With the uncertainty of the looming lockout hanging over the NBA, teams having the daunting task of using this offseason to position themselves for success in whatever direction the new CBA takes them. We are doing a division-by-division break down of what teams should be aiming to do this offseason. We will analyze each team’s current situation, free agents, draft prospects, and whose contract the team would drop if the new CBA includes a new amnesty rule. GMs, no need to worry. We’ve got you covered.
Denver Nuggets: 2010-11 record: 50-32 (Northwest: 9-7)
Now that the Melo-Drama has passed, Denver can finally look to it’s future, and the future looks fairly bright. Post-Carmelo-Trade-Denver actually came together quite nicely. They’re also in a pretty good financial situation, with only Nene making more than $10 mil next season. The problem is they’ll only have $17.5 million in total salaries next year so they need to look to keep up a solid roster.
Free Agents: They are losing two prominent players from the Denver line-up in Kenyon Martin and J.R. Smith, but both are headcases anyway. Martin has also been injured quite often so his contract coming off the books is a blessing. They need to get deeper at both forward positions and they’ve got the cap space to do it, they just need to make sure they keep enough room to resign key guys like Nene, Afflalo, Chandler, and Gallinari (next year). Finding a new backup PG for when Lawson takes over is also key.
Draft: Grab Kenneth Faried with the 22nd pick if he is available. He has more energy and will power than anyone in this draft. We already saw how much better the Nuggets were when they played team basketball post Carmelo, and Faried will do the little things to fire up this TEAM.
Amnesty: If Chris Andersen ($15.5 million; 3 years) isn’t going to be healthy then they’ll have to let him go. Although, it would seem a bad idea to pass on a chance to erase Al Harrington’s (2 years; $13 million plus two team options for a total of another $15 million) contract. It would allow them to sign an impactful bench player and keep plenty of cap space.
Minnesota Timberwolves: 2010-11 record: 17-65 (Northwest: 1-15)
No one be sure what David Kahn has planned for the woeful franchise. At least he can say Rubio is finally coming, although I’m not sure that sounds as great as it would have a few years ago (or not?). Along with roster confusion, the T-Wolves need to figure out the coaching situation soon.
Free Agents: Sebastian Telfair and Eddy Curry (does he even count?) are the only two free agents. I know they like Wesley Johnson, but they need to get a more potent SG. They’re also committed to Darko, but is he the answer for a starting center to put alongside Love? With Rubio finally joining the team, Flynn is no longer needed and will likely be traded, probably for peanuts.
Draft: Poor Minnesota. They just can’t buy the #1 pick, and when they get the #2 pick, the obvious choice is the exact same player they already have. The Wolves will have to pick Derrick Williams who is a tougher clone of Michael Beasely who doesn’t shoot as well (yet for some reason they have declared they will not be trading Beasley, Anthony Randolph, or Martell Webster). I think they should consider trading this pick, but they probably won’t until they’re on the clock. At 20, they should take Marshon Brooks. They don’t have any guards who can score and even if Brooks misses a lot, Kevin Love will get the rebound.
Amnesty: The T-Wolves seem oddly devoted to all of their misfits and are in good shape financially so they’ll probably elect not to use it. If they do decide mix things up, they don’t have any contracts that aren’t tradeable.
Oklahoma City Thunder: 2010-11 record: 55-27 (Northwest: 13-3)
Now that OKC has written the how to guide for building an NBA team, we anxiously wait to see what the next chapter to take a team to contender is.
Free Agents: Nazr Mohammed is the only FA for the Thunder. It wouldn’t hurt to resign him as a quality insurance policy for Perkins, but he’ll probably take a pay cut. The Thunder also need to get deeper at SF, but they don’t want to spend much without knowing what the cap under the new CBA will be.
Draft: I like Justin Harper at this pick. He is big enough to give Serge Ibaka some rest and he has enough range to give Kevin Durant the spacing he needs. They need a big who can shoot the rock.
Amnesty: OKC wants everyone on the roster and is paying them what they want except for Nate Robinson (1 year; $4.5 million). He’s in his final year, but they may as well clear the cap space because the Thunder’s favorite cheerleader is buried pretty deep on the bench.
Portland Trailblazers: 2010-11 record: 48-34 (Northwest: 10-6)
It looks as though the Blazers have reached their ceiling with their current roster. That means they’ll need to shake things up a bit, which may mean taking a disappointing step or two backwards. It’s going to be difficult for Portland to pick a direction they want to go and do it well until they get some consistency in the front office. The last two GMs have done more than good jobs, so who’s going to want to take that job if they’ll likely be fired in a year?
Free Agents: The Blazers have two FAs this summer. Patty Mills is probably worth bringing back as a backup point, but there is a 7 foot question mark concerning Greg Oden. Portland would love to bring the big man back, but he is a high risk high reward situation. He’s not the only concern on this roster going forward. Blazer fans love their team but realize some changes need to be made. Portland may be better off convincing Brandon Roy to retire, otherwise two of their main stars may have a total of zero kneecaps. There’s an excess of wings and almost no depth in the front court. They’re also looking for a long term replacement for Miller at point.
Draft: With the 21st pick they should nab a guy who can shoot some threes off the bench. This pick may be too high for Kyle Singler, but the Blazers have enough athletes. They need more shooters. Justin Harper may be a decent fit for this team as well.
Amnesty: After he led to Blazers to an amazing comeback over the Mavs in the playoffs, it’s hard to say this, but they’d have to take a serious look a using this on Roy (4 years; $54 million). Losing his contract would get them back around the cap and give them only one player without knees to worry about. It won’t be easy letting go of him though.
Utah Jazz: 2010-11 record: 39-43 (Northwest: 7-9)
It hurt to part with D-Will, but let’s face it, it was inevitable. And it’s not like the Jazz were really ever on the same level as other possible contenders. Now they have two lottery picks from last year’s draft, two this year, and potentially two next year (a protected pick from the Warriors via the Nets and their own). Assuming they draft well, the Jazz will have a nice mix of young talent and vets in their prime. The Jazz hurt themselves this last decade with plenty of bad deals that led to one little loss after another. Let’s hope they get it right this time.
Free Agents: AK’s contract (ranked in top 3 worst contracts of the decade) is up! The Jazz will be sad to see him go but glad to not pay AK like a top 20 player. Utah also needs to decide if they’ll bring back any of their other FAs (Price, Fesenko, Watson, or Elson). Depending on who they draft they may not need any of them. With their current roster, they’re set with power forward, now they need a backup point guard, a wing who can score and defend to replace AK, and a legit center. Accomplishing this may require trading one of their current PFs (Millsap?).
Draft: Big draft for the Jazz. I think the Jazz have to pick Enes Kanter at #3 even though they have a plethora of post players already. The other option is Brandon Knight, but I don’t see him being any better than Devon Harris is at any point. At #12 they should grab the best available wing. Jordan Hamilton or Alec Burks can put the ball in the hoop as well as any wings the Jazz currently have.
Amnesty: I would most like to see this used on Raja Bell (2 years; $7 million) who hasn’t done either thing he was brought in to do well (shoot and defend). But with the logjam of big men (especially if they draft a big) it makes sense to clear out Memo’s contract (1 year; $11 million) to fill in the positions they do need. Plus, the injury may have lowered his stock, even with it being a contract year.