OKC Thunder: Little resistance expected on Thunder's road to fourth straight Northwest Division crown

Two years and two division titles later, the feat has become little more than a formality. Just a nice footnote in the season's bigger picture.
by Anthony Slater Published: September 22, 2013
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photo - Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant (35) and Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook (0) celebrate in front of Denver's Ty Lawson (3) during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Denver Nuggets, Friday, April 8, 2011, at the Oklahoma City Arena. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman
Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant (35) and Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook (0) celebrate in front of Denver's Ty Lawson (3) during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Denver Nuggets, Friday, April 8, 2011, at the Oklahoma City Arena. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman

Denver Nuggets

Key additions: Nate Robinson, J.J. Hickson, Randy Foye, Brian Shaw (coach)

Key losses: Andre Iguodala, Corey Brewer, George Karl (coach)

ESPN projected record: 43-39, 7th in West

Outlook: I can see it now: Nate Robinson hoisting up off-balance 30-foot rainbows, JaVale McGee trying to dunk from the 3-point line, Wilson Chandler catching fire for 40-plus in one of those random late-night upsets in the Denver altitude. The Nuggets might not be as good this season, but they should be just as fun.

Minnesota Timberwolves

Key additions: Kevin Martin, Corey Brewer, Shabazz Muhammad

Key losses: Andrei Kirilenko, Luke Ridnour

ESPN projected record: 40-42, 8th in West

Outlook: Columnist Berry Tramel has labeled Minnesota as the West's surprise team. And the T-Wolves certainly have the talent to follow through. But can Kevin Love stay healthy? Can Ricky Rubio develop into more of a scoring threat? Can the Timberwolves finally make the playoffs for the first time since Kevin Garnett led them there a decade ago? Time will tell.

Portland Trail Blazers

Key additions: Dorell Wright, C.J. McCollum, Robin Lopez, Mo Williams, Thomas Robinson

Key losses: J.J. Hickson, Eric Maynor, Nolan Smith

ESPN projected record: 38-44, 10th in West

Outlook: The Blazers ended last season on a 13-game losing streak, by far the worst in the league. They shouldn't be nearly as bad as that mark might suggest, with a potent inside-outside duo of LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard. But their playoff hopes will likely hinge on the development of a new-look supporting cast.  

Utah Jazz

Key additions: Trey Burke, Rudy Gobert, Brandon Rush, Andris Beidrins, John Lucas, Richard Jefferson

Key losses: Al Jefferson, Mo Williams, Earl Watson, Paul Millsap, Randy Foye, Mo Williams

ESPN projected record: 32-50, 13th in West

Outlook: Utah's front office pushed the franchise into full-throttle rebuild mode, gutting the roster and stacking financial chips for the future. This season, presumably, will be about developing young talent, like first-rounder Trey Burke, and gathering the best lottery odds, with the 2014 Draft expected to be the best in a decade.

by Anthony Slater
Thunder Beat Writer
Anthony Slater started on the Thunder beat in the summer of 2013, joining after two years as NewsOK.com's lead sports blogger and web editor. A native Californian, Slater attended Sonoma State for two years before transferring to Oklahoma State in...
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