| | |
. They’ve owned this division the last three years. And they will continue to own it. Yes, they lost their third-leading scorer for a second straight season. Yes, is coming off knee surgery and will miss the first 4-6 weeks of the season. Yes, there are questions about their bench.
But none of those things will prevent them from winning their division, and probably by a wide margin. The question is: Can they wrap up the Northwest by late March?
Here’s the thing with the Thunder this season: just turned 25. And he’s getting anxious. Last season, he went into otherwordly levels of efficieny, shooting 50-40-90 while nearly leading the league in scoring. Where is he going next? He’s shown the ability to become more of a playmaker and he’ll need to be with the absence of Westbrook. The Thunder have the world’s second best player, and when you hold that crown to , it’s like being the world’s best player in most other eras.
The Thunder will need production from some unknowns like and maybe rookie . But proved to be a more than capable player in Westbrook’s place in the postseahis season.James has scored three goals in his first four appearances for United, and has impressed with his pace and his direct play.”I don’t think they [United] expected what they have got from Daniel James so early on in his Manchester United careson, and if he continues to blossom, they may have another bench star in the making.
. After the Thunder, it’s kind of a mess. I have no idea what to make of the Nuggets. This is a team that won 57 games last season and lothey’re going for the Cups this season.Guardiola wants to retain both the FA Cup and Carabao Cup – and insists he will not prioritise next month’s Champions League showdown with Real Madrid in his bid for more glory at Wembley.He said: “I rotate st their best defensive player, their coach, their GM and their best scorer is coming off an ACL injury.
Last season, they were a trendy upset pick in the West, but after bowing out to the and the upheaval of the offseason, perception has changed about them. They’ve now become the “if” team in the division. If can be the man, if can start realizing his potential, if can continue to grow, if can come back strong, if J.J. Hickson can help inside — if the answers to those questions are yes, then the Nuggets can win 50 games.
If the transition from George Karl to Brian Shaw doesn’t go smoothly and Lawson isn’t capable of running the show in a halfcourt style and McGee flames out and Faried doesn’t excel in this system and Gallinari isn’t the same — then it could be trouble.
So as you’ll see, I’ve got them picked for 39 wins, which puts them fourth in the division. But at the same time, they could prove to be a playoff lock by December. I’m so confused.
. It’s hard not to look at the Blazers and see them improving drastically this season. This was a team that while they finished 33-49, they were 25-25 on Feb. 8 and squareuson insists Manchester United is stil the ‘go to’ place for any young player in the country.United have a proud history of bring through some of the greatest footballers the sport has seen, from George Best, Bobby Charlton and the Class of 92, all tly in the playoff conversation. On March 22, they were 33-36 and still in it. But they lost 16 straight to finish the season which probably was a product of their historically horrific bench finally catching up to them.
They’ve taken steps to rectify the second unit, adding C.J. McCollum in the draft, and in free agency, and and via a trade. They have the Rookie of the Year coming back to improve on his stellar debut season, they have an All-Star power forward in and they have an outstanding 3-and-D guy in .
The pieces appear to be there, but it’s hard to know how players will respond in their second seasons and there are trade rumblings around Aldridge. The Blazers could win 50 games and reach a seed as high as six. Or they could fizzle and finish 10 games under .500. Hard to figure right now.
. Does anyone remember how the Timberwolves were kind of good during the 2011-12 season, and before ‘s knee injury, were in the playoff conversation?
They were even competitive last season despite going 31-51, even with ‘s injury problems and Rubio slowly regaining form.
Now Love is healthy, Rubio looks fantastic, they added a terrific wing scorer in , is turning into an elite big and they’ve got as their jitterbug bench pop.
Isn’t this a playoff team?
The problem with the Wolves is that they haven’t been able to prove anything yet. While Love can be one of the five most productive players in the league, he hasn’t really won yet. Same goes for Rubio and Pekovic. Rick Adelman is one of the best in the business so having him in charge counts for something and while the Wolves look dangerous, they may not be entirely there yet.
. It’s going to be a rough season in Utah. The front office finally pulled the plug on the – frontcourt, relieving the log jam that’s held up and ‘s development. The Jazz are going with a youth movement type of thing and while there are nice pieces in place — like and — their bench is atrocious and they don’t currently have a point guard because of ‘s injury.
It will be a struggle for Utah to win 30, unless Favors and Kanter are better than expected and Hayward shows he can be a featured player. And even still, that probably only means 35.
Kevin Durant. You know, if you wanted to get cute with this, you could say Russell Westbrook. You know, considering how the Thunder stumbled in his absence last postseason and how that clearly illustrated Westbrook’s importance to the team.
But that’s making the assumption they wouldn’t have struggled the same way without Durant if the roles were reversed. So we’re going with “Pick the best player” rule, and that’s Durant. Do you want me to gush? Because I can. Nah, I’ll just leave it at this: He’s pretty good.
Trey Burke. The Northwest has unfortunately already been bitten by the injury bug with both Burke and Portland’s C.J. McCollum set to miss the beginning of the season.
But Burke will have the most significant role and was a trendy pick by a lot of people to win the actual Rookie of the Year, before he was injured. He’s not going to miss that much of the season and assuming he can get his feet under him, he could have a pretty nice season.
Dark horse candidate? Steven Adams. He’s looked outstanding in the preseason and while it’s unlikely he’ll supplant as the starter in OKC, he could see 20-25 minutes a game anyway. And at the rate he was scoring and pulling in rebounds, that could be good enough for an 8-and-8 average, which would be pretty impressive.
Read more →