2009 NBA Preview: Northwest Division

This year, we’re doing a division-by-division preview with quick-hitting analysis for every team in the league. If a franchise is a legitimate championship contender, I’ll focus on what stars have to line up for a title run. If a team is a playoff “also-ran,” I’ll identify the weaknesses that have to be shored up via trade, free agency or draft over the next couple of seasons to make it a contender. If a team is likely to miss the playoffs, I’ll take a look at the salary cap, and provide a blueprint for how the team should proceed in the near future to get back in the postseason. At the end of each divisional preview, I’ll provide some (random) thoughts for the fantasy hoopsters out there.

For each division, I’ll pick the order of finish. You’ll also see the team’s league-wide preseason rank in parenthesis. Be sure to check back over the course of the next couple of weeks for previews of each division.

Denver Nuggets (6)
The Nuggets are coming off a 54-28 record and a Northwest Division title. Of their top rotation players, they return all but Linas Kleiza (Olympiakos) and Dahntay Jones (Indiana). HC George Karl hopes that J.R. Smith can be a consistent starting shooting guard, but he won’t be afraid to use Arron Afflalo if Smith doesn’t play solid defense (or with his head on straight). Much of the credit to Denver’s fine season is given to Chauncey Billups, who provided steady play and leadership at point guard, but the health of Nene and Kenyon Martin should not be overlooked. The Nuggets re-signed Chris “The Birdman” Andersen to provide energy, rebounding and shot blocking off the bench. If the front line can stay healthy, Billups can stay productive at 33, and Smith can fulfill his considerable potential, then the Nuggets have enough talent to reach the Western Conference Finals for a second straight season. Even so, it’s hard to see Denver upending a healthy Lakers or Spurs squad in a seven-game series.

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NBA Rumors: Wizards’ pick, Williams’ promise and Rubio’s first workout

Promise for Terrence Williams?

Williams went back for a second workout with the Bobcats on Monday against Gerald Henderson. Sources said after the workout that Williams met with the Bobcats and might have walked away with a promise that the Bobcats would take him at No. 12.

Williams has been moving up of late, and now it looks like he may have leapfrogged Henderson in a pretty thin shooting guard draft class. The Warriors are reportedly high on him at #7 as well.

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2008 NBA Team-by-Team Preview

Ron Artest is a Rocket, Jermaine O’Neal is a Raptor and Mo Williams is a Cavalier. Richard Jefferson is a Buck and Corey Maggette is a Warrior. Baron Davis signed up to play with Elton Brand in L.A., but Brand bolted for Philly to play with AI2 instead. And Andrew Bynum is back from injury, trying to figure out how to co-exist with Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom. There, you’re all caught up on most of the big summer news from the NBA.

Want more? We’ve got you covered. Our team-by-team preview breaks down each franchise’s offseason movement and outlook, along with a player (or situation) to keep your eye on. We also ask “The Big Question” that is haunting each team as it enters the season.

For the last two weeks, We’ve been previewing each team from #30 to #1, posting three team previews per business day, starting with the league’s bottom feeders – we’re looking at you, Thunder – and finishing up with the cream of the crop. So who will be #1? The Lakers? The Celtics? Or will there be a surprise at the top of our preseason power rankings?

Click here to see the entire preview.

2008 NBA Preview: #29 Minnesota Timberwolves

Offseason Movement: The team acquired Mike Miller as a part of a trade that sent the rights to O.J. Mayo to Memphis for the rights to Kevin Love. Miller is one of the league’s best shooters, but he’s a good all-around player at a fair price. He should be able to make teams pay if they elect to doubleteam Al Jefferson.
Keep Your Eye On: Kevin Love, F
GM Kevin McHale – that’s right, he’s still running things – fell in…um…love with Love’s game and elected to trade away the more dynamic Mayo for Love’s blend of power and fundamentals. Love showed much better athleticism after trimming down for the combine, so if he’s able to keep that going, he should be a fine power forward for years to come. He’s a terrific passer, a good rebounder and a solid shooter.
The Big Question: Is McHale the right guy to steer this ship around?
Usually, the guy who gets the team into a mess isn’t the one who’s given the job to clean it up. In this case, McHale has a close relationship with Glen Taylor, so it seems like he has a lifetime contract and is impervious to talk of his dismissal. To his credit, the Kevin Garnett-for-Al Jefferson gambit paid off (and not only for the Celtics), as he landed a young, All-Star caliber player in return for KG. Jefferson is one of the best post players in the game, and he gives the team someone to build around for years to come. If the Love draft pick pans out, the ‘Wolves might be onto something.
Outlook: In the short term, things look bleak. Other than Miller, the rest of the projected starting five (Randy Foye, Rodney Carney, Love and Jefferson) have a combined eight years of NBA experience. There’s no doubt that they’re going to struggle, but the team showed some life last season, and they should continue to improve. On the salary cap front, there is $13.5 million coming off the books next summer, so the franchise will be a player in free agency in 2009.

Check out our NBA Preview page for a look at every team. We’ll be posting three previews per business day, which will take us up to the start of the season on Tuesday, October 28th.

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