The Northwest Division is filled with up and coming teams that have the potential to compete with the NBA’s elite. Just two seasons ago, four of the five teams finished with 50 or more wins in the regular season and went on to make the playoffs. While only three teams made the playoffs last year, the Northwest Division suffered the losses of three of its brightest stars to trade and free agency. The Utah Jazz lost Carlos Boozer to Chicago during the off-season and then traded All-star point guard Deron Williams to New Jersey, and Denver dealt superstar Carmelo Anthony to New York.
This season seems promising for Kevin Durant and the young athletic Oklahoma City Thunder to top the division for the second straight year. As the Jazz look to rebuild after loosing their two star players, the Denver Nuggets are searching to find players to replace the ones they lost to China. The Minnesota Timberwolves, in the midst of all the hoopla of the lockout and hiring a new coach, hope that their nucleus of young talented players is finally ready to make the jump into a strong playoff run.
5. Utah Jazz
Last Season: 39-43, 4th Northwest
The Utah Jazz are a team in shambles at the moment. They failed to re-sign power forward Carlos Boozer during last year’s off-season, traded away their franchise point guard Deron Williams and lost their long time head coach Jerry Sloan. Now the Jazz have to find a new identity behind head coach and new leader Tyrone Corbin.
The Utah Jazz do have talent on this team, but it is up to them to figure out how to use it. Power forward Paul Millsap and center Al Jefferson picked up the scoring slack after the departure of Williams, but they will need to rely on point guard Devin Harris to run the team. Harris has the ability to take over games with his shooting skills. When he gets hot, he becomes a defense’s nightmare. He knows how to use his shot to his advantage. If the defender continues to back off, Harris will use the space to get his shot up, and if the defender plays tight, he uses his quickness to drive to the basket. Devin Harris becomes a triple threat when he is shooting exceptionally well-shooting, driving, and passing. It is his play that will propel this team to victory.
After flying to North Carolina to watch former Dallas Maverick forward Josh Howard, Jazz general manager Kevin O’Connor was convinced that Howard would help the Jazz. After Howard passed his physical with team doctors, the Jazz took a gamble and signed Josh Howard.
The key to Jazz victory is to continue to play with the physicality that Jerry Sloan demanded and to find a true leader on the floor. The playoffs seem like a far stretch for this team, especially with a shortened season, but as one of the best home teams in the NBA, anything is possible.
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