NBA Offseason: Northwest Division

Tuesday, 21 June 2011, 6:00 | Category : NBA
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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.

It's a bad year to have a top pick, but the Northwest is undergoing change and needs all the help it can get.

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.

The Great Northwest

Wednesday, 30 March 2011, 5:00 | Category : NBA
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I recently finished a trip that took me through the Denver airport, San Francisco, Portland, and Salt Lake City.  Naturally, each city is fixed in my mind with its respective sports teams.  And I like all four of these teams.  As I thought more about it, I realized that three of these four are in the Northwest Division.  Out of all the divisions in the NBA the Northwest has got to be my favorite.  Let’s take a look at what’s to like about these teams in order of my preference.

Utah Jazz: Even with their current struggles, the Jazz are tied with the Pistons as my favorite team.  I hate to see Sloan

Utah Jazz, Al Jefferson, LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trailblazers

This division is deep with big men.

and D-Will both leave like this, but I’m excited about a chance for the team to rebuild and move forward.  I’ve always liked Devin Harris.  He can take it to the cup at will but is only averaging 5.2 assists per game with Utah.  That’s wouldn’t cut it in a Sloan system, but is that even what they’ll be playing moving forward?  Also, they need to figure out what to do with the logjam at the PF position.  Hopefully they’ll start fixing their woes with two lottery picks.

Portland Trailblazers: Before I had ever even been to the state of Portland, this team won me over.  (I now have family there and visit regularly.)  They have a great core of guys which has only gotten even better and more likeable over the years (i.e. Miller, Matthews, Batum, Wallace).  It sickens me that they can’t stay healthy.  As beat up as they are, the Blazers can still finish fifth in the West.  Aldridge has just been ridiculous.  Imagine what could’ve been with a healthy Greg Oden, Brandon Roy, and the rest of the injured team.

OKC Thunder: I’m not the first to fall in love with the team Presti has built through the draft and trades.  This is a young team with a crazy amount of talent and maybe even more chemistry.  They grind it out on both sides of the court.  The addition of Perkins seems to elevate them to a legit contender.  Too bad they have a WNBA-quality nickname.

Serge Ibaka, Nene, OKC Thunder, Denver Nuggets, Jeff Green

Oops, how did Jeff Green make it in this picture?

Denver Nuggets: I used to despise the Thuggets, but the arrival of former Pistons Billups and Afflalo got me to unwillingly root for them.  Even though Chauncey is gone now, so is Melo.  How can you not love Denver’s storyline of trading the big-headed superstar for a bunch of role players and actually playing better while said superstar struggles on big stage.  On top of that you have Coach Karl overcoming cancer for the second time (fourth if you count Allen “The Canswer” Iverson).

Minnesota Timberwolves: Gotta love Kevin Love.  I’m more intrigued by this team than anything else.  They have some odd pieces, and I’m not sure what direction they’re moving in or if they even know, for that matter.  With Rubio rumors picking up again this team could get even more…interesting?

Tell me, what division is as likeable as a whole as the Northwest?

NBA Summer Review- Northwest Division

Monday, 1 November 2010, 16:25 | Category : NBA
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I realize the season is almost over, but these are still my assessments from the summer.

Northwest Division: It’s still one of the deepest divisions in the NBA, but are any of these teams real contenders?

Denver Nuggets: They could obviously do without the all the “Melo Drama,” but have fallen out of the elites in the West regardless. Two years ago they were challenging the Lakers for the West, but their collapse at the end of last season seems to be carrying over to this year. Even if Melo decides to sign the extension with the team and all the

It seemed Denver was finally moving in the right direction, will that all change this season?

distractions disappear, the Nuggets probably will not make it back to number two out west.

Swapping AI for Mr. Big Shot brought leadership and more of a commitment to team play and defense on the Nuggets. It looked like Chauncey was able to help keep the Thuggets in line and reach their potential. Apparently, Coach Karl also had a big hand in that. Without their coach, the team fell apart last year. Now with health issues depleting their lineup, they decided to sign Al Harrington, a player who knows little about team play or defense.

Denver will continue to be a strong team and will make the playoffs, but they will not dominate on a daily basis as they had before. They need to stop signing knuckleheads if they ever want to turn things around. If they do trade Carmelo, they had better get some talent with a good head on its shoulders.

(4rd-Northwest, 7th- West)

Minnesota Timberwolves: Trading its best player for beans and committing to two No. 2 draft pick busts to build around is not a promising start. What’s even better is taking out a page in the news paper announcing you will not be in contention this year is even worse. However crazy it may seem, at least Kahn has a plan.

Dropping the triangle offense was probably their best move of the offseason. Although, I do give Kahn props for managing to rope in Luke Ridnour, one of the top free agent PGs in the biggest offseason is very impressive. I wonder if it will cause problems once Flynn is ready to come back. And will Rubio want to come to Minnesota to play on a team that already has two starting PGs? Would he want to play in Minnesota anyway?

Even though the team defeated the Lakers in the pre-season, I think it’s safe to say we can expect more of the same from the T-Wolves.

(5th-Northwest, 15th-West)

Oklahoma City Thunder: KD signing an extension was huge. It says a lot about his character and dedication to the team. Even the background of his Twitter page is his team. The Thunder have done an amazing job of surrounding the league’s future MVP with young talent. OKC is the epitome of chemistry. Last year the team got some flak for drafting

Will chemistry be enough to keep the Northwest teams in contention?

James Harden over the likes of Tyreke Evans or Stephen Curry. But they are dedicated to Westbrook (who has more than proven himself) and the chemistry of the team. And it’s working, so we can’t really question their moves. With Coach of the Year Scott Brooks at the helm of this young team, we can expect a lot of great things for them over the next decade.

The one place the team needs to really improve is in the middle. Not that they don’t have talent there, but I felt that in their playoff debut against the Lakers the middle was exposed as a weak point. So unless Krstic hits Pau over the head with a chair, they are going to need some help. I like this year’s draft pick Cole Aldrich, but we’ll see if that’s enough to overcome the Laker’s frontcourt.

The World Championship this summer was very telling of what’s to come. I’m not sure they’re quite ready to take it all, but the Thunder will not be sneaking up on anyone this year.

(1st- Northwest, 3rd- West)

Portland Trailblazers: Health is obviously the number one issue in Portland this year. Fortunately, they have the depth to hang in there. It was amazing to see the resilience they showed last year; however, Rip City is thinking bigger than playoff contention. And they should be with the talent they have. They used to be where the Thunder were last year, but still haven’t made that next step to being one of the top teams in the conference.

The second priority is to get everyone happy, namely Rudy Fernandez. I don’t know why he wouldn’t want to play for a winning team with some of the best fans in the NBA, but he doesn’t. At least it looks like Miller and Roy are going to coexist just fine. And I really like the addition of Matthews (even if they did poach him off the Jazz and pay him too much). They have the chemistry and the talent, now they just need to get healthy. If they do, then they will be a force to reckon with.

(3rd-Northwest, 6th-West)

Utah Jazz: The Jazz did an excellent job filling in holes this summer after it lost some key players. I’m looking forward

Will a new look translate to new success?

to see Big Al play on a playoff caliber team. I like that Bell didn’t sell out and go to the Lakers. I like it even better that he went to the Jazz. I didn’t boo when Hayward was picked, but I wasn’t exactly thrilled that he was our long awaited lottery pick. It turns out he proved all us nay-sayers very wrong. I know Larry Bird would’ve loved to add another white boy to his roster, but I think he’ll fit in just fine in Utah.

With a lack of drama surrounding Boozer and a genuine excitement of the players on the team has allowed the Jazz to pick up where it left off. Unfortunately for the Jazz, where they left off is just not good enough. Utah’s roster still goes as deep as about anyone’s in the league, except for at the PG position. Price is a solid and plays with a lot of heart. I’ll never forget Gaines’ buzzer-beater 3 to ice the Cavs in his first NBA game ever, but he lacks control. Until D-Will gets some serious back-up I don’t think the Jazz will break into the next tier.

Another serious issue for the Jazz is defense. The only real shot blocker the team has is the aging AK. Boozer was soft and Memo is softer. If Big Al is going to really help the Jazz, he will have to become more of a defensive presence. The team as a whole needs to make a more concerted effort on defense if it ever wants to win a 7 game series versus a top

team. Until then Utah will only be the best of the second tier teams in the West.

(2nd- Northwest, 4th- West)

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