October 20, 2014

Capsules for the NBA's Northwest Division teams, listed in predicted order of divisional finish by AP Basketball Writer Jon Krawczynski:

---

NORTHWEST DIVISION

OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER

LAST SEASON: 59-23, lost to San Antonio 4-2 in Western Conference finals.

STARTING FIVE: G Russell Westbrook (21.8 ppg, 6.9 apg, 5.7 rpg), G Reggie Jackson (13.1 ppg, 4.1 apg, 3.5 rpg), F Kevin Durant (32.0 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 5.5 apg), F Serge Ibaka (15.1 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 2.7 bpg), C Steven Adams (3.3 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 0.7 bpg).

KEY ADDITIONS: G Anthony Morrow (free agent, Pelicans), F Mitch McGary (draft), G Sebastian Telfair (free agent, China).

KEY LOSSES: G Thabo Sefolosha (trade, Hawks), F Caron Butler (free agent, Pistons), C Hasheem Thabeet (free agent, 76ers), G Derek Fisher (retired).

COACH: Scott Brooks, eighth season.

EYES ON: Westbrook. With Kevin Durant out for the early part of the season with a Jones fracture in his right foot, Westbrook, a three-time All-Star with top-shelf athleticism and the confidence to match, will be relied upon to carry the load. While Westbrook sat out for two months last season recovering from knee surgery, Durant was a dominant scorer, yet, he kept his teammates involved and they flourished around him. Westbrook, generally considered a top-five talent, has an unexpected chance to prove he can do the same.

OUTLOOK: The Thunder are on the verge of breaking through with the addition of Morrow, one of the league's best 3-point shooters. If Durant's injury is as minor as the team says, the Thunder have as good a chance as any team of representing the West in the NBA Finals.

---

PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS

LAST SEASON: 54-28, lost to the San Antonio Spurs 4-1 in the second round.

STARTING FIVE: G Damian Lillard (20.7 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 5.6 apg), G Wesley Matthews (16.4 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 2.4 apg), F Nicolas Batum (13.0 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 5.1. apg), F LaMarcus Aldridge (26.2 ppg, 10.6 rpg, 1.5 apg), C Robin Lopez (11.1 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 0.9 apg).

KEY ADDITIONS: G Steve Blake (free agent, Golden State Warriors), C Chris Kaman (free agent, Lakers).

KEY LOSSES: G Mo Williams (free agent, Timberwolves)

COACH: Terry Stotts, third season.

EYES ON: Aldridge. The three-time All-Star posted season highs last season for points and rebounds. The Blazers have made it clear they want to keep Aldridge, but the talented forward will wait until the offseason to ask for the max contract. Owner Paul Allen and general manager Neil Olshey personally visited Aldridge this past summer to make sure he knows the team wants him to stick around for a long time.

OUTLOOK: With the return of all of their starters and boosted by last year's appearance in the conference semifinals for the first time in 14 years, the Blazers will no doubt compete in the robust West. The team made a smart move this summer with the acquisition of Kaman to complement Lopez. It assures that Aldridge will have a big man on the floor with him most of the time.

---

DENVER NUGGETS

LAST SEASON: 36-46, finished fourth in Northwest Division and missed playoffs.

STARTING FIVE: PG Ty Lawson (17.6 ppg, 8.8 apg, 1.6 spg), G Arron Afflalo (18.2 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 3.4 apg with Magic), F Kenneth Faried (13.7 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 1.2 apg), F Danilo Gallinari (16.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 2.5 apg in 2012-13), C Timofey Mozgov (9.4 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 1.2 bpg).

KEY ADDITIONS: F Afflalo (trade, Magic), G Gary Harris (draft), C Jusuf Nurkic (draft).

KEY LOSSES: PF Anthony Randolph (trade, Bulls), G Evan Fournier (trade, Magic).

COACH: Brian Shaw, second season.

EYES ON: Gallinari. Hasn't played since blowing out his left knee against Dallas on April 4, 2013. He's gone through three surgeries and countless hours of rehab to get back on the court. Gallinari said he's beginning to feel like his old self again. He averaged 16.2 points a game and hit 135 3-pointers in 2012-13, numbers Shaw wouldn't mind seeing repeated.

OUTLOOK: The Nuggets were hit hard by injuries in Shaw's first season in charge as J.J. Hickson and Nate Robinson suffered knee injuries and JaVale McGee missed a chunk of the season with a left tibia stress fracture. Shaw's hoping the acquisition of Afflalo will be the piece that returns the Nuggets to the playoffs after sitting out last season for the first time since 2002-03.

---

MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES

LAST SEASON: 40-42, 10th in Western Conference.

STARTING FIVE: G Ricky Rubio (9.5 ppg, 8.6 apg, 2.3 spg, 38.1 percent FG), G Kevin Martin (19.1 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 38.7 percent 3s), F Andrew Wiggins (17.1 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 1.0 bpg for Kansas), F Thaddeus Young (17.9 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 2.1 spg for 76ers), C Nikola Pekovic (17.5 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 54.1 percent FG).

KEY ADDITIONS: F Young (trade, 76ers), F Wiggins (trade, Cavaliers), G Mo Williams (free agent, Trail Blazers), F Anthony Bennett (trade, Cavaliers), G Zach LaVine (draft).

KEY LOSSES: F Kevin Love (trade, Cavaliers), head coach Rick Adelman (retired).

COACH: Flip Saunders, first season.

EYES ON: Wiggins. He was the key piece that got the Timberwolves to part way with Love, the disgruntled face of their franchise. Wiggins was the No. 1 pick in the draft and has been heavily hyped since he was a young boy playing in Canada. If Wiggins can realize the potential many believe he has, the rebuilding process post Love should be much less painful than it was when they traded Kevin Garnett.

OUTLOOK: Making his return to the bench for a second tour in Minnesota, Saunders believes the Wolves are a lot closer to being in the hyper competitive Western Conference playoff mix than many think. The Wolves hope that better chemistry and a mix of youth and experience will make them a surprise. Maybe if they played in the East. It's likely they're at least a year away from being a factor.

---

UTAH JAZZ

LAST SEASON: 25-57, 15th in Western Conference

STARTING FIVE: G Trey Burke (12.8 ppg, 3 rpg, 5.7 apg), G Alec Burks (14 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 2.7 apg), F Gordon Hayward (16.2 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 5.2 apg), F Derrick Favors (13.3, 8.7, 1.2 apg), C Enes Kanter (12.3, 7.5 rpg, 0.9 apg).

KEY ADDITIONS: Coach Quin Snyder, G Dante Exum (draft), F Trevor Booker (free agent), F Rodney Hood (draft), F Steve Novak (trade, Raptors), G/F Carrick Felix (trade Cavaliers).

KEY LOSSES: F Marvin Williams (free agent, Hornets), F Richard Jefferson (free agent, Mavericks), C Andris Biedrins (waived).

COACH: Quin Snyder, first season.

EYES ON: Hayward. The Jazz matched Charlotte's four-year, $63 million offer for their restricted free agent in the offseason. Hayward averaged career highs in points, rebounds and steals (1.4 per game) while leading the Jazz in scoring and minutes. He was the first Jazz player to average 16 points, five rebounds and five assists since Pete Maravich.

OUTLOOK: The Jazz are seriously young, with 15 of the players invited to training camp 25 or younger. But rather than being a liability, this could be an advantage for the Jazz. The young squad will be more easily teachable as Snyder looks to install his own system and improve on a defense that was ranked last in the league last season. And since the team has really nowhere to go except up, their youthful energy could serve them well.

You May Like