Possibly the best division in the NBA without an actual wimp of a team, but obviously, having the Oklahoma City Thunder as the class act of it, featuring three Dream Team members – Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden, who didn’t make our starting five.
The Timberwolves have a lot of potential besides Kevin Love, with one big question mark surrounding Brandon Roy, who used to be at this level. The Blazers don’t have much around Aldridge except for Batum and maybe Damien Lillard, while the Jazz feature a big and effective frontcourt, but not much behind it.
Point Guard – Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
Point guard, shooting guard, it doesn’t really matter. Westbrook might not be the perfect game manager who thinks about passing to his teammates first, but there are players like him in the NBA in terms of explosiveness and athleticism. He averaged 23.6 points and 5.5 assists per game, changing his game into the more selfish kind, averaging a career high in points. His decision making is far from perfect and so is his defense, but during the Thunder’s good moments last postseason (Lakers series, four straight wins over the Spurs) Westbrook’s speed and ability to learn from mistakes showed us he knows there’s stuff to work on.
Shooting Guard – Andre Iguodala, Denver Nuggets
Not strictly a guard, as Iguodala can play as a Small Forward as well and can guard three positions. The importance of Iguodala isn’t his offensive abilities, which haven’t declined but have just been used less and less, as his minutes have dropped as well, in recent seasons, but his ability to change the Nuggets’ mentality on defense. This is a team that loves to run, but not to guard that much. If Iguodala can infect his point-loving teammates with his tenacity and quality in perimeter defending, the Nuggets made a great acquisition.
Small Forward – Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
Easiest choice in the division. The NBA’s best scorer over the last three seasons and according to some, the best player in the NBA. He averaged 28 points per game last season while grabbing a career high 8 rebounds and dishing 3.5 assists per game, and was just as good in the postseason. Just a shade beneath LeBron James, part of what cost the Thunder the title. Part of Durant’s potential attitude for next season was seen with the Dream Team in London. Feeling like the best player on the floor, even if Bryant and James are on it with him. It’s that kind of mentality the Thunder need from their best player to get over the final hurdle before they win their first NBA title.
Big Man I – LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trailblazers
Aldridge has taken the next step over the last couple of years, coinciding with the demise and retirement of Brandon Roy, turning into one of the best power forwards in the NBA. He averaged 21.7 points and 8 rebounds per game last season for the Blazers, very similar to his 2011-2012 numbers, and is simply hoping that the team around him does better than last season, with a lot of hope pointed towards the improvement of Nicolas Batum and the arrival of Damien Lillard.
Big Man II – Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves
Still not a great defender and someone who loves playing outside the paint. Still, Love is one of the finest rebounders in the NBA, no matter where he spends his time on the court, averaging 13.3 rebounds per game while scoring 26, a career high. He’s a deserved all-star and Dream Team member, but his patience is growing thin, being the only member on the London team except for Anthony Davis without a playoff appearance. That mostly depends on when Ricky Rubio makes his return to the court.