The NBA season is less than a week away, so we're looking at each of the divisions. We've already previewed the Southwest and Pacific Divisions, so let's finish out the Western Conference with a preview of the Northwest Division.

5. Denver Nuggets

Hope exists in the Mile High City. There are some talented young players in Gary Harris, Emmanuel Mudiay, and Jusuf Nurkic. They just aren't getting the production they need from veterans Danilo Gallinari or Kenneth Faried to make any real noise in the playoff chase this season.

4. Oklahoma City Thunder

Many are expecting the Thunder to decline without Kevin Durant, but not precipitously so.

People should be hitting the panic button in OKC, though. Russell Westbrook is an elite all-around player, but if he's expected to do it all night in and night out, his body is going to break down by the NBA All-Star Break. Outside of Westbrook's constant drives to the hoop, where is the scoring going to come from? Victor Oladipo? Durant's departure will hurt more than this team thinks.

3. Minnesota Timberwolves

Minnesota has young talent at nearly every position, led by reigning Rookie of the Year center Karl-Anthony Towns and former Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins. They also now have the right coach installed in the defensive-minded Tom Thibodeau. Once this squad learns to exude their athleticism on the defensive end, their long rebuild will finally begin to see results.

2. Portland Trail Blazers

The NBA needs a reintroduction to Damian Lillard. People don't notice him because he plays in relative obscurity in the Pacific Northwest, but he's a dominant scorer and expert ball-handler. He's surrounded by scoreres in C.J. McCollum and bench guard Allen Crabbe, and while the team threw a lot of money at players who didn't necessarily deserve it in the offseaosn, they should be contenders once again.

1. Utah Jazz

The injury to Gordon Hayward's finger hurts a lot -- he's the team's best player and can't afford to miss too much time. From top to bottom, this is the most talented team in the division. Derrick Favors, Rudy Gobert, and others are on the verge of real breakouts. Hayward is set to be a free agent this offseason, so this team's window for NBA contention may be closing if they can't retain the talented forward -- the time for Utah is now.

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