Team Needs: Northwest Division

Thu, 06/18/2009 - 2:46am

Denver Nuggets

2008-2009 Record (54-28, 2nd in Western Conference)

Returning Payroll - $68.4 mil

Guaranteed Contracts: SF Carmelo Anthony ($15.8 mil), PF Kenyon Martin ($15.6 mil), PG Chauncey Billups ($12.1 mil), Nene ($10.5 mil), SG JR Smith ($5.5 mil), PF Renaldo Balkman ($2.1 mil)

Restricted Free Agents: C Johan Petro ($2.8 mil), SF Linas Kleiza ($2.7 mil)

Player Options or Early Termination Options: C Steven Hunter ($3.7 mil)

Expiring Contracts: PG Anthony Carter ($1.1 mil), PF/C Chris Anderson ($998,000), SG Dahntay Jones ($926,678)

Team needs: back up point guard

Draft Picks: 34th pick

Analysis:

The Denver Nuggets were the surprise of the NBA this year. Expected to be lucky if they made the playoffs after dealing their best (and only) defender in Marcus Camby in the offseason to the Clippers for a 2nd round pick in exchange, the season did not look promising for George Karl's crew. Then everything changed on Nov. 4th when Allen Iverson was dealt to the Pistons for homegrown point guard Chauncey Billups. The rest of the season is history as Billups proved he's still the best floor general in the game, turning the Nuggets into challengers for the Western Conference title, while the perennial Eastern Conference contender Detroit Pistons fell apart without Billups and barely made the playoffs.

Billups can't be given all of the credit for the Nuggets turnaround, although he probably had a hand in everything, but the youth on the team started to emerge. Carmelo Anthony, JR Smith, and Nene Hilario all arguably had their best personal seasons. Because of the youth pulling its weight, the Nuggets will be going into next season as the top challengers in the west to knock off the LA Lakers. But, in order for that to happen, they will have to resign some key guys in the offseason.

The Nuggets have lots of money locked up, but after the season they just had, reaching the Western Conference finals for only the second time in franchise history, it is hard to see the Nuggets front office letting some of these guys walk. Four free agents all had a part in the Nuggets successful season. Chris "the Birdman" Anderson was the crowd favorite and rock star on the team, but the crowd liked him for more reasons than his haircut. Anderson was the Nuggets best interior defender this year, leading the team in blocks (2.46) although he only played 20.6 minutes a game. Anderson made the Marcus Camby trade golden because he defended the paint very similarly.

Another free agent is starting shooting guard Dahntay Jones. Although he didn't play as many minutes as his personal substitute (JR Smith), Jones was the team's best perimeter defender. Coach George Karl liked to begin the game with Jones on the other team's best player to send a message, and if Jones isn't a part of the team next year, Smith would be the logical replacement, but they would lose something defensively and Karl wouldn't be able to pull Smith out of the game as easily when he goes on one of his bad shooting sprees.

Jones and Anderson will be on the top of the to-do list for the Nuggets this summer. The other two free agents are not needed back as much as Jones and Anderson. Back-up point guard Anthony Carter has leadership skills and toughness, but he is expendable for the Nuggets. To resign him may be cheap, but the Nuggets already have leadership and toughness in Billups. Acquiring a young and athletic point guard could be a good change of pace for the Nuggets to counter Billups next year. Linas Kleiza is a restricted free agent and has shown in the past to be an absolute scoring machine off the bench. But, he had a down year this season and seemed to be the only one to take a step back from when Billups arrived. If other teams are still interested in Kleiza, he will most likely be gone.

The Nuggets gave up their 1st round pick this year by acquiring Johan Petro in January. The 34th pick will not give them an immediate impact player, but with a draft full of point guards, it is possible that a projected 1st round pick falls into their laps. If not, UCLA's Darren Collison and Saint Mary's Patrick Mills could be available.

 

Portland Trailblazers

2008-2009 Record (54-28, 4th in Western Conference)

Returning Payroll - $41.5 mil

Guaranteed Contracts: C Joel Pryzbilla ($6.9 mil), PF LaMarcus Aldridge ($5.8 mil), C Greg Oden ($5.4 mil), PG Steve Blake ($4.9 mil), SG Martell Webster ($4.3 mil), SF Travis Outlaw ($4.0 mil), SG Brandon Roy ($3.9 mil), PG Jerryd Bayless ($2.1 mil), PG Sergio Rodriguez ($1.9 mil), SG Rudy Fernandez ($1.1 mil), SF Nicolas Batum ($1.1 mil)

Restricted Free Agents: PF Channing Frye ($4.3 mil)

Player Options or Early Termination Options: None

Expiring Contracts: PF/C Raef LaFrentz ($12.7 mil)

Team Needs: backup power forward

Draft Picks: 24th pick, 33rd pick, 38th pick, 55th pick, 56th pick

Analysis:

If there has ever been a team that needed a minor league farm system, it would be the current Portland Trailblazers. They have depth and youth at nearly all five positions. Point guard Jerryd Bayless was drafted 11th overall in last year's draft, but was the 3rd point guard on the team for essentially the whole year. The Trailblazers may be in a better position than anyone in the Western Conference. They are young and are winning now, finishing 4th in the Western Conference this season.

Portland's only concern this offseason and next year will be to extend their current roster. Brandon Roy has proven to be a franchise player, but his contract will end after next year if not extended. Same goes for the Trailblazers second best player LaMarcus Aldridge. The large contract of Raef Lafrentz comes off the books this summer, but none of that money will be going towards any free agents. For Portland it is all about keeping its core players and letting them grow, because it's clear that the best has yet to come for these kids.

Portland has ten guaranteed contracts for next year and five draft picks coming up. Barring a big trade or a small contract offer, Portland's roster is very predictable for next year. The perimeter has enough youth and is very productive. Nicolas Batum and Travis Outlaw will eat up most of the small forward minutes. Brandon Roy and 22 year old Martell Webster will occupy playing time at the shooting guard position. They have three legit point guards in Steve Blake, Sergio Rodriguez, and Bayless. Therefore, most of their picks will go towards big men. Especially at the power forward position, where there is no real backup for LaMarcus Aldridge, when it is likely that Channing Frye will play elsewhere and not resign. The center spot has its minutes locked up with Pryzbilla and Oden.

Portland can't do much with their roster but they don't need to. Finishing the season 4th in the Western Conference was an accomplishment alone for a team as young the Trailblazers. Next year will only get better, and if general manager Kevin Pritchard can start to extend these players contracts, the Blazers should be atop of the Western Conference for a long time.

 

Utah Jazz

2008-2009 Record (48-34, 8th in Western Conference)

Returning Payroll - $45.2 mil

Guaranteed Contracts: SF Andrei Kirilenko ($16.5 mil), PG Deron Williams ($13.8 mil), SF Matt Harpring ($6.5 mil), SG CJ Miles ($3.7 mil), SG Ronnie Brewer ($2.7 mil)

Restricted Free Agents: None

Player Options or Early Termination Options: PF Carlos Boozer ($12.3 mil), PF/C Mehmet Okur ($9.5 mil), SG Kyle Korver ($5.3 mil)

Expiring Contracts: C Jarron Collins ($2.1 mil), PG Brevin Knight ($2.0 mil), PG Ronnie Price ($1.2 mil), SG Morris Almond ($1.1 mil)

Team Needs: Athleticism, Back up PG, back up PF

Draft Picks: 20th pick, 50th pick

Analysis:

The Utah Jazz have one of the more eventful offseasons this summer. Coming off a 8th seed in the Western Conferences and a 1st round exit to the eventual champion Lakers, yet the Jazz had the 5th best home record in the NBA and the feeling is that the Jazz are happy with where they are and just need a few more parts here or there to make a run at the title. The problem is that this summer the Jazz are in jeopardy of losing some integral parts.

The Jazz starting perimeter is intact with Deron Williams at the point locked up until 2012. Ronnie Brewer and Andrei Kirilenko are both signed on for next year as well. The issue is with the big-men. PF Carlos Boozer says he is on the fence on whether or not to opt out of his contract this summer. Super-sub Paul Milsap who played like an all-star during Boozer's absence this season is also a restricted free agent. Starting center Mehmet Okur has an option to opt out as well. It would be unlikely that all three players return to the Jazz because they will all be demanding high salaries that they could get elsewhere. The most likely scenario is that Boozer opts out, Jazz sign both Milsap and Okur. This leaves the Jazz with decisions to make about the backup situation. 7-footer and 20 year old Kosta Koufas started 7 games last year for the Jazz after being drafted 23rd overall in last years draft. He will be expected to get regular minutes next year, filling in for the loss of one of their regular big-men.

The draft will be about trying to get insurance in case Boozer does opt out of his contract. Drafting at 20, North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough could be available. This would give the Jazz a rotation of big-men of: Milsap, Okur, Koufas, and Hansbrough, which would be more than formidable to keep the Jazz going and keep them in the playoffs next year.

Kyle Korver has another player option that he could opt out of, making the offseason even more of a problem for the Jazz. Korver is a good change of pace off the bench from Brewer and Kirilenko who do not have much three-point range like the deadly Korver. Letting Korver slip into free agency could be a mistake because the Jazz lack shooters after him. The big-men situation is priority number one for the Jazz this summer, but re-signing Korver is also on their to-do list.

Minnesota Timberwolves

2008-2009 Record (24-58, 11th in Western Conference)

Returning Payroll - $57.0 mil

Guaranteed Contracts: PF/C Al Jefferson ($12.0 mil), SG/SF Mike Miller ($9.9 mil), PF Brian Cardinal ($6.8 mil), F Ryan Gomes ($3.8 mil), G Randy Foye ($3.6 mil), PF/C Kevin Love (3.4 mil), SG/SF Corey Brewer ($2.9 mil), PF Mark Madsen ($2.8 mil), PF Craig Smith ($2.8 mil), Sebastian Telfair ($2.5 mil)

Restricted Free Agents: None

Player Options or Early Termination Options: None

Expiring Contracts: C Jason Collins ($6.2 mil), PF Shelden Williams ($3.4 mil), SF Rodney Carney ($1.7 mil)

Team Needs: True center, point guard, shooting guard

Draft Picks: 6th pick, 18th pick, 28th pick, 45th pick, 47th pick

Analysis:

The Timberwolves had another tough season. They got off to a 4-23 start and were out of the playoff hunt immediately. Then, when things couldn't get any worse, the lone bright spot on the team, Al Jefferson tears his ACL and is out the rest of the season.

The season was not a complete loss. The Timberwolves did get their act together at one point and strung together 10 wins in 14 games. It was also a season that figured out a few of their players. Randy Foye (16.3 ppg) can score in this league, albeit at which position is still up in the air. Last year's 5th overall pick Kevin Love proved himself to be a glass eater, averaging 11.1 ppg and 9.1 rpg in just over 25 minutes a game. And the one thing that Minnesota proved they can do is shoot the basketball. Foye, Mike Miller, and Ryan Gomes were all over 36% from the three-point line.

With so much up in the air at every position, and the jury not being out yet on most of the young players on the team except Jefferson, the draft will be about grabbing the best player available for the most part. Jefferson was playing out of position most of the year at center when he is more of a natural power forward. Jefferson playing alongside Love may prove to be too small of a frontcourt, so drafting some height like Ohio State's BJ Mullens is a possibility. If Randy Foye can play point guard next year, then a two-guard will be a necessity for the T'wolves. Davidson's Steph Curry could be available with the 6th pick and give them some scoring (although he;s tough to pair with Foye), or North Carolina's Wayne Ellington should be available with the 18th pick.

The T'wolves have 10 guaranteed contracts and five draft picks (3 1st rounders). The team will consist mostly of these 15 players, give or take a small signing. Minnesota will probably have to go through another year of turmoil to figure out their roster. But, they could be a few years away from seeing their youth blossom. Then, with a post stud in Al Jefferson (provided he regains his preinjury form), Minnesota could be playing some serious basketball again.

Oklahoma City Thunder

2008-2009 Record (23-59, 15th in Western Conference)

Returning Payroll - $68.8 mil

Guaranteed Contracts: PG Earl Watson ($6.6 mil), PF/C Nick Collison ($6.3 mil), C Nenad Krstic ($5.3 mil), SF Kevin Durant ($4.8 mil), G Russell Westbrook ($3.8 mil), SF Jeff Green ($3.5 mil), SG Thabo Sefolosha ($2.8 mil), PF DJ White ($1.0 mil)

Restricted Free Agents: None

Player Options or Early Termination Options: SG Damien Wilkins ($3.3 mil)

Expiring Contracts: PF Malik Rose ($7.6 mil), SG Desmond Mason ($5.4. mil), C Robert Swift ($3.6 mil)

Team needs: point guard, wing player depth

Draft Picks: 3rd pick, 25th pick

Analysis:

The Thunder got off to an embarrassing 2-24 start to the season. The team was in complete shambles. But, like any young team, all you need to see is improvement, and the Thunder did that. They finished the season off with a 21-35 record after the horrific start, winning 6 of 7 at one point, which is not good by any means, but they showed that they had some fight and some of the players showed that they are legit NBA players.

One player that emerged was 2nd year player Kevin Durant. At 20 years old, the small forward averaged 25.3 points per game, good enough for 6th in the league. More importantly, he made it clear that a contender can be built around him for the future. Drafting Durant with the 2nd overall pick in 2007 was a no brainer. But, the Thunder have cashed in on all their high draft picks over the last few years. In 2007, they had the 5th pick as well and took Jeff Green who is coming off a productive season as well. At only 22 years of age, he averaged 16.5 ppg, second to only Durant. 3rd on the team in scoring was rookie and 20 year old Russell Westbrook at 15.3 ppg. He was a bit of a surprise taken in last year's draft with the 4th pick, and is making Presti and company look very smart.

This team has been built via the draft. And the Thunder hope to keep that streak going this year when they draft with the 3rd overall pick. Blake Griffin is going 1st to the LA Clippers. Hasheem Thabeet is most likely going to the Memphis Grizzlies with the 2nd pick. That leaves the Thunder with a tough decision. They have a big gap at point guard (although Westbrook could be their guy). So, should the Thunder draft the hyped up point guard from Spain Ricky Rubio and have him feed these young scorers for the next few years. Or, should they draft Arizona State's James Harden, and let Westbrook run the show? Westbrook has moved to the point but he is more of a natural two-guard. Green might be more of a power forward, but he will play some small forward as well. It is a classic case of ‘draft for need' vs. ‘draft the best available'. Harden is more of a sure thing, expect OKC to go with Harden.

The deciding factor on the 3rd pick may be how valuable they believe the 25th pick in the draft can be. If they decide on Harden, there should still be some good point guards available with 25th pick. North Carolina's Ty Lawson or VCU's Eric Maynor could be available. Both guards could someday be a better player than Rubio who is still young and unproven. With the older and more experienced Lawson or Maynor, the Thunder will know what they are getting.

However the Thunder decide to go, they are on the way up the standings. When your best players are 20, 22, and 20 years old, the future looks bright. With a smart selection with the 3rd pick, they could be adding another young stud for the future.

jerb2011
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HEY

Shut up about drafting Ricky Rubio, Russ is our PG, he was only a rookie learning a new position and was productive, he was in the ROY running too, give him a break

the27guy
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Northwest Division- Best division for the next 5 yrs?

It's tough being a Jazz fan these days. As I think about the competition they'll face over the next five years, it's difficult to imagine Sloan and company being as good as they've been in the past. Each of the five teams in this division, possibly excluding Minnesota, have direction and great potential. Even the Thunder have to feel good about their Playoff chances in the next two seasons.

I think you can argue that this division has the potential to be the best in the league. Even if the Jazz lose Boozer, they're still a playoff team barring huge injury problems, and clearly the Nuggs and Blazers aren't going anywhere, with Portland looking especially scary for the foreseeable future.

Which brings me to my question: Over the next 5 years, is this the best division in the NBA?

brodiejay
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Agreed Jerb2011

I agree. I think that Westbrook has shown that he can more than adequately handle the point guard duties. The only thing he didn't do well in his rookie year was shoot the ball efficiently. He passed well, rebounded well for a guard, drove to the hoop strong, scored the ball, and played great defence with a high rate of steals. If a low shooting percentage is all you can say that your rookie starting point guard is doing wrong, I think you're future with him running the team is looking pretty good.

I think Rubio will go second to Memphis but then be traded to Sacramento (for Jordan Hill and another player). That would leave Thabeet or James Harden for the Thunder to choose from. I think I might be the only person who thinks they should pass on Thabeet and take Harden. I think it's easy to find a serviceable center in the free agent market. Nenad Kristic is more than capable for the time being. I think once he has a full summer and training camp with the Thunder, he'll show what he did in his last couple of years at New Jersey before he injured his knee. Thabeet is a gamble (which could very well pay off) but Harden is a sure thing. He would take the wing scoring load off Durant and is ready to contribute straight away and move forward with their exciting young core. A starting line up of Westbrook, Harden, Durant, Green and Kristic is really versatile and pretty damn good. What do others think?

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I'm a big UCLA guy but I

I'm a big UCLA guy but I think OKC would be better off with Westbrook on the wing doing what he does best and that scoring and being athletic. I also think OKC should take a talent like Harden and then grab a pg at 25. Best case senario is Thabeet falls to them because even though Kristic is servicable at center he does not have the defensive ability Thabeet has. Plus Thabeet does not need the ball to be effective and thats important when you have scorers at 1-4.

Ch13f23
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Nice one Show Goat...

I totally agree with you even though others might disagree OKC picking Thabeet rather than Harden. I know Harden is a good player and could contribute right away for the team but this team already got Durant,Green and Westbrook to be the scorer so it would be better if they choose Thabeet cause all he needs to do is grab boards, block shots and be an intimidating force at the middle plus they don't need him to score to be effective. Just look at Portland drafting Oden rather than Durant the reason with that is they already have Roy and Aldridge to score for the team and just let Oden play the middle and let him develop slowly offensively.

Mel
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OKC

I know a lot of people are probably going to give me negative points but Westbrook KIND OF reminds me of a young Dwayne Wade. A 6'4 guard that can play both but is better suited on the wing wreaking havoc. They both are athletic as hell, neither can really shoot. Wade is obviously a superstar but look at their rookie campaigns:
Year Team G GS MPG FG% 3P% FT% RPG APG SPG BPG TO PF PPG

03-04 MIA 61 56 34.9 0.465 0.302 0.747 4.0 4.5 1.4 0.6 3.21 2.30 16.2

Westbrook

Season Team G GS MPG FG% 3p% FT% RPG APG SPG BPG TO PF PPG

08-09 OKC 82 65 32.5 0.398 0.271 0.815 4.9 5.3 1.3 0.2 3.34 2.30 15.3

scootover7
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OKC And MIN

I think OKC is Thabeet falls to them should take him. I will admit though I would have no problem if they did take Harden . Thabeet though could do the dirty work inside grab rebounds and block shots. They have Durant, Green and Westbrook for scoring. I do think though if OKC keeps there core of Green, Durant and Westbrook though in the next few years they are going to be a nasty team. With the 25th pick OKC could maybe try and get Darren Collison a defender who could backup WestBrook or maybe even try and get Terrence Williams or Marcus Thornton. Now about the Minnesota situation I think they do need a point guard in this draft bad and I have a few ways this team could do this. First I think you draft Flynn or Teague with your 6th pick unless you can get Lawson to fall to you with your 18th pick. If you could get Lawson to fall to you at 18 then you could go the route of drafting DeMar DeRozan. Another thought I had too was trading picks 6th and 18th and maybe even another player to make the contracts match for a veteran point guard ( thinking maybe Andre Miller, Steve Nash some may think that is out there but Phoenix also has the 14th pick, or maybe even Baron Davis. The upside of Minnesota in this draft having three picks in the first round 6th, 18th and 28th is they could draft a point guard with one or even two of the picks. Not that this draft is great more filled with role players but I don't feel this draft will be a total bust.

Vaughan
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Great listing

This is a great listing of what the specific needs are on the list. It is very complete with a great knowledge of what is needed and expected. casino online

hanlyone
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ozgurdunyam

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