With the 2013-14 NBA season just over 24 hours away from us, My Mind on Sports is wrapping up their divisional roundtables with the Northwest division. This division consists of the Minnesota Timberwolves, Oklahoma City Thunder, Utah Jazz, Denver Nuggets and the Portland Trail Blazers. Enjoy.
1. How will Russell Westbrook’s injury impact the Oklahoma City Thunder?
Michael Sykes: I think that the Thunder will probably get off to a slow start without Russell Westbrook. They’re going to have to get used to not having him present–meaning that his production will, somehow, have to be replicated. I don’t think that Reggie Jackson will be able to fill that void on his own and I don’t know if Jeremy Lamb is a competent scorer just yet. The Thunder don’t have the offensive system in place to fill these gaps, so we’ll see.
Eddie McDonald: With Russell Westbrook out, the impact will be that more pressure is put on Kevin Durant to lead the Thunder. Reggie Jackson showed in last year’s playoffs that he can be a suitable replacement for Westbrook. Jeremy Lamb will be called upon to fill some scoring gaps until Russell returns.
Samar Gaines: I think it may actually end up having a positive impact on the Thunder. Reggie Jackson can really play after he got hurt last year they figured it out. Having Westbrook out for the first few weeks might hurt them in terms of wins and losses but just having him play starters minutes should really be a plus for them.
2. If Kevin Love can stay healthy, how far can the Minnesota Timberwolves go?
MS: With a healthy Kevin Love the Timberwolves are probably a playoff team. His rebounding and scoring are among the best in the NBA. He’ll cover up the flaws on that team from all standpoints by providing them with extra possessions and extra points coming from his three point attempts and the fouls that he draws.
EM: The Timberwolves will make the playoffs with a healthy Kevin Love. The Wolves won’t do much more than that. They will make a little noise in the first round – potentially winning a series–but that is a stretch.
SG: They can make the playoffs as a lower seed. I don’t think they can get higher than a sixth seed and that’s not slight to them, it’s just that the Western Conference is really good.
3. Will the Denver Nuggets be good under Brian Shaw?
MS: I don’ think that Shaw is an ideal fit for the Nuggets. He’s going to attempt to make this team that was built for the open court into a dominant half court team. I don’ think that can be done. He’s the anti-thesis of David Joerger, but they’re both doing the exact same thing–coming in and flipping a scheme inside-out.
EM: I think the Nuggets can be good under Brian Shaw. He finally gets a chance to showcase his coaching ability after getting passed on numerous times. This team won’t win 57 games this season with big portion of their scoring gone. Also, defensively, it will be more difficult without Andre Iguodala.
SG: I don’t think they will be good under any coach not named George Karl. This team was built around his weird, yet brilliant, philosophy both offensively and defensively. Plus I’m not entirely sure that Brian Shaw is going to be a good coach.
4. Will Lamarcus Aldridge be a Trail Blazer by the seasons end?
MS: It depends on if they’re winning games. If the Trail Blazers aren’t winning by the time the trade deadline comes around, I think they’ll give up on the LMA/Lillard experiment and look to move on with their point guard. If it does work, though, he’ll be around. We can’t forget that he’s one of the best power forwards in the league and -also an All-Star caliber player. They won’t give up on him so easily.
EM: We won’t know the answer to this question until the trade deadline. If this team is headed towards the lottery, you can expect him to get traded. I think this team has a ton of talent that could make a playoff run.
SG: If Portland was smart they would of moved him sometime around the draft like the 76ers did with Jrue Holiday. I love the young talent on this team but they are fooling themselves if they think this team is anything more than a 7-8th seed.
5. Is the Utah Jazz future a bright one?
MS: The Jazz have a plethora of draft picks going into next season and they’ve got a lot of young talent already on this team. I think their future is one of the brightest in the league. It took some convincing (shouts to Z Roberts) but I do believe in what they’re doing. If they can mortgage these picks into a blue-chip player, they’ll be contending in the West in no time at all.
EM: The future of the Jazz right now is cloudy with a chance to succeed in the future. Their young players will have to step up at young points in their careers. This team will be a lottery team and that pick will certainly help them going forward.
SG: Let’s see: They have one of the best players no one talks about in the league with Gordon Hayward, they have two young promising bigs, they have a young point guard who may be their point guard of the future and hopefully they’ll have a top 6 pick in one of the deepest drafts in NBA history. Yes, I’d say the future is very bright in Utah.
6. Who is the best point guard in this division with Russell Westbrook out for the first month?
MS: With Westbrook out, I’d take Ricky Rubio over anyone in this division. He’s the best defensively–even with a healthy Westbrook. He’s a phenomenal passer and knows how to get an offense rolling. If you ever needed a fulcrum, Rubio is that piece. I think his all-around game puts him above everyone else aside from Westbrook–even if he can’t score.
EM: The best point guard in the division with Westbrook out is Ty Lawson. He will be forced to pick up his game and lead the Nuggets in scoring since a lot of it has left. A very close second is second-year player Damian Lillard, who has an extremely bright future.
SG: I know Damian Lillard is going to get a lion’s share of the votes here but I’m going to go with Ricky Rubio. He’s the best passer in the division, heck maybe the league. And he’s probably the best defender at the position in the division. He makes all of his teammates better, he’s awesome to watch, and he played MCW in a preseason game. What more could I ask for?
That wraps up the divisional previews for My Mind on Sports. Be sure to check out the rest of our NBA content on the site currently and throughout the season. You can also view the rest of our previews below.