NBA preview: Northwest
by Steve Kerr, Yahoo Sports
October 26, 2004
Still, before they do anything, the Wolves must conquer a surprisingly strong Northwest Division that boasts two blossoming young teams in Denver and Utah, along with a very talented Portland team. Only Seattle looks like a pushover in one of the NBA's most competitive divisions.
1. Minnesota Timberwolves
Now that they've had a taste of playoff success, they want more.
2. Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets are two-deep at every position, and with young bookend forwards Kenyon Martin and Carmelo Anthony, they're explosive. Andre Miller is coming off a good first season in Denver under coach Jeff Bzdelik, who loves to preach defense.
Thanks in large part to Marcus Camby, the Nuggets were one of the leading shot blocking teams in the NBA last season. If he can stay healthy, Denver has a chance to develop into a Western power.
3. Utah Jazz
Andrei Kirilenko is an unorthodox forward who is long, athletic and multi-talented. He blocks shots, rebounds, runs the floor and scores inside and out. Kirilenko will have help on the front line this season with the additions of Carlos Boozer and Mehmet Okur. Plus, Matt Harpring will return to the backcourt after an injury-plagued year.
If Carlos Arroyo can man the point – and he sure looked capable of doing so in the Olympics playing for Puerto Rico – the Jazz could surprise people again and challenge the Wolves for the division title.
The fourth-year forward is potent around the hoop. He has great touch and a knack for scoring despite not being overly athletic. Randolph will get help from Damon Stoudamire, Derek Anderson and Nick Van Exel in the backcourt, so he'll have plenty of shooters to loosen up the court.
Forward Shareef Abdur-Rahim has struggled to find a role since his arrival from Atlanta, but fellow frontcourtman Theo Ratliff has been a dominating presence by blocking shots. The Blazers could be pretty good – especially if Randolph continues to develop.
5. Seattle SuperSonics
Seattle has a great shooter in Ray Allen and a nice three man in Rashard Lewis. But like in baseball, a team needs to be strong up the middle, and the Sonics are searching for a point guard and a center.
Second-year man Luke Ridnour will get a shot at leading the offense, but there's just not much in the way of a low-post threat on this team. Jerome James has underachieved at the center position, and teenage rookie Robert Swift is a project who won't be ready to play for a while. The Sonics might not win 20 games this season.
Steve Kerr is Yahoo! Sports' NBA analyst. Send Steve a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated on Tuesday, Oct 26, 2004 1:04 pm, EDT