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Monday, October 22, 2012

NBA Preview Northwest Divison Part 1

1. Oklahoma City Thunder-
Last season the Thunder dominated the Northwest Division. Finishing, nine games  ahead of their closest competitor, the Denver Nuggets.  Eventually, Oklahoma City won the NBA's Western Conference and advanced all the way to the NBA Finals last season. Where, they eventually fell to the Miami Heat in five games. 

Once again, the Thunder enter this season as the decided favorite in the Northwest Division.  Led by young superstars Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden along with a solid supporting cast
Oklahoma City is one of the favorites to win the NBA Title this year.

The Thunder return all of their starters and most of their bench from last season's NBA Finals team. A washed-up Derek Fisher is the lone exception. As he was not brought back for this season. Which will only make the Thunder better. They will replace Fisher and his unproductive, plodding minutes with returning PG Eric Maynor.  Maynor,  who will be working his way back from a torn ACL he suffered last season, is a huge upgrade over Fisher at the backup PG position. And is one of the best backup PGs in the NBA.

Best Player: Kevin Durant. Durant, who is the second-best player in the NBA, can do it all on offense. He has led the league in scoring for three consecutive seasons. Which makes him the first person since Michael Jordan(1996,97,98) to accomplish that feat. Durant has improved his game every year that he has been in the league. So look for him to improve his defense and low-post game this season, after both where exposed in the Finals.

X-factor: Russell Westbrook. Westbrook is an elite PG in the NBA. He can get his own shot whenever he wants. Which has made him a great player. But it has also led to him forcing things too much at time. He needs to improve upon his decision making this year. And make sure that Durant touches the ball on offense as much as possible. Westbrook will never be a true pass-first PG, but he can still be great and lead his team to a title, if tweaks his game just a bit.

With the experience gained from an NBA Finals trip and the motivation from losing the Finals to the Heat, The Thunder should be the Western Conference's Finals representative this season. They have gotten better as team, in each, of the previous 3 seasons. And that should continue this season. They have the pieces and the foundation in place for an NBA title this season. And anything less would be a disappointment for them, I believe.

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