For the final part of our massive, day-long season preview we're going to let our crack staff take a whack at predicting events and awards for the year.
This hour's question:
Who will win the Northwest Division this season?
Timmay! | @BedgeTimmay
I'd love to say, "Woo Portland Trail Blazers!", but Oklahoma City has the incumbent status for a reason. For years they had amazing luck with injuries, and that's caught up with them recently. If that continues, the Northwest Division is wide open. Let's pretend the Blazers end up around the same record this year. Last year, Oklahoma City was five games better despite injuries. Should we expect a bigger drop? Probably not yet. They know their best player is approaching the end of his contract, and there is probably a now-or-never attitude there. So, barring unexpected developments, they're still the favorite in the Northwest Division.
Sam Tongue | @SamTongue
Oklahoma City Thunder. Even without Kevin Durant for the first few weeks/months of the season, this Oklahoma City team is built for the regular season. Russell Westbrook is a terrific point guard, and without Durant he won't be "handcuffed" in having to deal the ball elsewhere. This may play into the Thunder's hands to a certain extent. And once the MVP is back, this team is a legit title contender.
Evans Clinchy | @evansclinchy
Oklahoma City. The Blazers will make it close this year, but the Thunder still have the edge. Kevin Durant won't be gone for too long, and OKC will still be strong with Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka leading the way. The Blazers will need to build an early lead if they want a chance to hold off the full-strength Thunder come spring.
Scott Horlbeck | @scott_horlbeck
The Durant injury helps, but I don't see the Blazers picking up enough games to hold off OKC. Thunder win the Northwest.
Alright, I'm doing it. I was hoping to watch the defense for 5-10 games before making this prediction but I already ripped open the Kool-Aid pack and now it's just sitting on the counter staring at me. The Blazers will win the NW Division. I've loved what I've seen from their defense so far this preseason and Dame might have another gear in him. With Kaman thriving so quickly I think 56 wins is in play. OKC won 59 games last year and with the insane Western Conference and Durant's injury, I think they lose at least four more games. It'll be close, but the division is coming back to Rip City.
The division is a two team race between Oklahoma City and Portland. Denver will be better than last year, but is not a team that can hang with the star power above them in the division. Utah is still in rebuild mode, and Minnesota has just started their rebuild project by shipping off Kevin Love (no, that haul they pulled in from Cleveland is not enough to be competitive this year). With Kevin Durant out at the start of the year, the Blazers will win the division by two games.
Chris Lucia | @ChrisLucia_BE
I'm not convinced the Thunder did enough this past offseason to really improve a whole lot -- though some might say guard Thabo Sefolosha's departure in free agency was addition by subtraction -- but when your core consists of Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka, you're in good hands. The Durant injury may slow down the Thunder early on, but I'm not convinced the Blazers will stay as healthy as they did last year and get off to as solid of a start, either. OKC gets the nod here.
Sagar Trika | @BlazersBySagar
Unless Portland can start as well as they did last season, the division is Oklahoma City's for the keeping. Durant likely won't be out a significant amount of time (time-table marks his return in early December, so he misses about a month). The month Portland gets with Durant not playing probably won't be long enough for Portland to build a significant advantage over Oklahoma City.
Register your predictions below! And stay tuned as the preview rocks on into the night!