Last Season: 57-25 (2nd in the Northwest)
By losing swingman Andre Igoudala, the Denver Nuggets needed to add depth. That’s exactly what they did when the acquired Nate Robinson, Darrell Arthur, J.J. Hickson and Randy Foye. These players will be nice compliments to Ty Lawson, Kenneth Faried and Danilo Gallinari. Now that Denver has these new parts to their well oiled machine, will this translate into a championship? Rookie head coach Brian Shaw finally got his head coaching gig. Can he get his team to buy into his system? Will he get them out of the first round of the playoffs? That will be his toughest task this season, especially without a true scorer.
Last Season: 31-51 (5th in the Northwest)
This young Timberwolves team need some play makers to once again become a force in the Western Conference. The health of Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio will be key for Minnesota to stay afloat. When healthy, those two are fun to watch. Adding shooting guard Kevin Martin will help this team. First round draft pick Shabazz Muhammed will provide depth, but he is not quite the spark that turns this team into contenders. Minnesota is still in rebuild mode and only by way of miracle will this team see any playoff action.
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
Last Season: 60-22 (1st in the Northwest)
I’m so a Kevin Durant fan but the success pf the Oklahoma City Thunder hinge on the hands and health of Russell Westbrook. When Westbrook went down last season, the Thunder struggled mightily in the post season. He is the difference maker and without him, OKC will fall from the elite category of Western Conference teams. Kevin Durant is going to have to continue to produce at an MVP rate this season. That shouldn’t be a problem. In fact, it’s possible that he will dethrone LeBron James and take league MVP honors this season. They are still solid in the paint with Serge Ibaka at center. Can Kendrick Perkins return to form? The loss of Kevin Martin definitely hurts their depth. The Thunder will easily win this division. However, anything less than a return to the NBA Finals will be considered a failure in my book.
Last Season: 33-49 (4th in the Northwest)
The Portland Trail Blazers did great things this offseason when they added Mo Williams, Robin Lopez, and Thomas Robinson. Team them up with LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum, Damian Lillard and Wesley Matthews and the Trailblazers looks like a playoff team. Portland’s talent level is excellent. This group will be entertaining to watch. With that said, the team is still lacks a superstar talent that can get them over the top. Teams shouldn’t underestimate this squad. I see the team getting hot after the All-Star break reaching the playoffs as a low seed. Although they won’t be contenders, Portland has the capability to knock off a higher seed.
Last Season: 43-39 (3rd in the Northwest)
The 2013-2014 Utah Jazz will be extremely hard to watch this season. They lost Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, both switching Conferences. The remaining players are young and will face some serious hardships while adjusting to NBA life. Point guard Trey Burke will be a good NBA player and should have a future with this club. Rebuilding is an understatement for this organization. I see NBA lottery balls in the Jazz’s near future.
By Keith Madyun