NBA's Northwest Division: OffSeason Report Card

Eitan RosenbergContributor IAugust 23, 2010

PHOENIX - MARCH 16:  Al Jefferson #25 of the Minnesota Timberwolves handles the ball during the NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center on March 16, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Suns defeated the Timberwolves 152-114.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Denver Nuggets—Incomplete

 This is a hard team to grade, as we still do not know the final conclusion to the Carmelo Anthony saga.

The Nuggets still need to fish out a general manager before trade talks can even truly begin. Until that point in time, it will be hard to determine a grade for the Nuggets.


Minnesota Timberwolves—B-

After reading what many “experts” had said about general manager David Kahn and his susceptible moves this offseason, I offer this reaction: Say what you want, at least the Wolves seem to actually have a plan.

Minnesota entered the offseason with a logjam at power forward and point guard, and uncertainty regarding the futures of the center and wing positions. Now, the team at least has a lineup with youth, potential, and players playing their natural positions.

It finally makes sense.


Granted, we likely won’t be hearing about many wins from this group, but they at least have put themselves in proper position to actually re-build properly.

You could argue over the selection of rookie Wesley Johnson with the fourth pick of the 2010 NBA Draft. Johnson was the oldest lotto pick, and DeMarcus Cousins, a highly touted big man out of Kentucky, looked capable of posting 20 and 10, making him the seemingly obvious choice here.

But the team already had enough question marks dealing with the Kevin Love—Al Jefferson tandem, and perhaps did not want the add more confusion—albeit with a great deal of talent—to that duo with Cousins.

Still, it was still peculiar considering that this is the same general manager who drafted back-to-back point guards just a season ago, giving many of us the impression that Kahn will always draft the best/ most valuable asset available, even if he may not fit a certain role on the squad just yet.

Later in the draft Kahn acquired young wing Martel Webster from the Portland Trail Blazers.

Webster showed a knack for outside shooting and a solid overall offensive game in his young career, but due to added depth on the Portland roster it seemed he’d benefit with consistent minutes elsewhere.

Michael Beasley will also be getting a much needed second chance in his young, but unfulfilling career, by perhaps even gaining starters minutes in Minnesota.

Finally, much has been also been of the contract to Darko Milicic. In my mind, he showed enough signs in the second half of last season to be a promising center option long-term for the team.

Luke Ridnour is also a solid pickup and should be able to provide ample minutes at both guard slots off of Minnesota’s bench.

The team may have been able to net more for Al Jefferson via trade, but still were able to put together a roster that has promise and developing assets at every position.


Oklahoma City Thunder—B+

The Thunder are coming off a very surprising season in which they not only made the playoffs out west, but put a serious scare into the champs in the first round.

With the emergence of Russell Westbrook at point guard and Kevin Durant reaching superstar status, the Thunder seem poised to improve on last season’s success.

General manager Sam Presti continues to push the right buttons, as on draft night he was able to move up and select center Cole Aldrich from Kansas.

Aldrich was considered by many to be one of the few NBA ready rookies in the draft. He also satisfies a specific need for Oklahoma City, a rugged rebounding force who can block shots at the "five" slot.

Al Jefferson was available in the offseason as well, and perhaps Presti could have rolled the dice and acquired Big Al. He and Durant could have caused major problems for the rest of the league for the next decade.

But the Thunder should still be highly commended for sticking with their plan and stockpiling appropriate assets that should develop in Sooner country for years to come. OKC should also receive high regard in extending Durant’s contract so he will remain with the team beyond 2015.



Portland Trailblazers—B-

The team did not do much this past offseason besides cleaning house in the front office, as Kevin Pritchard was sent packing and Rich Cho was brought in to run the basketball operations.

In reality though, the team still will be somewhat dependent on the play of Greg Oden. Still, regardless of Oden’s health, the Portland Trailblazers should be competitive in the fight for the fourth seed out West.

If Oden is healthy, they may be able to possibly compete with the Lakers in a best of seven series.

Portland was able to fill some small holes on the team including their backup wings. Rookie Luke Babbit and swingman Wesley Matthews should be nice added depth for this team.

The acquisition of both players also paints the Exit signs for Spaniard Rudy Fernandez to leave elsewhere.

Portland still has a small hole at backup power forward, a slot they haven’t addressed fully yet. Pending on what happens at that slot and with Fernandez, it will give a more clear determination of their offseason grade.

For now, though, they haven’t done much, nor do they really need to.


Utah Jazz—A-

Everyone and the mother realized there was little chance of Carlos Boozer remaining with the Jazz after the 2010 free agency period.

So instead of shelling out $80-plus million over five years to retain Boozer, Utah opted to pay Al Jefferson (via a trade using the trade exception from the Boozer move) $40 million over three years.

For a cost cutting team like Utah (remember, they sent away rookie guard Eric Maynor last season just to get from under the luxury tax), this was a huge move.

Jefferson is also more of a low post presence than Boozer, and at least four years younger.

The extra savings allowed the Jazz to sign veteran guard Raja Bell. For the last decade, Bell has been one of the league’s better wing defenders, a role necessary when players like Kobe Bryant, Brandon Roy, Kevin Durant and Caron Butler are in the conference.

The team also wisely did not over pay for Wesley Matthews, leaving more room for development opportunities from Butler rookie Gordon Hayward.

The Jazz should be competitive as they also battle four the fourth seed in the Western Conference, and still can dangle Andrei Kirilenko’s valuable expiring contract in any future trades this season.


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