A look at the Northwest Division teams as they head into the 2013-14 season, in predicted order of finish:
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
LAST SEASON: 60-22, lost to Memphis 4-1 in the second round.
STARTING FIVE: G Russell Westbrook (23.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 7.4 apg), G Thabo Sefolosha (7.6 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 1.3 spg), F Kevin Durant (28.1 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 4.6 apg), F Serge Ibaka (13.2 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 3.0 bpg), C Kendrick Perkins (4.2 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 1.1 bpg).
KEY ADDITIONS: C Steven Adams (draft, Pittsburgh), F Andre Roberson (draft, Colorado), F Ryan Gomes (free agent, Artland Dragons, Germany).
KEY LOSSES: G Kevin Martin (free agent, Timberwolves).
COACH: Scott Brooks, sixth season with Thunder; 234-147.
EYES ON: Westbrook. The talented point guard is expected to miss the first few weeks of the season while recovering from his second surgery on his right knee since originally suffering the injury in a first-round playoff win over Houston. When healthy, the dynamic Westbrook is among the elite point guards in the NBA. His health and progress of backup Reggie Jackson are likely the best signs of whether the Thunder will return to championship contender.
OUTLOOK: Oklahoma City believes last season's early playoff exit was an aberration because of its inability to adjust without Westbrook on the court. The Thunder have had plenty of time to practice without the point guard since, and — with Durant once again leading the way — Oklahoma City expects nothing short of a return to the NBA Finals this season.
LAST SEASON: 57-25, lost to Golden State Warriors 4-2 in first round.
STARTING FIVE: G Ty Lawson (16.7 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 6.9 apg), G Randy Foye (10.8 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 2.0 apg), F Wilson Chandler (13.0 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 1.3 apg), F Kenneth Faried (11.5 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 1.0 bpg), C JaVale McGee (9.1 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 2.0 bpg).
KEY ADDITIONS: G Foye (sign-and-trade, Jazz). F Darrell Arthur (trade, Grizzlies), F J.J. Hickson (free agent, Trail Blazers), G Nate Robinson (free agent, Bulls).
KEY LOSSES: G/F Andre Iguodala (sign and trade, Warriors), F Corey Brewer (free agent, Timberwolves), C Kosta Koufos (trade, Grizzlies).
COACH: Brian Shaw, first season with Nuggets, first season overall.
EYES ON: Lawson. Shaw is counting on Lawson to make a big leap this season in leadership. He's also hoping his speedy point guard gets off to a fast start. Usually, Lawson begins a season solidly enough, only to find an extra gear later in the year. "We're trying to figure out how to jump-start that and get him to take off where he ended up at the end of last season," Shaw explained.
OUTLOOK: Shaw is stepping in for George Karl, who led the Nuggets to a franchise-record 57 wins last season and was named the NBA Coach of the Year, only to be fired. Karl's squad was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs for a fourth straight season. It might take some time for the team to transition from Karl's fast-paced approach to Shaw's more traditional half-court style. The Nuggets may also get a boost sometime in December when Danilo Gallinari returns from a knee injury.
PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS
LAST SEASON: 33-49, missed playoffs.
STARTING FIVE: G Damian Lillard (19 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 6.5 apg) G Wesley Matthews (14.8 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 2.5 apg), F Nicolas Batum (14.3 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 4.9 apg), F LaMarcus Aldridge (21.1 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 2.6 apg), C Robin Lopez (11.3 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 0.8 apg).
KEY ADDITIONS: C Robin Lopez (trade, Pelicans), G C.J. McCollum (draft, No. 10), F Thomas Robinson (trade, Rockets), G Earl Watson (free agent, Jazz), G Mo Williams (free agent, Jazz), F Dorell Wright (free agent, 76ers).
KEY LOSSES: F J.J. Hickson (free agent, Nuggets).
COACH: Terry Stotts second season with Blazers, fifth as a head coach; 148-217.
EYES ON: Lopez. The Blazers have been searching for that elusive big man ever since former top draft pick Greg Oden was hit with injuries that defined his career in Portland. Last season the Blazers had forward J.J. Hickson playing often at center. But the addition of the 7-foot Lopez, coming off the best season of his career, give the Blazers a legitimate center while the team also continues to develop second-year center Meyers Leonard.
OUTLOOK: With the addition on Lopez at center, Robinson, Watson, Williams and Wright to boost the bench, and McCollum to back up Lillard, the Blazers believe they have built a solid team around two-time All-Star Aldridge that can contend in the talent-loaded West.
LAST SEASON: 31-51, missed playoffs.
STARTING FIVE: G Ricky Rubio (10.3 ppg, 7.3 apg, 2.4 spg), G Kevin Martin (14.0 ppg, 42.6 percent 3s, 27.7 mpg for Oklahoma City), F Corey Brewer (12.1 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 1.4 spg for Denver), F Kevin Love (18.3 ppg, 14.0 rpg, 35.2 percent FG in 18 games), C Nikola Pekovic (16.3 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 52 percent FG).
KEY ADDITIONS: G/F Brewer (free agent, Nuggets), G Martin (trade, Thunder), G/F Shabazz Muhammad (draft, No. 14), C Gorgui Dieng (draft, No. 21), C Ronny Turiaf (free agent, Clippers).
KEY LOSSES: G Luke Ridnour (trade, Bucks), C Greg Stiemsma (free agent, Pelicans).
COACH: Rick Adelman, third season with Timberwolves, 23rd season overall; 1,002-707.
EYES ON: Love. Entered last season largely viewed as the best power forward in the game after playing a pivotal role with the U.S. Olympic team in London. But he broke his hand in the preseason, then broke it again in January and was limited to 18 games in the first year of his four-year, max contract. His field goal percentage was a career low and he shot just 21.7 percent from 3-point range. Love also tangled with former boss David Kahn and drew the ire of some fans with his criticism of the organization. He comes into this season healthy, ornery and looking to redeem himself.
OUTLOOK: With a promising young core of Love, Rubio and Pekovic, and improved 3-point shooting with the addition of Martin, hopes are high for a franchise that hasn't made the playoffs since 2004, the longest active drought in the league. If the Wolves can somehow avoid the bad luck with injuries that always seems to find them, they have the talent, the energy and, maybe most importantly, the coaching to end that dubious streak.
LAST SEASON: 43-39, missed playoffs.
STARTING FIVE: G Trey Burke (rookie), G Alec Burks (7.0 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 1.4 apg), F Gordon Hayward (14.1 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 3.0 apg), F Derrick Favors (9.4 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 1.0 apg), C Enes Kanter (7.2 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 0.5 bpg).
KEY ADDITIONS: G Burke (draft, No. 9), F Richard Jefferson (trade, Warriors), C Andris Biedrins (trade, Warriors), G Brandon Rush (trade, Warriors).
KEY LOSSES: C Al Jefferson (free agent, Bobcats), F Paul Millsap (free agent, Hawks), G Randy Foye (trade, Nuggets), G Mo Williams (free agent, Trail Blazers), F DeMarre Carroll (free agent, Hawks).
COACH: Tyrone Corbin, fourth season, 87-89.
EYES ON: Favors and Kanter. Jefferson and Millsap are two solid frontcourt players, but the Jazz let both leave so they could give more playing time to their two youngsters at their positions. Now Favors and Kanter have to show they deserve it.
OUTLOOK: Usually a playoff contender, that's no longer the case this season for the Jazz. They are young and already dealing with Burke's finger injury that will sideline college basketball's player of the year, making what's expected to be a tough season already tougher.