2012-13 NBA Predictions: Northwest Division Preview and Betting Odds
by Ricky Dimon - 10/18/2012
There’s Oklahoma City…and then there’s everyone else.
That’s the simple nature of things in the NBA’s Northwest Division. The first question is not if, but by how many games will the Thunder win it. The other questions simply deal with how many teams the Northwest can fit into the Western Conference Playoffs.
(all odds provided by Sportsbook.ag)
Denver Nuggets (+750)
The Nuggets (38-28, 36-30 against the spread) were good last season, but not quite good enough to snag home-court advantage in the first round. It ended up costing them, as they went down to the Lakers in a tough seven-game series.
A solid but unspectacular finish wasn’t the only thing typical about Denver’s 2011-12 campaign. Always one of the most high-tempo teams in the league, the Nuggets led the NBA in scoring at 104.1 points per game. At the same time, however, they allowed 101.2 points per contest (tied for 28th in the NBA). Denver’s lone blemish on offense was three-point shooting. Interestingly, George Karl’s squad shot 47.6 percent overall (second in the league) but a woeful 33.2 percent from beyond the arc.
Arron Afflalo’s departure won’t help in that department, so Danilo Gallinari will have to pick up the slack. That being said, the Nuggets (+2000 to win the West, +4000 to win it all) could be even better at getting off high-percentage shots. The arrival of Andre Iguodala gives them their most dynamic scorer since Carmelo Anthony.
Minnesota Timberwolves (+3000)
The Timberwolves seem like they are going in the right direction. Now if they could just catch a break…. Minnesota went 15-67 three seasons ago and compiled the worst record in the NBA (17-65) two seasons ago before managing a more respectable 26-40 (31-35 ATS) mark last season.
And that was without Ricky Rubio (torn ACL) for the second half of the campaign. It certainly didn’t help the T-Wolves’ offensive flow, as they finished 27th in the NBA in shooting percentage and 23rd in three-point percentage. Minnesota was even further from effective on the defensive end. The team allowed opponents to score 100.1 points per game, and while making 45.5 percent of their shots, Minny also forced fewer turnovers (13.3 per contest) than 25 other teams in the league.
This season hasn’t even started, and the injury bug has yet again hit Minnesota (+5000 to win the West, +8000 to win it all). Rubio is still out until December, and Kevin Love, the Timberwolves’ best player by far, will be sidelined at least six weeks due to a broken hand. Fellow forwards Derrick Williams and Andrei Kirilenko will have to keep this team afloat through the first 20 games or so.
Oklahoma City Thunder (-1800)
OKC keeps getting better and better. Scott Brooks’ club didn’t quite go all the way last season, but it won the West before losing to Miami in the NBA Finals. The Thunder (47-19, 35-31 ATS) were an offensive juggernaut, one with which neither the Lakers nor the Spurs could compete with in the playoffs. They averaged 103.1 points per game, shot 47.1 percent from the floor, and made more free throws while draining them at a higher percentage than any other team in the league.
Now they’re one year older, and while that is often a not-so-good thing, it’s a great thing for a team as young as this one. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden are just scratching the surface of their primes. The Thunder (+180 to win the West, +350 to win it all) also stole Perry Jones III, another sick athlete, at No. 28 in the 2012 draft.
The most exciting club in basketball should coast to another Northwest crown while selling out opposing arenas night in and night out.
Portland Trail Blazers (+5000)
After three straight years of making the playoffs, the Blazers went into rebuilding mode last season. No rebuilding would have been necessary had it not been for crippling injuries to Brandon Roy and Greg Oden, but such is life….
The result was a fourth-place finish in the division and an 11th-place finish in the conference. Portland (28-38, 32-33-1 ATS) was just about in the middle of the road in every offensive category despite having only one truly reliable scorer in LaMarcus Aldridge. The Blazers were worse defensively, giving up an average of 97.8 points while letting teams shoot 46.3 percent from the floor (fifth highest percentage in the NBA).
Retooling through the 2012 draft will pay dividends, as the Blazers snagged Damian Lillard of Weber State, Meyers Leonard of Illinois, and Will Barton of Memphis. Whether any of those dividends pay off this season, however, remains to be seen. For now, Portland (+5000 to win the West, +10000 to win it all) will likely depend on a slightly older trio of Aldridge, Nic Batum, and Wesley Matthews.
Utah Jazz (+2500)
The Jazz (36-30, 34-31-1 ATS) did well to sneak into the playoffs last season, only to get swept aside in four routine games by top-seeded San Antonio. A stellar post game helped Utah score 99.7 points per contest (fifth in the NBA) despite shooting a horrendous 32.3 percent from three-point land (27th in the NBA). The team finished third in rebounding differential but gave up a disappointing 99 points per outing (eighth most in the league).
A similar Jazz squad takes the floor this season. Head Coach Tyrone Corbin will once again rely on the post play of Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, and Derrick Favors. Gordon Hayward and newly-acquired Marvin Williams make the forward spot even deeper. Guard play could be even more questionable following the departure of Devin Harris, but Randy Foye is on board and will have to contribute right away.
Utah (+5000 to win the West, +10000 to win it all) won’t be digressing, but a second straight postseason berth would be an impressive accomplishment.
PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH
1) Oklahoma City
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