Like the girlfriends of my past, each Northwest division team has some good, some bad, and some ugly. I’ll leave the opening paragraph at that and get onto the NBA.
Good: Andre Iguodala. Iguodala brings a little of everything. In a playoff win over the Bulls last year, he had 10 boards, 10 points and dropped ten dimes. Over the summer, he chipped in for the gold-winning Olympic team. The Nuggets will appreciate the defense he brings on the wing.
Bad: Star Power. The Nuggets lack it. The aforementioned Iguodala is not a pure scorer. Ty Lawson has potential but is young. Danillo Galinari and Javale McGee are nice sidekicks but won’t overwhelm anyone. Who is Denver going to count on in the 4th quarter?
Ugly: Denver’s defense. As they say defense wins championships and Denver doesn’t play much of it. They ranked in the bottom in the league last year for points allowed. The Nuggets did score the most in the league but you can’t count on the shots to fall every night.
Portland Trail Blazers
Good: Rookies. Damian Lillard has gained a lot of attention since the draft. He is quick, smart with the ball and has lethal range. Fellow rookie Meyers Leonard is a project at the 5 but could fill a void left by the Greg Oden debacle.
Bad: Experience. 4 players in the Blazers rotation (Damian Lillard, Meyers Leonard, Victor Claver and Joel Freeland) have yet to play a minute in the NBA. Most teams hope rookies can create depth. The Blazers are asking them to carry the load.
Ugly: Playoff Success. The Trail Blazers have gone 12 years since their last playoff series win—the longest in the NBA. Even if they do qualify this year, the streak will likely continue another year.
Oklahoma City Thunder:
Bad: James Harden being dealt to the Rockets is the biggest news of the season so far, so the bad comes first for Oklahoma City. The trio of Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Russell Westbrook could have gone down in the record books. Now, Harden will square off against the remaining duo several times a year.
Good: Kevin Durant. He’s good. Durant will become the kryptonite to LeBron’s Superman. He’s a pure scorer. He makes the game exciting and puts up points faster than a fat kid eats cake.
Ugly: the end of the trio. Seriously, it was so much fun to watch the three kids grow and develop together. We were robbed of this because of financial reasons. Of course, it is a business but now we can only dream of what they would have accomplished together.
Good: the Front-Court. Many teams are switching to smaller faster line-ups but not the Jazz. Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors are beasts inside. Paul Millsap, who comes off the bench, would start on most teams. These men are a throw-back to the time before the 3 point line was established.
Bad: Ball handlers. Who is going to get the big men the ball? Gordon Hayward is developing into a scorer but you can’t count on him to perform night in and night out. Mo Williams, who instills fear in no one, will be counted to distribute the ball. For the Jazz sake, they better hope he can.
Ugly: the Unterkanter. The 6’11 behemoth has been bequeathed with the nickname the Unterkanter. I don’t think I need to say much more.
Good: Wing players, as in the Timberwolves have them (provided grandpa Roy’s knee’s keep up and Andrei Kirilenko doesn’t turn to dust) Wesley Johnson and Michael Beasley may have combined to be the worst perimeter players in the NBA last year. Almost anything is an upgrade.
Bad: Injuries. Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio will sit out a large chunk of the early season. Minnesota’s playoff hopes depend on what the team can do in the crucial chunk of the season without them.
Ugly: Several of Minnesota’s black leaders have made headlines for criticizing the Timberwolves for their roster moves; alleging they are signing more white players to increase fan support. The leaders clearly weren’t following the offseason: Minnesota chased Nicolas Batum and Jordan Hill in free agency but both offers were matched.