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Northwest Division Preview- Don't Sleep On The TrailBlazers.

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We conclude our preview of the Western Conference by taking a look at the Northwest Division.

5. Wolves-

Added:  Michael Beasley, Wesley Johnson, Martell Webster

Lost: Al Jefferson, Ramon Sessions.

The Minnesota Timberwolves had a very Wolves like off-season. They traded their star player Al Jefferson, re-signed  Darko Milicic and acquired Michael Beasley. Sounds about right. In all seriousness though, I think the Wolves have reason to be optimistic going forward. Jonny Flynn is holding the point guard position down nicely until Rubio comes over-and he will. Wesley Johnson is a promising player and I think Wayne Ellington will have a big sophomore season. They took a gamble on Michael Beasley and if you're the Wolves, why not take a gamble on a former #2 pick? He's certainly not going to destroy the illustrious 15-67 team chemistry.  The Wolves traded Jefferson with eyes on giving Kevin Love a bigger role in the offense as they felt that he and Jefferson did not mesh on the court. Love will get the chance to be the man in Minnesota and he should flourish in it. 

4. Nuggets-

Added:Al Harrington

Lost: Nobody of significance.

Of course, anything and everything related to the Nuggets revolves around the Carmelo Anthony saga. If Anthony stays with the Nuggets, the Nuggets are a 6-8th seed in the West. They certainly have the athleticism and the length to compete with the Lakers and should provide some problems for opponents if they make the playoffs. If Anthony gets traded? Implosion.  We're talking about a team with J.R Smith, Kenyon Martin and Al Harrington. Martin and Smith have already expressed disgust regarding  their respective contract situations. If Anthony does get traded, I would hope the Nuggets have the foresight to go in full rebuild mode and trade Chauncey Billups as well.  Just for the sake of George Karl's health.  I fully expect Anthony to get traded by February by the way. Some will say that they can still keep him and get a sign and trade worked out this summer, but they would get greater compensation if they trade him now. 

3. Jazz-

Added: Al Jefferson, Raja Bell, Gordan Hayward, Earl Watson. 

Lost: Carlos Boozer, Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver.

The Jazz lost Carlos Boozer this off-season but got a very nice replacement for him in Al Jefferson. Former Colony product Deron Williams will be happy with that. They also made a nice signing by snagging Raja Bell from under Kobe Bryant and the Lakers. Bell will be the starting shooting guard and should bring toughness and the perimeter defense the Jazz desperately lacked the last few seasons. One of the most underrated signings this off-season had to be the signing of Earl Watson by the Jazz. One of the major flaws of the Jazz in recent years was there inability to get anything going when Deron Williams left game.  While Watson won't replicate Williams' play on the floor, he should be able to keep the Jazz from sputtering out of control on offense once Williams leaves the game. That alone should help the Jazz win a few more games this season.

2. Blazers-

Added: Wesley Matthews

Lost: Steve Blake, Travis Outlaw, Martell Webster.

Health. Health. Health. It can not be said enough, if the Blazers can stay healthy they are one of the few teams that can challenge the Lakers this season. They are long, they are big and they are tough. With Steve Blake signing with the Lakers the poin guard reins are officially in the hands of Andre Miller. If their is a major tipping point besides health here, this is it. Both Roy and Miller love to handle the ball. This is undoubtedly Roy's team, but Miller is the point guard and trying to find a chemistry between these two will be vital to the Trailblazers' success.

 

1. Thunder-

Added: Cole Aldrich

Lost: Morris Peterson, Etan Thomas

The Thunder were a Pau Gasol tipped shot in from forcing a decisive game 7 against the Lakers last season. The Thunder have every position,  except the center position,  set in stone for the next ten years  They tried to address that this off-season by drafting Cole Aldrich out of Kansas. Aldrich could very well be the missing center they lack, but I doubt it. It could be Serge Ibaka, who had a wonderful playoff run, but at 6'10 he is undersized for a center and could get abused on the defensive end. Yeah, the center position is still a question mark. Durant will undoubtedly be one of the front runners for MVP this season and Russel Westbrook should have a tremendous year. Other than the center position the Thunder have the biggest  room for improvement with James Harden. Harden came nowhere near his potential last season, if he can even fulfill 75% of his potential in his sophomore season? That's a scary thought.

Photographs by jamesbrandon, jdtornow, phlezk, flygraphix, mcdlttx, tomasland, and literalbarrage used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.