The Northwest division boast some of the NBA’s top-tier talent. Kevin Durant is a perennial MVP contender, and his teammate Russell Westbrook is arguably the most athletic guard in the league.
And that’s only in Oklahoma City.
Throughout the conference, there is talent everywhere, making this divisional All-Star team a tough one to pick, but I’ve done my best to establish a squad of the Northwest’s top talent.
Point Guard: Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
The Northwest division is stacked with talented point guards. If I were to pick the best pure point guard in the division, I would take Ricky Rubio or Ty Lawson over Westbrook, but I had to put Westbrook as the PG here.
The OKC PG is a walking explosion. He’s fast, he’s strong and he’s forceful. His stats are impressive at 23.4 points, 7.4 assists and 5.3 rebounds per game. He can get to the rim with ease and he’s somewhat mastered his midrange pull up shot, (despite being painfully predictable in my opinion).
Truth be told, I’m not the biggest Westbrook fan. I think he takes dumb shots, makes bad plays and just lacks an intellectual part of the game. I also hate how he dresses, but he’s just too good sometimes. Despite his weaknesses, teams can’t find a way to stop or defend Westbrook when his whole game is clicking.
The former UCLA Bruin is coming off his significant injury in the NBA this season. Hopefully it hasn’t limited his athletic prowess, the driving force behind his game.
Shooting Guard: Gordon Hayward, Utah Jazz
Gordon Hayward is not a pure shooting guard but pride would not let me boast about who I concluded is the best shooting guard of this division, Kevin Martin.
Hayward is basically a combo wing player who is always playing alongside someone his same size. Hayward can uniquely handle the ball very well which makes him good at the two. His size and strength allow him to shut down smaller guards defensively on top of it.
One thing I’ll always remember Hayward for was his rookie year when he scored 22 points, outplaying Kobe Bryant in the win. Some say this was Hayward’s big step to the next level.
Hayward is very well rounded as a great passer, a surprisingly physical player when he gets to the rim, he can hit a three and he can be a defensive beast. Hayward’s weakness, if anything, is his the modest attitude he plays with. The Butler product is so easygoing I sometimes wish someone would start something with him so we can see a little fire. This season the Jazz took a big dip in the fountain of youth, so look for Hayward to prove himself even more this year.
KD is a bad dude. Pick a spot on the floor and he’ll drain it from there. Pick a spot in the paint and he’ll dunk from there: Durant is a point machine.
His ridiculous wingspan gives him flashy dunking ability. Plain and simple he’s a super star who has super star qualities. There aren’t many players better than Durant at hitting an open shot, or contested one either.
KD is also clutch. His buzzer beater against the Mavs in the 2012 playoffs may have put the nail in Dirk Nowitzki’s coffin. Durant is anything from perfect though. He’s an average defender and his ability to free himself is often questioned. Nonetheless, it’s minimal baggage to take on to have arguably the league’s best overall scorer on your team.
Durant entered the league as one of the most positive players, but lately frustrations the emergence of the Heat and distractions have somewhat lessened and undervalued Durant. He may not be the King, but a crown is to be his one day in this league.
Power Forward: Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves
Kevin Love is phenomenal. He’s the best rebounding power forward in the NBA, his post game is well defined and oh, he won the 3 point contest 2 seasons ago.
In that 2011-2012 season, Love averaged 26 ppg and 13 rpg. To put that in perspective Hakeem Olajuwon’s best season was 24 and 14, Charles Barkley’s was (arguably) his 28 and 12 season, Tim Duncan’s was 25 and 13. That puts Love in company with the best power forwards to ever play the game, and he’s yet to reach his best basketball in the NBA.
Love had an unfortunate, injury riddled season last year, but his ailments (thumb injury) shouldn’t carry over into this year. With an older and further developed Rubio to P&R with, and Nikola Pekovic to bang with, Love has the chance to repeat his 2012 season this year.
Center: Nikola Pekovic, Minnesota Timberwolves
Big Pek has risen to become a much respected center in the NBA, and in my opinion the best in the Northwest division.
Last season Pekovic averaged 16 and 9 for the Timberwolves. The Montenegrin monster’s most impressive attribute is his positioning offensively in the paint. Pekovic is great at establishing low on the block to where he can score off an easy hook or lay in.
Pek is thick, to the point where he can also hold his ground well defensively in the post, making him a good overall center. He meshes well with Love’s game because Love can stretch the floor while Pek manages the entire key. To put icing on the cake his 52% field goal percentage is testament to his efficiency. He had a stretch in April where he scored 29, 27, 24 and 20 points on consecutive nights last season. Pekovic is unique in that he has a great post game in this league, which is a lost art among big men. His ability to bang makes him one of the best in the west in my opinion.
Sixth Man: LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers
Despite rounding out this list as the 6th man, Aldridge is not only one of the best in this division but in the entire league.
At 21 ppg he’s one of the best scoring big men in the NBA, as he can shoot from outside and also work well around the rim. Aldridge has been through odd stretches in Portland between coaches and multitude of players, but he’s always kept them at a competitive level. Now with Damian Lillard on the team, the two could make a nasty pairing together. Rumors of Aldridge leaving Portland in free agency have surfaced for a while now, but regardless of the team, Aldridge is bound to be a critical piece to that team’s success.
Head Coach: Rick Adelman, Minnesota Timberwolves
Adelman enters his 30th year as an NBA coach this season, his third season as the Timberwolves coach.
He first took the Blazers to two NBA finals and one western conference championship between 1990 and 1992. A decade later he led the Kings during their most successful days as a franchise with players like Mike Bibby and Chris Webber in their primes. Now, he has the privilege of leading a team headlined by the likes of Love, Pekovic and Rubio.
Adelman is a great manager of players and very loyal to systems. Despite having the reputation as a bad coach of young players from his struggles as the coach of the Warriors, Adelman has done well with a young Timberwolves team that has veteran-like savvy.
The coaches of the Northwest division are for the most part young and unproven: Ty Corbin, Brian Shaw, Terry Stotts. Scott Brooks was handed one of the most talented teams in recent league memory, all in all I think Adelman is best and most experienced Northwest division coach.