A quickie preview of the NBA's Northwest Division

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Oct. 25 2012 1:34 p.m. MDT

OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER

LAST SEASON: 47-19, lost to Miami Heat 4-1 in NBA Finals.

STARTING FIVE: G Russell Westbrook (23.6 ppg, 5.5 apg, 4.6 rpg, 1.7 spg), G Thabo Sefolosha (4.8 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 1.1 apg), F Kevin Durant (28.0 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 3.5 apg), F Serge Ibaka (9.1 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 3.7 bpg), C Kendrick Perkins (5.1 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 1.1 bpg).

KEY ADDITIONS: F Perry Jones III (draft, No. 28), C Hasheem Thabeet (free agent, Grizzlies).

KEY LOSSES: G Derek Fisher (unsigned free agent), C Nazr Mohammed (free agent, Bulls), G Royal Ivey (free agent, 76ers).

COACH: Scott Brooks, fourth season with Thunder, fourth overall; 174-125

EYES ON: G James Harden. The NBA's reigning Sixth Man of the Year is entering the final year of his contract and will remain in the spotlight unless he signs an extension. Oklahoma City signed Ibaka to a new deal this summer, likely meaning the small-market franchise would have to go over the salary cap to re-sign Harden.

OUTLOOK: The Thunder return the core of their team that made it all the way to the finals last season, and there's no reason they can't get back again. All that's missing from last season is the veteran leadership of bench players Fisher, Mohammed and Ivey. They were replaced by less experienced, less expensive players.

DENVER NUGGETS

LAST SEASON: 38-28, lost to Los Angeles Lakers 4-3 in first round.

STARTING FIVE: G Ty Lawson (16.4 ppg, 6.5 apg, 1.3 spg), G/F Andre Iguodala (12.4 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 5.5 apg), F Danilo Gallinari (14.6 ppg, 4.7 rpg), F Kenneth Faried (10.2 ppg, 7.7 rpg), C Kosta Koufos (5.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg).

KEY ADDITIONS: G/F Iguodala (trade, 76ers), G Evan Fournier (draft, No. 20).

KEY LOSSES: G/F Arron Afflalo (trade, Magic), F Al Harrington (trade, Magic).

COACH: George Karl, ninth season with Nuggets, 25th season overall; 1,074-731.

EYES ON: C JaVale McGee. The Nuggets re-signed the athletic big man to a four-year, $44 million deal in the offseason. McGee went down to Houston to work with Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon on some low-post moves. Known for his ability to block shots, McGee could be a scoring presence in the paint this season.

OUTLOOK: For reasons Karl is still trying to figure out, the Nuggets are a trendy pick to win the Western Conference. Maybe it's the addition of Iguodala or perhaps it's because of their depth — the Nuggets go at least 10 deep — but many are jumping on the Nuggets' bandwagon. Denver's biggest flaw may be its long-range shooting, especially with Harrington now in Orlando. The Nuggets are counting on Gallinari to pick up some of the 3-point shooting slack and help the team not only make it back to the playoffs but maybe even make a deep run.

UTAH JAZZ

LAST SEASON: 36-30, lost to San Antonio Spurs 4-0 in first round.

STARTING FIVE: G Mo Williams (13.2 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 3.1 apg, 1 spg), G Gordon Hayward (11.8 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 3.1 apg), F Marvin Williams (10.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 1.2 apg), F Paul Millsap (16.6 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 2.3 apg), C Al Jefferson (19.2 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 2.2 apg, 1.7 bpg).

KEY ADDITIONS: G Mo Williams (four-team trade, Clippers), F Marvin Williams (trade, Atlanta), G Randy Foye (free agent, Clippers), GM Dennis Lindsey (San Antonio).

KEY LOSSES: G Devin Harris (trade, Hawks), F C.J. Miles (free agent, Cavs), G Raja Bell (contract dispute).

COACH: Tyrone Corbin, third season with Jazz; 44-50.

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