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NBA Division Preview: Northwest Division Preview
1. Oklahoma City Thunder, -5000
The Thunder are projected to run away with Northwest division title this season, but it predicated on the health of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. When the duo is healthy, the Thunder are a force to reckon with and a NBA Championship contender. As the their divisional foes are either young and inexperienced or regressing, the Thunder should be able to rebound after last season and capture the division title come April 2016.
2. Utah Jazz, +1600
Great defense and a young core help the Jazz become the biggest challenge to the Thunder for the division title. The loss of Dante Exum in the summer – to an ACL tear - knocks them down a bit in the odds, but the internal development of players is the key for the Jazz this season. Their tough defense should help them play well against the lower teams in the East and West and allow them to compete for a playoff spot in 2016.
3. Portland Trail Blazers, +3300
The Trail Blazers are the reigning Northwest champs, but the loss of LaMarcus Aldridge really hurts the team’s playoff chances in the ultra-competitive Western conference. The Trail Blazers lost 80% of their starting roster in the offseason and did not add enough depth or skill to replace it. The team looks to rebuild around Damian Lillard and hopes to create a core of players able to succeed in the playoffs – as the Blazers have only one series win in the postseason since 2000.
4. Minnesota Timberwolves, +8000
The Timberwolves are young and fun to watch, but still remain a few seasons out of playoff contention. Andrew Wiggins is a legitimate future superstar and the Wolves grabbed in the draft a defensive stud and potential All-Star in Karl-Anthony Towns. The veteran presence of Kevin Garnett, Tayshaun Prince and Andre Miller will help with player development. The team is ready to climb out of the basement of the Western conference, but is not quite ready to give the Thunder a serious challenge for the title in 2016.
5. Denver Nuggets, +10000
The Nuggets are in a transitioning state right now and are not a trendy pick to finish very high in the Western conference this season. The draft brought in some excellent talent – including the seventh overall pick Emmanuel Mudiay – and the Nuggets are beginning their rebuilding process on a high note. The trade of Ty Lawson – who relationship with the team, not his skill was the reasoning behind his departure – leaves the team thin on offense. The re-signing of Wilson Chandler gives them a solid defender and quality shooter. The team lacks star power though and is not looking to make much noise this season.
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