Northwest Division: Jazz Stand Out Among Unstable Northwest

Adam MillerCorrespondent IOctober 12, 2008

Denver Nuggets

Projected Depth Chart:

PG Anthony Carter/Chucky Atkins

SG Allen Iverson/J.R. Smith

SF Carmelo Anthony/Sonny Weems/Renaldo Balkman

PF Kenyon Martin/Linas Kleiza

C Nene/Chris Andersen/Steven Hunter


The chemistry is clearly not there. Denver Nuggets coach George Karl wants Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony to pass more and their point guard Anthony Carter is no good. Iverson could fill in at point guard although historically that hasn’t worked well.


The Nuggets barely took the final spot of the playoffs before being embarrassed by the Los Angeles Lakers in a 4-0 sweep. That shouldn’t diminish a terrific 50-32 record, which they could easily pull off again, but a good regular season team simply won’t be good enough against the best teams in the Western Conference.


The most expendable player by far is Iverson, but he is aging and he’s no longer a guy you can build your team around. J.R. Smith is good enough to start and probably needs to given how productive he has been for Denver, but until Iverson is traded, it doesn’t seem practical for Smith to get the starting nod.


Minnesota Timberwolves

Projected Depth Chart:

PG Randy Foye/Sebastian Telfair

SG Rashad McCants/Corey Brewer

SF Mike Miller/Rodney Carney

PF Kevin Love/Mark Madsen/Craig Smith

C Al Jefferson/Calvin Booth/Jason Collins


Consider this year two AG (After Garnett). The Timberwolves acquired Mike Miller and Kevin Love from the Grizzlies of O.J. Mayo.


Miller will provide some sort of leadership while Love will be a great player at some point in his career. The Timberwolves have an up and coming team that will rebound after losing Garnett, although they will probably never be the team that makes the playoffs on a consistent basis.


This team will probably suffer plenty of lumps and it’s going to be a hard year, but given that they just gave up the only player that made them competitive, they are not in a bad position. Hopefully GM Kevin McHale learned something about Garnett’s tenure with Minnesota.


Once Love becomes the player he’s capable of becoming, he’s going to need a supporting cast. There’s a proven belief that two NBA stars can make a team a contender. A decent third option pretty much guarantees it.


McHale is going to need to surround Love with plenty of talent and if this young team can improve while staying together, it might be exactly what Love needs to compete. When it comes down to how long it’s going to be before the T-Wolves can grow into contention is at least five years away.


Oklahoma City Thunder

Projected Depth Chart:

PG Earl Watson/Russell Westbrook

SG Kevin Durant/Damien Wilkins

SF Desmond Mason/Jeff Green

PF Joe Smith/Chris Wilcox/D.J. White

C Nick Collison/Johan Petro/Mouhamed Sene


Oklahoma City is going to be happy enough just to have a team and while this team will likely kill some of that buzz, it’s better than having either Oklahoma college team as the best basketball available.


The Thunder will have one of the best young players under 25 in the league so there’s plenty for Oklahoma City to look forward to in the future. That future just isn’t anytime soon.


OKC is stock-piling plenty of talented young players for the near future. The only problem is going to be fusing that young talent together. One thing that the Thunder desperately needs is a solid big man.


Joe Smith and Chris Wilcox are good for the short-term, but they have this weird addiction to seven-foot projects. It looks like Nick Collison is getting the nod at starting center for now, but he belongs at power forward.


Portland Trailblazers

Projected Depth Chart:

PG Steve Blake/Jerryd Bayless/Sergio Rodriguez

SG Brandon Roy/Rudy Fernandez

SF Travis Outlaw/Martell Webster

PF LaMarcus Aldridge/Ike Diogu

C Greg Oden/Channing Frye/Joel Przybilla


Portland is quietly becoming a very good team, although there is nothing yet to show for those results besides a .500 record. It’s something the Trailblazers certainly have to be satisfied with, but their ultimate goal is making the playoffs.


Now that Greg Oden is in the mix, the Blazers should be much more competitive, especially with a deep bench. Channing Frye is good enough to start at center on almost any other team, but with Oden, he will be a serviceable backup.


It will be interesting to see how Rudy Fernandez does coming off the bench. He showed during the Olympics that he is capable of being a great offensive weapon and should do the same with the Blazers.


The only problem that might arise is that with so many great individual players, it might be hard to figure out who is supposed to get the ball most of the time. You can assume that Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Oden will be the top three options.


After that, there are plenty of players who are good enough to be a main option who won’t and as long as Nate McMillan can keep everyone together, they will be in serious consideration for a playoff run.


Utah Jazz

Projected Depth Chart:

PG Deron Williams/Brevin Knight/Ronnie Price

SG Ronnie Brewer/Kyle Korver

SF Andrei Kirilenko/Matt Harpring/C.J. Miles

PF Carlos Boozer/Paul Millsap

C Mehmet Okur/Jarron Collins


This is perhaps the only team in the Northwest that you could feel comfortable talking about as contenders for an NBA Championship. The combination of Deron Williams, Andrei Kirilenko, and Carlos Boozer is flat out deadly.


The Jazz gave LA a run for its money, which is quite a statement when you consider how competitive the Western Conference is and how far the Lakers went in the playoffs last season.


Utah can easily bump itself into the top three, especially with an aging San Antonio Spurs. Anything less should be considered a complete failure considering the talent on this team.


Ten years ago, Jazz coach Jerry Sloan had the best team he has ever coached, but Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls stood in the way of that illusive title. This year, Kobe Bryant is the only real threat to the Jazz winning the Western Conference.


New Orleans could do quite a bit of damage, but Chris Paul doesn’t have the supporting cast that Williams has. If the Jazz are going to compete for an NBA title, they will at least have to be one of the top two teams standing in order to prove that they’re ready to take a step forward.