Aldridge is elite, Lillard is becoming one of the best guards in the league (and clutch, as the Rockets found out), Batum has all the tools to elevate his game and Matthews is starting to post important numbers. The Blazers are even better than they were last year, even if they had a somewhat quiet offseason. The Blazers won’t win it all but they’ll go deep.
David: I’m a BIG fan of the Blazers this year. I think if they get the Kaman they paid for, and Wesley does ANYTHING, they can push the Thunder all year long. I seriously think they could end up with over 50 wins, and with a little bit of luck, could be a Western Conference Finalist.
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