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Northwest Division Preview

Northwest Division Preview

Northwest Division Preview
By Steve Merril

The Northwest Division is a one-horse race with the defending Western Conference champs set as big favorites to win the division crown. But some up-and-coming teams provide plenty of long-shot value behind the Thunder.

Denver Nuggets (2011-12: 50-32 SU, 44-34-4 ATS)

Odds to win division: +1,000
Season win total: 49.5

Why to bet the Nuggets: Denver is loaded with offensive talent, but it added a strong defensive piece in Andre Iguodala. He is a terrific perimeter defender and his addition was a major coup for the Nuggets. Wilson Chandler only played in eight games last year, but fully healthy, he and Iguodala improve Denver’s defense a bunch.

Why not to bet the Nuggets: Injuries. Denver can never seem to stay healthy for an entire season. And those injuries seem to occur in clusters. The Nuggets’ second unit is also young and they struggle to score at times. It will take time for them to gel as head coach George Karl is still mixing and matching their minutes.

Season win total pick: Over 49.5

Minnesota Timberwolves (2011-12: 17-65 SU, 36-46-0 ATS)

Odds to win division: +2,500
Season win total: 38.5

Why to bet the Timberwolves: Minnesota was in the playoff hunt last year before injuries derailed them. But if the T-Wolves stay healthy and the team’s new additions of Andrei Kirilenko and Brandon Roy can contribute, they will be fighting for a playoff spot once again. Minnesota has built their team unity nicely during camp.

Why not to bet the Timberwolves: Point guard. Minnesota would have little to worry about if point guard Ricky Rubio was healthy. Rubio isn’t slated to return until at least late December or early January, and his absence is the only real hole this team has. Luke Ridnour will play in his place, but he’s dealing with back spasms and Minnesota has little else if he also goes down.

Season win total pick: Over 38.5

Oklahoma City Thunder (2011-12: 55-27 SU, 43-38-1 ATS)

Odds to win division: -900
Season win total: 60.5

Why to bet the Thunder: Oklahoma City has one of the top duos in the NBA with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Both are bona fide scorers and opponents have difficulty in shutting them both down in a game. Overall, the Thunder have an excellent offense which led them to the Finals last season. That experience will be extremely valuable this season.

Why not to bet the Thunder: Defense. Oklahoma City couldn’t stop the good offensive teams last season, and once again its defense looks suspect on paper. The Thunder can certainly out-score any team, but playoff games are won with defense. Unless Durant and Westbrook buy into defense, the Thunder will disappoint once again.

Season win total pick: Under 60.5

Portland Trail Blazers (2011-12: 48-34 SU, 43-36-3 ATS)

Odds to win division: +2,800
Season win total: 35.5

Why to bet the Trail Blazers: Portland has some young, exciting talent on hand this season. Rookie point guard Damian Lillard leads the way and if he lives up to the hype, the Trail Blazers can build around him. Portland also has three solid veterans (Aldridge, Matthews, and Batum) for Lillard to work with, so this team isn’t without hope.

Why not to bet the Trail Blazers: Mystery. Portland made some questionable moves this offseason and its roster is basically a mixed bag of youth and washed-up veterans. There’s too much uncertainty after the starting five and the Trail Blazers may have to blow up their roster for salary cap reasons once they fall out of the playoff chase.

Season win total pick: Under 35.5

Utah Jazz (2011-12: 39-43 SU, 34-46-2 ATS)

Odds to win division: +2,800
Season win total: 42.5

Why to bet the Jazz: Utah surprisingly made the playoffs last season and it should build off that this season. This is one of the biggest teams in the NBA and when head coach Tyrone Corbin went to his big lineup, the Jazz played exceptional. Their defense needs improvement but their offense will get them some wins this season.

Why not to bet the Jazz: Youth. Utah is still a relatively young team. Aside from Al Jefferson and veteran Mo Williams, three main contributors are all 22 years old or younger. In order to win, Utah needs those guys to develop and improve off last season, but that is never a certainly in the fickle NBA.

Season win total pick: Under 42.5

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