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News » Northwest preview: Blazers, Nuggets to battle again

Northwest preview: Blazers, Nuggets to battle again

Northwest preview: Blazers, Nuggets to battle again

The sky-high potential of rookie Jonny Flynn.

Ryan Gomes is a much under-appreciated presence at both ends of the court.

The combination of a new coach and a new season will provide a substantial, if temporary, energy boost.

Weaknesses: Poor overall defense, especially among the bigs.

The only bench player who possesses the ability to create his owns shots is Damien Wilkins.

Jefferson won't/can't pass.

On a purely athletic basis, Love can't match up with the vast majority of his opponents.

There's too much pressure on Jefferson and Sessions to score, which means they'll have to take too many shots.

The no-win-is-OK attitude already promulgated by team officials.

Prognosis: Perhaps a few more wins but still lottery-bound.

Oklahoma City Thunder

Strengths: Kevin Durant is a go-to scorer, and Jeff Green is a terrific second option. Both of these youngsters can only get better the more they play.

Nick Collison has limited skills but sets a good example with his endless hustle.

Russell Westbrook's still-developing point-guard skills have undoubtedly been enhanced by his being able to ponder his rookie year during the offseason.

Etan Thomas provides muscle-hustle behind Nenad Krstic's finesse game.

Youthful enthusiasm is priceless, which makes young Scott Brooks the perfect coach for these guys. They're sure to learn the ropes together and form a beneficial bond in so doing.

Weaknesses: The downside of youthful enthusiasm is a penchant for making mistakes.

Too many defensive liabilities.

A lack of veteran leadership, which is precisely why Malik Rose should make the squad even if he never plays.

Prognosis: Thirty or so wins will make for measurable progress, but the team is still a long way from playing meaningful ball games in April.

Portland Trail Blazers

Strengths: Brandon Roy is Mister Wonderful.

Both LaMarcus Aldridge and Travis Outlaw are quick-stepping point machines.

Carlos Boozer remains an outstanding post-up scorer and rebounder.

Kyle Korver's long-distance dialing.

The athleticism and intensity of both Ronnie Price and Ronnie Brewer.

Mehmet Okur's ability to stretch defenses.

The long-limbed, gangling defense of Andrei Kirilenko.

The high standards insisted upon by Jerry Sloan.

Weaknesses: Despite AK and the Ronnies, the team defense is inferior.

In addition to his poor defense, Boozer's very presence creates a damaging distraction.

Williams is the only creator.

The Jazz will miss Matt Harpring's fullback plunges to the hoop.

Sloan is a great coach, but he never has trusted rookies — so Utah will get minimal benefit from its first-year players.

Prognosis: There's enough discipline to make the playoffs, but Utah is unlikely to survive into the second round.

Next on tap: Atlantic Division

Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: October 1, 2009


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