OKC Thunder: Looking beyond the Lakers to the Northwest Division competion

NORTHWEST CONFERENCE -- Much of the talk has been about the new-look Lakers, but all the teams in the Thunder's division are looking stout this year.
by Darnell Mayberry Modified: September 24, 2012 at 9:46 am •  Published: September 23, 2012
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photo - Philadelphia 76ers forward Andre Iguodala (9) smiles as he celebrates with guard Louis Williams (23) after his dunk against the Chicago Bulls during the third quarter of Game 2 in an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, in Chicago on Tuesday, May 1, 2012. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh) ORG XMIT: CXA117
Philadelphia 76ers forward Andre Iguodala (9) smiles as he celebrates with guard Louis Williams (23) after his dunk against the Chicago Bulls during the third quarter of Game 2 in an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, in Chicago on Tuesday, May 1, 2012. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh) ORG XMIT: CXA117

Now consider that nearly every Northwest Division team improved this summer.

The Wolves will get Ricky Rubio back from injury in addition to welcoming Brandon Roy, Andrei Kirilenko and Chase Budinger.

The Nuggets essentially got a better version of Arron Afflalo by adding Andre Iguodala.

The Jazz brought back Mo Williams, as well as Marvin Williams and Randy Foye.

The Blazers are perhaps the only team that saw a drop off in talent. But what they lost in ability and experience they could make up for with youthful exuberance, which has proved to be enough to steal some regular season wins. Add to that the Blazers have a Rookie of the Year candidate in Damian Lillard, who is expected to finally settle Portland's point guard problem.

None of it should prevent the Thunder from capturing its third consecutive division title and securing a top four seed.

But those 16 divisional games loom as a challenge that warrants the Thunder's undivided attention.

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by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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