Our NBA Previews Review continues with the Northwest Divison.
The Jazz are perhaps the least talked about powerhouse in the West and the Nuggets beat out the Warriors for one of the best races for the 8th seed in recent memory. The Sonics have the future in Durant, but it look more and more like that future will be in Oklahoma City. The Blazers made news by winning 13 games in a row, but they too are looking forward to next year when Greg Oden will hopefully be patroling the lane. The TWolves are still trying to regroup after trading the Big Ticket but Al Jefferson is a good foundation to build on.
For review, here's the list of Previews from the preseason.
Daily Basketball - la287
Overall, this season was a big step forward for the Jazz. Record-wise, the team nearly met our prediction, falling just a couple games short. Still, they improved on their record, which is impressive considering their disappointing road record. The Jazz have continually played to the level of their opponents, so considering they won't play the Timberwolves on the road, they've got a good chance to make a run deep into the playoffs.
As far as the team goes, Deron Williams was an overwhelming All-Star snub. D-Will is probably the MVP of the team, though you could vote for Boozer as well. The Kyle Korver trade revitalized the team. Before the trade, the Jazz rarely looked for three-point shots -- and though they still don't run plays to get outside shots -- the Jazz now regularly knock down a solid 38% of their shots from downtown.
The Jazz will need to dramatically improve their play on the road if they want to win in a championship in the next couple seasons. The Jazz are one of the youngest teams in league. As soon as they find some consistent success on the road, they'll be ready to bring home the big trophy.
Steve Weinman - CelticsBlog NBA (formerly of Taking It To The Rack)
Wow, Jeff! Way to give me a chance to actually feel good about a prediction! Okay, let’s rephrase: Way to give me a chance to actually not feel terrible about a prediction! I said in October that a similar record to last year’s 51-31 mark and another trip to the Western Conference Finals would represent an improvement for the Jazz thanks to how much tougher the Western Conference has become.
The improvements are there: The team jumped from third to first in offensive efficiency and 18th to 12th on D. Deron Williams has been the star he first emerged as last postseason, and Carlos Boozer continues to terrorize opponents inside. The coach is still one of the best in the business. In fact, the team has been even better than I expected, having already matched last season’s win total and passed my prediction of 48 wins. But the West is as tough to play in as ever, and the Jazz will likely have to beat consecutive 50-win teams just to return to the WCFs. So much remains to be seen with this team, so you might just have to call me back in June. How’s that for straddling the fence?
Deron Williams is one of the top 3 point guards in the league. He’s putting up 19 & 10 (19 & 12 since the break). He won’t get any MVP talk, but the Jazz are probably out of the playoffs without him this year.
And Coach Sloan, who won’t win COY again, shows that his offense is a thing of beauty. It’s scalable for whether you want to run or slow it down. This is evidenced by the Jazz having the most efficient offense in the NBA.
The Jazz just have to finish 3-1 to meet my projected 55 wins. With home-court and some favorable matchups, you could see the Jazz in the WCF again.
SonicsCentral - Chris Meirose
Our team was bad, our ownership sucked. I believed before the season that there were two keys to this season - finding a way to play defense, and thwarting the ownership from moving our team. On the first point the team failed miserably. Rare was the consistent and prolonged attempt to play defense, and our record reflects those failures. On the second point, the results are still unclear, but the efforts to keep the team in Seattle have been fantastic.
The highlight of the season is that Kevin Durant has progressed well. He has especially shown growth in shot selection over the past month and a half, showing he is beginning to understand the NBA game. Our other rookie acquisition - Jeff Green - has been up and down. Green has shown potential but little consistency. Overall, the season was a resounding failure. Many players failed to improve and make progress. Our coaching was at best sub-par.
There is hope. We haven't given up the fight for our team, and we are positioned for a high lottery pick. And sometimes all you have is hope.
Portland Trail Blazers
True Hoop - Henry Abbott
My season preview was about incremental improvement, building towards a contender in 2011 or so. On that front, a major score this year. Portland got leaps in development from Travis Outlaw, LaMarcus Aldridge, and even Brandon Roy. Portland traded away their leading scorer and rebounder -- Zach Randolph -- yet improved.
I was wrong on two big points though:
- The team somehow did not get much faster without Randolph, which is a bummer.
- The team won way more than 34 games, which is not a bummer at all.
TWolvesBlog - College Wolf
It seems like only yesterday when I wrote the season preview "A New Beginning." Some prognostications good, some a little off. Admittedly it’s been far from a stellar season, but I did predict the Wolves to win 21 games this year… which has a chance to be dead on.
Big Al has helped me at least appear to look smart, by emerging as the leader and go to guy for this franchise. I also predicted that perhaps Foye would step up as a leader, but it really hurt (pun intended) that he missed the first 43 games of the season. I also nailed our "Biggest Weakness" by stating that the roster construction, rotation/ pecking order, and team chemistry would be the biggest hurdle(s) to overcome. The proof is in the pudding: The Wolves have used a franchise high 24 different starting lineups (and counting) this season. We still don’t know which players will be back next season.
The biggest error that I almost refuse to admit that I mentioned: "Who knows, maybe the young Wolves will catch some lucky breaks and win a few more games than people expect. The 8th playoff seed certainly isn’t out of the question." Yikes!
The Nugg Doctor - Nick Sclafani
It's time to check in on how good (and bad) of a job I did previewing the Nuggets by recalling some of my predictions made this fall in the NBA Blog Previews.
Where I was (almost) right:
-Overall Record: I predicted 53 wins for this year's Nuggets and they are on pace to win about 50 games. Pretty close considering all the trades and injuries Denver went through.
-Denver’s Biggest Weaknesses: I said defense and chemistry and Denver is to defense as a wet paper bag is sturdy. Chemistry has also been a problem for the snake bitten Nuggets.
-Denver’s Greatest Strength: I said offense. With one of the three highest overall scoring averages in the league and Anthony and Iverson both in the top five leaders in scoring the Nuggets have lived up to be the juggernaut I thought they would be.
Where I was dead wrong:
-Acquiring Steven Hunter from Philly for Reggie Evans and Von Wafer from the D-League was fruitless.
-Denver "marching" all the way to the conference finals. Merely making the playoffs is going to be tough and now the finals seem like a pipedream.