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NBA Preview: Northwest Division

Serge Ibaka
1. Oklahoma City Thunder
2. Denver Nuggets
3. Minnesota Timberwolves
4. Portland Trail Blazers
5. Utah Jazz

Rookie Report
Steven Adams, C, Thunder
The seven-footer brings more size to the Thunder's frontcourt and although his offensive game is a work in progress he has time to develop it.
Trey Burke, PG, Jazz
Burke, last year's Wooden Award winner, will bring long range shooting capabilities and will be dominant in transition.
C.J. McCollum, G, Blazers
Portland will welcome in another dominant scorer to pair with Damian Lilliard in a talented backcourt in McCollum, who missed most of his final year with Lehigh due to a foot injury.
Shabazz Muhammed, G/F, Timberwolves
A five-star recruit to UCLA last year, Muhammed, was expected to be an elite scoring threat and a real threat to be the No. 1 pick. He fell to Utah at 14 then was traded to Minnesota, and will bring more scoring help to go along with Ricky Rubio in the backcourt.

The Thunder dominated the Northwest and much of the Western Conference last year, but their off season came sooner than expected. When Russell Westbrook went down with a knee injury, the Thunder didn't have a scoring threat to complement Kevin Durant and were eliminated by Memphis. Westbrook will miss some time but when he comes back this team should rise to the top of the West once more. Other than Westbrook, the backcourt has some real young talent including Jeremy Lamb and Reggie Jackson. Lamb has great size and scoring potential, and Jackson is an athletic talent who plays hard. The loss of Kevin Martin hurts a lot more than people may think. Martin isn't an elite player but he was an effective wing scorer who could stretch the floor and open up space for Durant and Westbrook. If Serge Ibaka can continue to keep pressure off Durant and Kendrick Perkins in the paint this team should be a threat to win 60+. But, if they don't at least make the Western Conference Finals, this year should be considered a disappointment. Although the Nuggets lost Andre Iguodala, they still should be a threat. Their up-tempo attack can already beat teams and they have a number of players who could have breakout seasons. Ty Lawson continues to develop into a quality point guard and his speed and agility are so tough to guard. Javale McGee has unlimited potential but he famous for making stupid plays and his jumper looks extremely ugly. McGee is super athletic and has the size to be dominant in the paint. If he cuts down on his bone-headed plays he could well develop into an All-Star caliber center. The addition of J.J. Hickson will relive some of the pressure inside on McGee and Denver's other notable free agent signing, Nate Robinson, can do a lot of things off the bench. Other than the Lakers, the most disappointing team in the NBA was the Minnesota Timberwolves who were decimated by key injuries. Though, it appears Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love are both going to be healthy this year and that is a nightmare for opposing teams. The addition of both Kevin Martin and Shabazz Muhammed will help a lot as well. Rubio is clearly a passer, although he can score when needed. Muhammed is a proven wing scorer and is athletic, despite the fact he is a terrible defender. Martin is aging but can still stretch the floor and has the size to still get to the rim. Former No. 2 draft pick Derrick Williams has been quiet so far in his career but finally appears ready to have a career-changing year. This is the best T-Wolves in quite a while and if they can stay healthy they will get their first playoff appearance in the post-KG era. The Trail Blazers could surprise people this year. Damian Lilliard, last year's Rookie of the Year, should continue to mature into one of the NBA's brightest stars. LaMarcus Aldridge is in the prime of his career and is one of the league's most underrated forwards. He can score in a number of ways and has the size to be a force down low. Along with the drafting of elite scorer C.J. McCollum, from Lehigh, the Blazers also made a number of moves to try to improve their roster. Mo Williams will bring experience off the bench and he has proven he can score, nobody what team he is on. Thomas Robinson is on his third team in just two years and hopefully he can stay put after he was traded from Sacramento to Houston and then left to Portland. It isn't that he is a bad player, he is a monster on the glass and has more maturity than most players who are 22. The Jazz have a very interesting roster but it is hard imagining them as a real playoff threat this season. Utah has a number of players who have the potential to develop into stars, like Derrick Favors, who is still just 22 and improving center Enes Kanter. Gone is Paul Millsap, who signed with Atlanta, meaning that it should leave more minutes for both Favors and Kanter along with French big man Rudy Gobert, a 7-1 shot-blocker. The backcourt has pieces to with first round draft pick Trey Burke and last year's draft pick Alec Burks. Burke proved he can be an elite scorer in college but it will be interesting to see if his game can translate to the NBA. Much of his scoring in college was in transition, and off isolation, plus he is small for the NBA.

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