Did you know that the start of the NBA season is just a few short weeks away? Teams are now in training camps, and by the end of the month the regular season will be here. While most of the focus right now is on football and baseball, preparing for basketball will allow you to start off the season the right way. Let’s take a closer look at the Western Conference and the Northwest Division. It was all about the Oklahoma City and the Denver Nuggets at the top of this division last year. All futures odds listed are from Sportsbook.ag.
2012-2013 Record: 60-22
Odds to Win NBA Northwest Division: -400
Odds to win NBA Championship: +700
Oklahoma City had a great regular season, but the team stalled out in the playoffs when Russell Westbrook went down with an injury. A lot of people like to talk trash about Westbrook because he isn’t the typical point guard in the NBA, but never was it more evident that the team needs him than in the playoffs last year. Westbrook is having another surgery now, and he’ll miss the beginning of the season. The team can afford to miss him for part of the season, but they need him 100 percent in the playoffs. Kevin Durant is the second best player in the NBA, and he is driven to become number one. Kevin Martin is gone, so the Thunder will rely more on Serge Ibaka and even youngster Jeremy Lamb. This is clearly the team to beat here.
2012-2013 Record: 57-25
Odds to Win NBA Northwest Division: +600
Odds to win NBA Championship: +4,000
The Nuggets won the most games ever in franchise history and George Karl was named NBA Coach of the Year. What did the Nuggets decide to do in the offseason? Go in a different direction. It’s hard to make any sense of it. After Karl left, the Nuggets lost their most versatile player in Andre Iguodala. They tried to bring in some long range shooters in Randy Foye and Nate Robinson. I would argue that no team in the NBA had a worse offseason than the Denver Nuggets. This team had a good thing going, and they decided to let it go. The Nuggets won’t be nearly as good this season.
2012-2013 Record: 43-39
Odds to Win NBA Northwest Division: +10,000
Odds to win NBA Championship: +20,000
The Utah Jazz finished just out of the playoff picture last year. Utah has been right around the eighth or ninth spot in the West each of the last few years. This offseason the team decided it was time to make some big roster moves. Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap are gone, and Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors will have much bigger roles. Trey Burke was a great draft choice at number nine, and he should do well here. Still, Utah got a lot younger and will go through some tough times in the year ahead.
2012-2013 Record: 33-49
Odds to Win NBA Northwest Division: +1,500
Odds to win NBA Championship: +12,500
Portland tanked at the end of last season, but the Blazers starting five wasn’t bad last year. Portland’s bench was the huge problem. Portland was dead last in minutes played, points per minute, and just about every category for bench production. The front office brought in Thomas Robinson and Robin Lopez for depth in the frontcourt. Mo Williams and Dorrell Wright were signed to give the team solid outside shooters. Damian Lillard was the NBA’s top rookie last year. Portland is taking steps to move in the right direction. They should be more competitive this year.
2012-2013 Record: 31-51
Odds to Win NBA Northwest Division: +1,000
Odds to win NBA Championship: +10,000
Minnesota is one of those teams that seems to always have promise, but they just never have that breakout season. They are certainly capable of it, but they need to stay healthy. Ricky Rubio looks to be completely healthy, and Kevin Love believes he is in the best shape of his life. Flip Saunders is the new GM here, and he expects this team to win now. It’s been nine years since the team last made the playoffs. Kevin Martin was a big offseason signing, and he’ll be a great second or third scoring option. This team has a high upside potential, but they have to prove it before I pick them.
NBA Northwest Division Pick: Oklahoma City Thunder
The Nuggets imploded in the offseason, which essentially gives the Thunder a cake walk to the top spot in this division. Don’t be surprised if Portland or Minnesota finishes second in the Northwest.
is full-timesports writer and sports handicapper. You simply won’t find someone who loves sports more than Kyle. Kyle considers college football and college basketball his two favorite sports. Kyle has earned many accolades for his highly successful handicapping, and he writes full-time for many top sports websites. Keep an eye out for high quality free sports analysis from Kyle!