NBA Western Conference Predictions - Northwest Division
by Josh Nagel - 10/19/2009
Here are some NBA predictions for the 2009-10 season, with a team-by-team look at the Western Conference Northwest Division.
Team: Portland Trailblazers
Last year's records: 54-28, 45-36 ATS
Odds: +1800 (NBA championship); +950 (conference)
Key transactions: Acquired guard Andre Miller.
Portland Trailblazers Predictions: The Blazers finally replaced potential with production last year, riding the shoulders of star Brandon Roy to a playoff berth and renewing hope among their fan base. Unfortunately, their lack of experience showed in a first-round playoff loss to the Houston Rockets. Portland did not respond well to adversity in that series, and must grow in poise and maturity in order to contend for the conference title. Miller, for years a solid and unheralded point guard in Philadelphia, brings a needed dose of experience and leadership. Greg Oden needs to start producing like a No. 1 pick, and LaMarcus Aldridge still needs more consistency. Even so, with Roy running the show, Portland has the pieces in place to build on its breakout season.
Prediction: 56-26, first place.
Team: Denver Nuggets
Last year's records: 54-28, 44-37-1 ATS
Odds: +1300 (NBA); +600 (conference)
Key transactions: Acquired guard Joey Graham; drafted guard Ty Lawson.
Denver Nuggets Predictions: Everything came together at the right time for the Nuggets last year, as they made an impressive playoff run and gave the Lakers a tough fight in the Western Conference Finals. You have to think they'd be hard-pressed to do it again. Although their defense improved and the leadership of Chauncey Billups was invaluable, this team still has a cast of volatile characters that makes it hard to foresee long-term success. Carmelo Anthony refused to come out of a game last year, then refused to apologize afterward. Kenyon Martin and J.R. Smith have had their share of attitude problems, as well. Denver lost its best defender in Dahntay Jones, but Graham is a similar player who should step in as the defensive stopper. The Nuggets will be an entertaining team, but time will tell if they are a consistent winner.
Prediction: 54-28, second place.
Team: Utah Jazz
Last year's records: 48-34, 39-43 ATS
Odds: +2000 (NBA); +950 (conference)
Key transactions: Drafted guards Eric Maynor and Wes Matthews.
Utah Jazz Predictions: Jerry Sloan has built another team into his preferred mold: gutsy, fundamentally sound and hard-nosed. The talent is there too, namely in point guard Deron Williams and big man Carlos Boozer. However, there's just not enough talent for the Jazz to become serious contenders for the division title. Workhorse forward Paul Millsap might be the Jazz' most valuable player. He is a potential All Star who continues to improve. Although the Jazz have a nice core of players, their woes on the road are well documented and hard to explain for team with this much talent. The Jazz have a tendency to play down to their competition away from home, which suggests a lack of mental toughness. Utah will always make the playoffs, but it's likely to be another one-and-done appearance.
Prediction: 46-36, third place.
Team: Oklahoma City Thunder
Last year's records: 23-59, 46-34-1 ATS
Odds: +12000 (NBA); +5500 (conference)
Key transactions: Drafted guard James Harden.
Oklahoma City Thunder Predictions: The Thunder were a bettor's friend last year, competitive enough to cover the number but bad enough to consistently end up on the short end of the scoreboard. Kevin Durant and friends could change that this year. Although they still have a ways to go, the Thunder have an exciting core group of players in Durant, Jeff Green and Russell Westbrook. The Thunder also made the most of a weak draft by taking Arizona State's James Harden, who appears to have the tools necessary to contribute right away. Oklahoma is relatively weak in the post, but coach Scott Brooks has an otherwise promising group to work with.
Prediction: 31-51, fourth place.
Team: Minnesota Timberwolves
Last year's records: 24-58, 37-43-2 ATS
Odds: +12500 (NBA); +9500 (conference)
Key transactions: Drafted guard Johnny Flynn; acquired forward Antonio Daniels.
Minnesota Timberwolves Predictions: The Timberwolves are taking some deserved heat for drafting Ricky Rubio with one of their two lottery picks. The team knew it risked Rubio staying in Spain, and he also plays the same position as their other draft pick, Flynn. For a team looking to turn around its recent misfortune, it appears Minnesota got little in the way of immediate help. The Timberwolves seemed to improve late last year under Kevin McHale, and now the job rests with first-time head coach Kurt Rambis. He has franchise post player Al Jefferson to build around, and forward Kevin Love looks like he will become a dependable pro. This team defines work in progress - just how much progress will be made remains to be seen.
Prediction: 20-62, fifth place.
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