2011-2012 NBA Northwest Division Odds and Predictions – Favorites, Contenders and Sleepers to Win the NBA Northwest Division: The Northwest Division surprised last season, placing three teams in the playoffs. Not to mention that all three teams were among the top six seeds. Oklahoma City and Denver both won 50 games, and Portland nearly defeated the eventual champion Mavericks in the opening round. With plenty of young talent from top to bottom, the Northwest is an up and coming division in the conference and the league.

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2011-2012 NBA Northwest Division Odds and Preview

  1. Oklahoma City Thunder (55-27 last season)

It is hard to find a team with a better collection of young talent than the Thunder. Forward Kevin Durant has won back-to-back scoring titles, point guard Russell Westbrook is one of the best at the position, and Serge Ibaka led the NBA in blocks last season and is just beginning to scratch the surface of his potential. Oklahoma City made it all the way to the Western Conference finals last year, and the Thunder could easily make a return trip this season. Durant and company are the clear frontrunners in the Northwest Division.

  1. Portland Trailblazers (48-34 last season)

Despite Brandon Roy being forced into early retirement by a pair of bad knees, the Trailblazers still have a chance to make some noise in their division. LeMarcus Aldridge is legitimate franchise player, and Gerald Wallace is a difference maker on both ends of the court and provides plenty of toughness. The addition of point guard Raymond Felton upgrades Portland’s speed, and if Wesley Matthews can follow up last year’s breakout campaign, the Trailblazers will have more than enough pieces to have solid season. If Greg Oden and Marcus Camby can stay healthy, Portland could challenge the Thunder for the division. Either way, the Trailblazers should make the playoffs.

  1. Denver Nuggets (50-32 last season)

Losing Carmelo Anthony was supposed to send Denver into rebuilding mode, but the Nuggets kept winning even without their former star. Ty Lawson and Andre Miller give Denver an excellent dup at point guard, and the Nuggets have a ton of firepower from the perimeter with Aaron Afflalo, Danilo Gallinari and Al Harrington. Although losing Nene and Kenyon Martin will leave a void in the frontcourt, rookie Kenneth Faried should contribute immediately on the boards and on defense. Making the playoffs won’t be a guarantee in the always competitive Western Conference, but Denver should be right in the mix.

  1. Utah Jazz (39-43 last season)

It was an end to an era in Utah last season as long-time coach Jerry Sloan resigned after repeated conflicts with star point guard Deron Williams. Ironically, Williams was traded anyway, leaving the Jazz in a rebuilding mode this season. Big man Al Jefferson figures to be at the center of the new-look Jazz, along with fellow forward Paul Millsap. Both players are capable of double-doubles on a nightly basis, but the play of the Utah backcourt will ultimately determine the team’s success. Devin Harris will be leaned on at the point guard spot, and rookie Alec Burks and second-year player Gordon Hayward will have to contribute from the perimeter. The Jazz have enough talent to surprise, but the postseason is likely a year or two away.

  1. Minnesota Timberwolves (17-65 last season)

It was a long season for the Timberwolves, and aside from Kevin Love’s pursuit of a double-double record, Minnesota was irrelevant. This year, the team is hoping that a couple of newcomers can lead the franchise to a bounce back campaign. Point guard Ricky Rubio will finally make his NBA debut, and No. 2 overall pick Derrick Williams should add a versatile scoring option. Meanwhile, second-year player Wes Johnson and Michael Beasley bring some firepower as well. The key for the Timberwolves will be getting their young players to gel quickly as well find a true center to help the team’s atrocious defense. Minnesota was the friendliest defense to opposing offenses last season, and it will likely be a problem again. The Timberwolves probably aren’t making a return to the postseason any time soon.

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