|2013 NBA Northwest Division Blog Previews|
|Sponsored by CelticsBlog and SB Nation|
Jeff Clark of CelticsBlog has, for yet another season, coordinated team preview efforts featuring NBA bloggers from around the web. Here are link to previews for teams in the Northwest Division.
Denver Nuggets: Denver Stiffs
Oklahoma City Thunder: Welcome to Loud City
Portland Trail Blazers: Blazersedge.com
Utah Jazz: SLC Dunk
After earning their first NBA Finals trip since moving from Seattle, the Thunder made minor moves around the edges: they let veteran stopgaps Derek Fisher and Nazr Mohammed go, while adding former second overall draft pick Hasheem Thabeet. OKC's core of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and Serge Ibaka remains unchanged for the moment, though the big extension to which they signed Ibaka could mean losing Harden during or after the coming season.
It's possible that the Nuggets could mount a serious challenge to the Thunder's supremacy in the Northwest. George Karl is perhaps the ideal coach for All-Star forward Andre Iguodala, an outstanding defender who excels in the open-floor offense Karl prefers to run. Though it's unclear what role scrap-heap pickup Anthony Randolph will play, he, too, has the tools to thrive under Karl. Another strong campaign by point guard Ty Lawson and energy forward Kenneth Faried could vault Denver atop the Northwest.
Minnesota finally has the look of a playoff team, with All-Star forward Kevin Love anchoring a young, exciting club. Unfortunately, Love and point guard Ricky Rubio will miss the start of the season due to injury, leaving Brandon Roy, whom the Wolves signed out of retirement, to carry much of the load. Burly center Nikola Peković, a breakout star for Minny in the lockout-shortened season, will also need to shoulder a greater load in the stars' absence.
Portland looks to be in a transitional period, which is a kind way of saying it's rebuilding but just doesn't know it yet. The Blazers locked up Nicolas Batum with a long-term extension; added former Eurostash picks Joel Freeland and Víctor Claver; and signed stopgaps Jared Jeffries, Sasha Pavlović, and Ronnie Price. Were it not for the presence of All-Star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland fans would have few reasons for optimism.
Utah made some significant changes to its roster, importing Mo Williams and Randy Foye from the Los Angeles Clippers' backcourt while trading point guard Devin Harris for combo forward Marvin Williams. Those moves strengthen the wings on a team that's so heavy with front-line talent it may have to trade Al Jefferson or Paul Millsap in order to give more minutes to Derrick Favors, whose pogo-stick athleticism has turned him into a formidable rim-protecting presence on defense.