NBA betting preview: Northwest divsion

NBA betting preview: Northwest divsion

NBA betting preview: Northwest divsion
By VIC TAFUR

Utah Jazz

Odds: 51.5 over/under wins,10-1 to win title

In: Brevin Knight

Out: Jason Hart?

Outlook: Knock, knock. Who’s there? Utah on the doorstep to the NBA Finals. Stay out. The Jazz looked set to knock off the Los Angeles Lakers but couldn’t get past Kobe Bryant in the second round. They decided to stand pat, hoping that Olympians Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer get even stronger and take the Jazz all the way this season. Utah made its run last year after the acquisition of Kyle Korver, finishing 38-16 as the outside threats of Korver and Mehmet Okur opened up the offense for everybody else. The Jazz have an amazingly efficient offense as Williams gets the ball to teammates in the right spot and Boozer, Andrei Kirilenko, Ronnie Brewer and top sub Paul Millsap can all finish. Defensively, Okur and Boozer can be exposed but the Jazz make up for it with an aggressive high-foul/high-turnover philosophy as well as Kirilenko’s shot-blocking.
Prediction: The deep, young team is tailor-made for the regular season, and there is no reason to think they will slip from its 54 wins last year. Over.

Portland Trail Blazers

Odds: 42.5, 35-1

In: Rudy Fernandez, Jerryd Bayless, Ike Diogu

Out: Jarrett Jack, James Jones

Outlook: Greg Oden finally arrives on the scene after missing last year due to knee surgery. And so far he is getting rave reviews. He joins a 41-win team that saw Brandon Roy, Travis Outlaw, LaMarcus Aldridge and Martell Webster all rely on the midrange jumper. Steve Blake is a solid point guard and Joel Przybilla played well at center, now giving the Blazers that rarest of commodities -- a pretty good backup center. A rotation of Oden, Przybilla, Aldridge and Channing Frye gives coach Nate McMillan four guys with skills over 6-foot-11. Portland is actually big all over, as shooting guard Roy goes 6-6 and small forwards Outlaw and Webster go 6-9 and 6-7. This team is very young and there may be an adjustment period throwing the ball inside to Oden, but we think all of the optimism is warranted because of Roy. He is a special player who often moves over to point guard and can finish plays all by himself if the offensive bogs down.
Prediction: Over.

Denver Nuggets

Odds: 45.5, 35-1

In: Chris Anderson, Renaldo Balkman, Dahntay Jones

Out: Marcus Camby, Eduardo Najera, Yakhouba Diawara

Outlook: Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson averaged a combined 52 points a game last season, and it got the Nuggets 50 wins and a quick exit from the playoffs. Denver also got some unexpected point-guard production from Anthony Carter, defense and rebounding from Marcus Camby and Kenyon Martin and streaky scoring from J.R. Smith and Linas Kleiza. This year, the Nuggets are going to have to do without Camby, (an offseason payroll dump) after the former Defensive Player of the Year winner was jettisoned to the Clippers. The Nuggets get Nene back this season after his bout with testicular cancer, but he is no Camby. Coach George Karl is starting to look at his watch like it’s time to move on to his next team, and the only real hope is that shooting guard Smith builds off last year (28.8 points per 40 minutes after the All-Star break). If he plays a little defense, Karl can play him, Anthony and Iverson at the same time.
Prediction: Karl’s last years at Cleveland, Golden State, Seattle and Milwaukee were ugly. We love the under 45.5 for this pick-up style team.

Minnesota Timberwolves


Odds: 30.5, 100-1

In: Kevin Love, Mike Miller, Rodney Carney, Calvin Booth, Jason Collins

Out: Marko Jaric, Antoine Walker, Greg Buckner

Outlook: The new-look Timberwolves even have new uniforms. Al Jefferson is a stud and Love should have things he can do well his rookie year, like pass and shoot from outside. Miller can stroke it with the best of them, and his 3-point shooting - along teammates Rashad McCants and point guard Randy Foye -- should open things up inside a little for Jefferson and backup Ryan Gomes. Now the bad news: Who can these guys guard? Jefferson and Love are going to be way too slow to check most of the fives and fours in the West, and Miller is terrible defensively at shooting guard. Corey Brewer has the opposite problem: He can guard people but can’t shoot and has no handle.

Prediction: Everytime you see a highlight of Love making a court-length chest pass to Foye or McCants for a layup, they should show him flailing at a spin move and getting dunked on. It’s only fair. We are not seeing an eight-game improvement from last season. Under.

Oklahoma City Thunder

Odds: 26.5, 250-1

In: Russell Westbrook, Joe Smith, Desmond Mason

Out: Luke Ridnour, Francisco Elson

Outlook: The Sonics sure left Seattle with some great memories from last year. There was all the poltical wrangling and lies and then there was Kevin Durant redefining the term bad-shot-selection. The home crowd was bitter and depressed, and so was coach P.J. Carlesimo, as his team got its teeth kicked in often (15 losses of 20 points or more) and won only 20 games. Cue Thunder sound effect. Relocating will mean one thing at least - a very strong, passionate home-court advantage. Plus, Durant improved dramatically the second half of last season, and power forwards Chris Wilcox and Nick Collison seem to take turns having nights where they are serviceable. Jeff Green has to be better than he was last year (he has to be) and rookie point guard Westbrook won’t need to do much to be an upgrade over Ridnour. Smith and Earl Watson are professionals off the bench. ... I am trying hard to get this team to more than 26.5 wins. ...
Prediction: But I can’t do it. 25-57. Under.

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