It's not only Christmas Eve, but the eve of the start of the NBA season. We continue to provide updates from each of the Association's six divisions, with the Eastern Conference now complete. We begin our Western Conference previews with the Northwest Division. Oklahoma City is the pride here and perhaps the entire Conference. Dallas and the Lakers are a year older with the Clippers arguably the Thunder's main obstacle this season. We highlight key players and updates on also update ongoing Flea Flicker auctions and drafts. Bookmark Talking Hoops and check back daily for the latest information that impacts your wagers and fantasy basketball.
Denver Nuggets- Denver was impacted by the labor negotiations more than any team in the Association. J.R. Smith, Kenyon Martin and Wilson Chandler all opting to play overseas in China. The good news? The Nuggets retained the services of highly sought after center Nene. Arron Afflalo and Al Harrington are the beneficiaries, now solidly entrenched in starting roles. Ty Lawson is a solid point with Danilo Gallinari, the key to the Carmelo deal, an exciting smal forward. Andre Miller, Rudy Fernandez and Corey Brewer provide depth on the perimeter along with rookie Jordan Hamilton. Chris Anderson and Timofey Mozgov are post reserves along with rookie Kenneth Faried. Projection: 2nd place
Minnesota Timberwolves- When a team picks high in the lottery each year, eventually they will find their way. Minnesota has added two more elite rookies in point guard Ricky Rubio and forward Derrick Williams. Both figure to eventually start along with fellow lottery picks Kevin Love, Michael Beasley and Wesley Johnson. With the free agent addition of J.J. Barea, Luke Ridnour will be probably be moved. Martell Webster, Anthony Randolph and Darko Milicic figure to contribute off the bench. The T-Wolves also added Malcom Lee, who will battle Wayne Ellington for playing time at the two behind Johnson. Minnesota continues to stockpile talent, but need to prove they can jell together. Projection: 5th place.
Oklahoma City Thunder- Is this the year that Oklahoma City thunders to the Western Conference title? The dynamic duo of Kevin Garnett and Russell Westrbrook is as good as any tandem in the country. The trading deadline addition of Kendrick Perkins added defense and toughness to the frontcourt, and is a great compliment to Serge Ibaka. Oklahoma City seems to prefer James Harden off the bench with Thabo Sefolosha starting at the two. Eric Maynor backs up Westbrook at the point with Nate Robinson also in reserve. Front court bench help comes from Lazar Hayward, Nick Collison and Nazr Mohammed. Projection: 1st place.
Portland Trail Blazers- While the retirement of Brandon Roy hurts, his injuries were chronic, and cap relief will come a year from now. Wes Matthews had a breakout season and forms a nice backcourt tandem with Raymond Felton. Free agent acquisition Jamal Crawford is an elite combo guard to have off the bench. Nolan Smith and Jon Diebler are deep reserves that had big time college careers. Portland's strength is at small forward with Gerald Wallace and Nicolas Batum. With Greg Odom out again, Portland relies on ancient Marcus Camby up front with all-star LeMarcus Aldridge. The Blazers don't have much help on the bench with Kurt Thomas and Craig Smith. Projection: 4th place.
Utah Jazz- Deron Williams held the Jazz hostage and they did what they had to do, getting a randsom from the New Jersey Nets. Utah has quite a nucleus of young talent in Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward, Enes Kanter and Alec Burks. As those players develop, Utah goes with Devin Harris and Josh Howard on the perimeter, with Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap in the post. Mehmet Okur was dealt to the Nets for a second round pick as New Jersey tries to plug the hole created by the injury to Brook Lopez. Jay-Z and company are also interested in signing free agent Andrei Kirilenko. Utah has nice young pieces, look to them to add a young point guard next. Projection: 3rd place.
Northwest Division Sleepers (Flea Flicker owned)
G Ricky Rubio T'Wolves 46%
G Wesley Johnson T'Wolves 22%
F Gordon Hayward Jazz 10%
F Josh Howard Jazz 5%
F Al Harrington Nuggets 20%
F Anthony Randolph T'Wolves 13%
F Derrick Favors Jazz 9%
C Marcus Camby Blazers 27%
C Enes Kanter Jazz 25%
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Tom Blaz is a writer for Fantasy Alarm and co-owner of The Recruiting Eagle a website focusing on Auburn University Athletics.
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