The NBA Dribbled Out

2012 NBA PREVIEW NORTHWEST DIVISION:
TEAMS (in expected finishing order)
Oklahoma City Thunder
Portland Trailblazers
Minnesota Timberwolves
Denver Nuggets
Utah Jazz
FREE AGENT SIGNINGS/TRADES/RE-SIGNINGS:
Reggie Jackson-Oklahoma City
Deaquan Cook-Oklahoma City
Jamal Crawford-Portland
Greg Oden-Portland (sniffle)
Nolan Smith-Portland
Derrick Williams-Minnesota
Ricky Rubio-Minnesota
J.J. Barea-Minnesota
Brad Miller-Minnesota
Nene Hilario-Denver
Aaron Afflalo-Denver
Andre Miller-Denver
Kenneth Faried-Denver
Jordan Hamilton-Denver
Corey Brewer-Denver
Enes Kanter-Utah
Josh Howard-Utah
Alec Burks-Utah
2012 OUTLOOK:
The tenure of David Kahn has been rife with “KAHHNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN” moments, like signing J.J. Barea to almost $20 million and drafting so many point guards that amount to nothing. But, they’re looking pretty good right now. Oklahoma City didn’t pick up much this off-season, but they’re by far the best team in the conference since Dallas lost Chandler and the Lakers are reeling. Portland has to get over the retirement of Brandon Roy, but LaMarcus Aldridge has become a star, and he will continue to eek out wins with this Trailblazers team that played the champion Mavericks so hard in the first round of last season’s Western Conference playoffs. At least Denver got Nene, and Utah has a great young Gordon Heyward to look forward to (sure to appease the conservative Utah crowd), but it won’t be enough for either team to figure on many wins.
Kevin Durant’s lithe body hides a killer game that should usher in an MVP season from the young forward. Russell Westbrook is back, and hopefully the antagonism with Durant many writers have theorized about is simply a lot of bombast and innuendo. Both Westbrook and Durant are needed if this team is going to perform better than last year’s Western Conference Final exit. That means Serge Ibaka will have to improve offensively (he reportedly spent time working on low-post moves with his hometown Barcelona team this off-season), and Kendrick Perkins will have to be a force down low (he’s recently slimmed down so he can move better). They have all the pieces to win a title. Now lets see if they can.
The Portland Trailblazers franchise took a hit last year when Brandon Roy went down again with that knee injury. He retired, and now it’s on the remaining Blazers to win. LaMarcus Aldridge is a shining beacon of hope though as he’s improved his low-post game and started rebounding more. He should have been an all-star last year, and he will most certainly make the squad this year, but what else do the Blazers have? A veteran in Marcus Camby to help defend the rim; Jamal Crawford providing a scoring punch off the bench; Gerald Wallace to fill the lanes on fast breaks; and point guard Raymond Felton will have to stay in shape long enough to dish to his teammates. They’ll be good this year, but not great. Expect an early playoff exit, and very little time from Greg Oden—who had a set-back with his approximately 543rd comeback this millennium.
KAAAHHHHNNNNNNN! God that’s fun to type. Whether Luke Ridnour starts the season as this team’s point guard doesn’t really matter because I’m guessing Rubio gets the starter’s job before the first month has finished. Rick Adelman’s hire as a coach means the team will over-achieve; he’s done it before in Houston and Sacramento. Then we have the team’s popular Kevin Love, in vastly better shape this year even after a break-out 2011 campaign that saw him make his first all-star team (sorry LaMarcus). He should be ready to continue to board and finish with a flourish. Can Darko protect the rim? Is Michael Beasly really contrite about that cannabis charge to start the summer, and serious about being a better person and basketball player? Can Wesley Johnson be a starting off-guard in this league? All these questions still remain, and they’ll go a long way to determining the Timberwolves fate. I think they may squeak in for a surprising playoff appearance if all things fall into place. It’ll be fun to watch Darko flail around in a competitive playoff game. They might not be great, but they’ll certainly be entertaining.
Denver Nuggets coach George Karl called out Carmelo Anthony after his coup last season to get traded to the Knicks. But, they got some nice pieces back, and they re-signed Nene (which may not be so great depending on how his health holds up). This team did lose Kenyon Martin, Wilson Chandler and J.R. Smith (still stuck in China), but they re-signed Aaron Afflalo and Ty Lawson is an excellent point guard. I put the Nuggets low in this division because I think they’ll do worse without a primary scorer. But, if there’s any team in the league that could do much better than I’m predicting here, it’s this Denver Nuggets team. They could be good enough to make the Western Conference Semifinals, or they could be so bad they’re drafting in the lottery next season. I just don’t know what Karl will do with this group.
The Utah Jazz are starting a season without head coach Jerry Sloan for the first time since 1987. I doubt many of my readers can remember a Jazz team without him as their coach. Regardless, they were unlikely to compete with or without their long-tenured hall of fame coach. They’ve lost AK47 and Ronnie Brewer, and didn’t pick up much this off-season, so what do Jazz fans have to look forward to? Well, Devin Harris can be a good point guard sometimes. Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson provide some offensive production in their front-court and the hard-nosed Raja Bell will provide them some leadership with defense as their starting 2 guard. He won’t start for long though. Gordon Heyward, all white pigment and unshorn locks will take over that spot before the season is out. I really liked what Heyward did towards the end of last year, and I have high hopes from him going into this year. Unfortunately, I think this team will be stuck near the cellar when the 66 games are over.
pic via

2012 NBA PREVIEW NORTHWEST DIVISION:

TEAMS (in expected finishing order)

  • Oklahoma City Thunder
  • Portland Trailblazers
  • Minnesota Timberwolves
  • Denver Nuggets
  • Utah Jazz

FREE AGENT SIGNINGS/TRADES/RE-SIGNINGS:

  • Reggie Jackson-Oklahoma City
  • Deaquan Cook-Oklahoma City
  • Jamal Crawford-Portland
  • Greg Oden-Portland (sniffle)
  • Nolan Smith-Portland
  • Derrick Williams-Minnesota
  • Ricky Rubio-Minnesota
  • J.J. Barea-Minnesota
  • Brad Miller-Minnesota
  • Nene Hilario-Denver
  • Aaron Afflalo-Denver
  • Andre Miller-Denver
  • Kenneth Faried-Denver
  • Jordan Hamilton-Denver
  • Corey Brewer-Denver
  • Enes Kanter-Utah
  • Josh Howard-Utah
  • Alec Burks-Utah

2012 OUTLOOK:

The tenure of David Kahn has been rife with “KAHHNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN” moments, like signing J.J. Barea to almost $20 million and drafting so many point guards that amount to nothing. But, they’re looking pretty good right now. Oklahoma City didn’t pick up much this off-season, but they’re by far the best team in the conference since Dallas lost Chandler and the Lakers are reeling. Portland has to get over the retirement of Brandon Roy, but LaMarcus Aldridge has become a star, and he will continue to eek out wins with this Trailblazers team that played the champion Mavericks so hard in the first round of last season’s Western Conference playoffs. At least Denver got Nene, and Utah has a great young Gordon Heyward to look forward to (sure to appease the conservative Utah crowd), but it won’t be enough for either team to figure on many wins.


Kevin Durant’s lithe body hides a killer game that should usher in an MVP season from the young forward. Russell Westbrook is back, and hopefully the antagonism with Durant many writers have theorized about is simply a lot of bombast and innuendo. Both Westbrook and Durant are needed if this team is going to perform better than last year’s Western Conference Final exit. That means Serge Ibaka will have to improve offensively (he reportedly spent time working on low-post moves with his hometown Barcelona team this off-season), and Kendrick Perkins will have to be a force down low (he’s recently slimmed down so he can move better). They have all the pieces to win a title. Now lets see if they can.

The Portland Trailblazers franchise took a hit last year when Brandon Roy went down again with that knee injury. He retired, and now it’s on the remaining Blazers to win. LaMarcus Aldridge is a shining beacon of hope though as he’s improved his low-post game and started rebounding more. He should have been an all-star last year, and he will most certainly make the squad this year, but what else do the Blazers have? A veteran in Marcus Camby to help defend the rim; Jamal Crawford providing a scoring punch off the bench; Gerald Wallace to fill the lanes on fast breaks; and point guard Raymond Felton will have to stay in shape long enough to dish to his teammates. They’ll be good this year, but not great. Expect an early playoff exit, and very little time from Greg Oden—who had a set-back with his approximately 543rd comeback this millennium.

KAAAHHHHNNNNNNN! God that’s fun to type. Whether Luke Ridnour starts the season as this team’s point guard doesn’t really matter because I’m guessing Rubio gets the starter’s job before the first month has finished. Rick Adelman’s hire as a coach means the team will over-achieve; he’s done it before in Houston and Sacramento. Then we have the team’s popular Kevin Love, in vastly better shape this year even after a break-out 2011 campaign that saw him make his first all-star team (sorry LaMarcus). He should be ready to continue to board and finish with a flourish. Can Darko protect the rim? Is Michael Beasly really contrite about that cannabis charge to start the summer, and serious about being a better person and basketball player? Can Wesley Johnson be a starting off-guard in this league? All these questions still remain, and they’ll go a long way to determining the Timberwolves fate. I think they may squeak in for a surprising playoff appearance if all things fall into place. It’ll be fun to watch Darko flail around in a competitive playoff game. They might not be great, but they’ll certainly be entertaining.

Denver Nuggets coach George Karl called out Carmelo Anthony after his coup last season to get traded to the Knicks. But, they got some nice pieces back, and they re-signed Nene (which may not be so great depending on how his health holds up). This team did lose Kenyon Martin, Wilson Chandler and J.R. Smith (still stuck in China), but they re-signed Aaron Afflalo and Ty Lawson is an excellent point guard. I put the Nuggets low in this division because I think they’ll do worse without a primary scorer. But, if there’s any team in the league that could do much better than I’m predicting here, it’s this Denver Nuggets team. They could be good enough to make the Western Conference Semifinals, or they could be so bad they’re drafting in the lottery next season. I just don’t know what Karl will do with this group.

The Utah Jazz are starting a season without head coach Jerry Sloan for the first time since 1987. I doubt many of my readers can remember a Jazz team without him as their coach. Regardless, they were unlikely to compete with or without their long-tenured hall of fame coach. They’ve lost AK47 and Ronnie Brewer, and didn’t pick up much this off-season, so what do Jazz fans have to look forward to? Well, Devin Harris can be a good point guard sometimes. Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson provide some offensive production in their front-court and the hard-nosed Raja Bell will provide them some leadership with defense as their starting 2 guard. He won’t start for long though. Gordon Heyward, all white pigment and unshorn locks will take over that spot before the season is out. I really liked what Heyward did towards the end of last year, and I have high hopes from him going into this year. Unfortunately, I think this team will be stuck near the cellar when the 66 games are over.

pic via