In professional sports, excitement is a byproduct of parity and its inherent unpredictability. Expect the Northwest Division in the NBA to lead the pack in terms of excitement, because the conditions are an ideal breeding ground for some excellent basketball.
Take a look at the composition of the division. A truly "bad" team cannot be found among the Thunder, Nuggets, Timberwolves, Jazz and Trail Blazers. Would it shock you if any of these teams earned a trip to the postseason?
Despite the relative parity throughout the division, there is a clear favorite to win the Northwest in 2013.
The defending Western Conference champion Oklahoma City Thunder will be returning all their key players and will have another invaluable year of experience under their collective belt. Anyone who has watched a minute of Thunder basketball knows full well the great potential for excitement that lies within every Thunder contest.
But the Thunder coming out on top in the Northwest is far from a foregone conclusion.
The Denver Nuggets have their eye fixed on the top spot in the division after acquiring defensive savant Andre Iguodala from Philadelphia in the blockbuster trade that also sent Dwight Howard to Los Angeles.
While the exodus of Al Harrington and Arron Afflalo from Denver will leave the Nuggets looking to make up significant offensive production, the addition of Iggy will give the Nuggets a premier perimeter defender that will bring some much needed consistency to Denver's defensive efforts.
Minnesota has also made several bold moves in an effort to vault to the top of the division.
Apparently, Timberwolves GM David Kahn took these comments from TWolves forward/center Kevin Love seriously.
Minnesota traded for Chase Budinger and signed free agents Andrei Kirilenko, Alexey Shved and Brandon Roy. Considering Kirilenko was given $10 million a year and has been out of the league a year, considering Shved has never logged a single minute in the NBA and considering Brandon Roy came out of retirement to join Minnesota and has a litany of knee problems, to say the moves were risky is a massive understatement.
If Kahn's gambles pay off, Minnesota could be the most improved team in the NBA next season.
The Utah Jazz didn't make any splashy roster shifts in the offseason, but Utah has quietly made targeted acquisitions that precisely address their biggest weaknesses in 2011-12.
The additions of Mo Williams, Marvin Williams and Randy Foye will vault Utah's roster from having no three-point shooters in the top 75 to three in the top 40.
Utah also added by subtracting Raja Bell, C.J. Miles and Josh Howard; three wing players who didn't fit in well with Utah and/or performed very poorly. (Bell is still technically on the roster, but is as good as gone, and should be bought out or waived soon.)
Portland may be the longest shot to make the playoffs, but a talented roster centered around All-Star big man LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum got another layer of intrigue with the addition of point guard Damian Lillard via the 2012 NBA Draft.
Portland's lack of depth is certainly a concern, but Portland isn't out of the running for the playoffs quite yet.
With the teams after the Thunder so close together, and with every team in the division being a quality opponent, this will make every division game played between Northwest rivals dramatically more important than normal. Not only will the talent level on each team ensure a thrilling contest each time Northwest foes meet, it will give each regular season game a playoff-like atmosphere.
A quick comparison of the Northwest Division to other divisions in the league shows clearly that while there are some good divisions, the Northwest is the only division that is truly without a "bad" team.
Combine the parity of the Northwest with the litany of new faces and storylines for each team, and you have a recipe for some serious excitement in the Northwest for 2012-2013.