A look at the Northwest Division and potential New Year's resolutions for each team
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Photo Credit: Matthew Emmons, US PRESSWIRE[/caption]
They want a home stand.
Seriously has any other team been so shafted by the league office?
Through the first two months of the season up to and including 29 December at Memphis, the Nuggets will have played 10 games at home and 22 on the road.
The only other team that can come within cooee of that is the Jazz, who will be at 13 at home and 19 away, while the Thunder by comparison will have played 18 at home, and 12 away in the same stretch.
This team had massive expectations going into the season, and while many will label them underachievers at barely above .500, look at the home and away splits and see there’s room for a nice rise in the standings.
Ty Lawson, Andre Iguodala and Danilo Gallinari have all had slow starts, but the team keeps trucking along and getting victories.
This team is in dire need of health and a second half resurgence.
Ricky Rubio is on a minutes limit that has seen him do very little apart from a solid first game.
Kevin Love’s knuckle pushup routine has derailed his march towards the ‘Best Power Forward’ mantle, as his percentages have dropped to Antoine Walker levels, and we all know about Brandon Roy and his "knees made out of rice crackers" misfortune.
The team has stayed afloat and within the playoff discussion because of strong coaching, and the play of Andrei Kirilenko, Nikola Pekovic, and Alexey Shved.
All three have shown a team first attitude, although Kirilenko seems to have slowed down as both Love and Pekovic have taken on larger roles for the team.
Pekovic has taken on the role as the go to scorer in December, averaging around 20 points and 10 rebounds over his last eight games.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Their resolution should be to get Russell Westbrook on the same page as Kevin Durant.
As insanely talented as Westbrook is, he still reverts back to the Iverson-like ‘I haven’t shot in 40 seconds so must hoist a bad shot up’ mode.
The guy is supremely talented, and with James Harden moving on, Westbrook’s playmaking is needed even more, but if anything it’s Durant who is creating more for his teammates.
Thabo, Ibaka and Perkins are nice defensively, but only Ibaka can consistently score 15 points a night, which means if their two stars get in foul trouble, there’s only K-Mart off the bench to put points on the board.
This team needs another veteran play-maker, someone who can create their own shot and be utilised like JR Smith is in New York, or Lou Williams in Atlanta.
Portland Trail Blazers
They want to get to the playoffs, and in the wild west there is definitely an opening to get it done.
The maturation of Damian Lillard is in full bloom, as he routinely takes over the fourth quarter and is running the team and barking orders like a grizzled vet.
LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum and a resurgent JJ Hickson form a strong, balanced front-line, but all have their ups and downs and they lack any significant shot-blocking inside.
Batum in particular is enjoying a breakout season, defending four positions at times, and putting up numbers that no other player in history has ever done in the same season (16 points, 5.7 rebounds, 4 assists, 2.5x threes per, 1.7steals, 1.2blks).
The team relies a lot on Wes Matthews and his toughness and shooting from outside, to get to the playoffs they will need more depth in the back-court, and a healthy Matthews.
Like many other teams, the Jazz’s resolution should be to trade an asset or two.
The most logical option here is shifting Al Jefferson for a legit small forward or shooting guard, because Paul Millsap will cost them less and he fits better than big Al does next to ready-to-explode young pivot Derrick Favors.
Enes Kanter can’t be overlooked here either, and the Jazz would be wise to make a move rather than potentially see Millsap walk for nothing when he hits free agency.
Mo Williams has been a solid stopgap at point guard, showing that nothing motivates an NBA player more than the mighty dollar, as he too looks to cash in this off-season with free agency also.
Gordon Hayward has regressed this season, to the point where he is longer even talked about as a talented up and comer, which is a shame because he has some real talent.
Ty Corbin gets these guys playing hard, but they are very inconsistent from game to game, but the building blocks and assets are there to make a very strong squad over the next couple of seasons.
Up next is the New Year's Resolutions for the Pacific Division.