Blog Entry

Offseason Reviews: Northwest Division

Posted on: July 29, 2010 1:59 pm
Edited on: August 2, 2010 1:57 pm
Posted by Royce Young

The Northwest Division has become one of the best and most competitive divisions in the league. There's rising teams, star power, a traditional great and then there's the Timberwolves. Regardless, it's a fairly fascinating groups of teams that all had quite different summers.

Utah Jazz

Added : Al Jefferson (trade), Raja Bell (free agency), Gordon Hayward (draft)
Lost : Kyle Korver (free agency), Ronnie Brewer (free agency), Carlos Boozer (free agency), Wesley Matthews

Philosophy : "Keep on keepin' on."

Lose one star player, replace him with another. It's just how this Jazz train keeps on a'rollin'. Utah scored Al Jefferson for relatively nothing and he replaces the exported Carlos Boozer quite well. The Jazz love that pick and roll and Jefferson should be able to team with Deron Williams to keep it at a high level. They also signed Raja Bell who is a pesky defensive player. However, losing Wesley Matthews stings a bit just because he was a rookie last year and appears to have a promising future ahead. But Utah just didn't want to pay the price tag to keep him.

Drafting Gordon Hayward certainly helps as he'll look to fill some of the void left by Matthews and Kyle Korver who signed with Chicago. This offseason was more of just scrambling to maintain in Utah and with the Jefferson deal, it looks like it should do that. A lot depends on the progression of Hayward because he'll see meaningful minutes, but the Jazz didn't let a mass exodus to Chicago burn down their walls.

Grade : B

Denver Nuggets

Added : Al Harrington (free agency), Shelden Williams (free agency), Brian Butch (free agency), George Karl's returned good health (hopefully)
Lost : Johan Petro (free agency), Malik Allen (free agency), Joey Graham (free agency)

Philosophy : "Staying good, but not great."

Denver is a team that feels like it's a piece away. Just one player to push them over the edge from good, competitive playoff team to great, actual contender team. So they signed Al Harrington. Is he that piece? Eh...

The reality is the Nuggets will be good. Their starting five has Chauncey Billups, Arron Afflalo, Carmelo Anthony, Harrington and Nene. That's pretty darn solid. Then instant offense with J.R. Smith off the bench, defense in Chris Andersen and quality players in Kenyon Martin and Ty Lawson. That's a pretty stout roster. But is that really good enough? This is clearly a 50-win team and it's destined for a top five seed in the West. But can it get to the Western Finals, which of course is the goal for a squad of this caliber? Again, eh...

Grade : C+

Portland Trail Blazers

Added : Luke Babbitt (draft), Eliot Williams (draft), Wesley Matthews (free agency), Marcus Camby (re-signed)
Lost : Martell Webster (trade), Juwan Howard (free agency), Travis Diener (free agency),

Philosophy : "Get right."

If there was a goal for the Blazers this offseason, it was simple. It wasn't to sign a big name or move up in the draft. It wasn't to restructure or make a big trade. It was just to get healthy.

Nobody dealt with the adversity Portland did last year. Greg Oden. Joel Pryzbilla. Brandon Roy. Nic Batum. Rudy Fernandez. All of those players missed at least some significant time because of an injury. And yet, the Blazers won 50 games and made the playoffs. That's... impressive.

But Portland didn't sit on its hands this summer. The Blazers re-signed Marcus Camby, who was huge for them down the stretch. The traded Martell Webster to grab Luke Babbitt, an extremely promising and gifted forward from Nevada. They inked Wesley Matthews to a big deal, who is someone that will give them a little scoring insurance and wing defender help. The turned over the front office and hopefully remedied any tense situations between ownership and management. Now there are talks they'll lose Fernandez who sees the logjam in the backcourt in Portland, but Matthews and Williams are worth replacements.

All in all, not a bad offseason for the Blazers. Is it enough to push ahead in the West? That depends on the factors that snuck up and bit them last year: health.

Grade : B+

Oklahoma City Thunder

Added : Cole Aldrich (trade/draft), Morris Peterson (trade), Royal Ivey (free agency), Daequan Cook (trade), Kevin Durant (contract extension)
Lost : Kevin Ollie (retirement), Etan Thomas (free agency), Kyle Weaver (waived)

Philosophy : "If you think it's good now, just wait until we grow up."

Most saw the Thunder's cap space and expected something. Something big. Something grand to take them from up-and-comer to favorite in the West. Maybe go grab Chris Bosh. Maybe make a run at Amar'e Stoudemire. Maybe flag down Carlos Boozer. Instead, Oklahoma City did what it does best: stuck to the plan.

Rather than blowing its extra cap room, OKC deferred to utilizing its assets to move up in the draft and fill a need from the ground up. This is a franchise that is absolutely committed to the long term and to player development. Most agreed the Thunder needed an tough, physical inside prescence to defend the paint and rebound. So what did they do? They went and got the best player at those two things in the draft in Cole Aldrich.

Another underrated move from OKC was acquiring Daequan Cook from Miami. The Heat were looking to dump any contract player to anyone to make room for basketball free agency apocolypse, so the Thunder got a former 3-point champ and shooting specialist at a discount price of a single second-round pick.

Oh, and one other thing: They signed Kevin Durant to a five-year extension. I'd say in terms of what the Thunder's goals were before the summer started and how it finished, they'd say mission accomplished.

Grade : B+

Minnesota Timberwolves

Added : Darko Milicic (re-signed), Michael Beasley (trade), Luke Ridnour (free agency), Delonte West (trade), Sebastian Telfair (trade), Lazar Hayward (draft), Kosta Koufos (trade), Martell Webster (trade), Wesley Johnson (draft),
Lost : Ramon Sessions (trade), Ryan Hollins (trade), Al Jefferson (trade), Delonte West (waived), Ryan Gomes (free agency), Damien Wilkins (free agency), Sasha Pavlovic (free agency), Brian Cardinal (free agency), Alando Tucket (waived), what remaining respect David Kahn had from media and fans of the NBA

Philosophy : "..."

Honestly, you know what David Kahn reminds me of a bit? Someone that likes playing fantasy football just so he can call other players, offer up deals, trade players and sign others off waivers. Sometimes it seems like Kahn makes moves just for the sake of not getting bored.

No one can determine a real plan from here. My best guess at what he's doing is trying to put together a roster Ricky Rubio likes and then build a team around that. That's all I can figure. They have a bunch of draft picks and some cap space, but those things aren't great when the man in charge doesn't know what to do with it.

What exactly is going on there though? What's the point of signing Sessions and then signing Ridnour just to trade Sessions? I don't get it. Basically Kahn traded a player he signed for $16 million for Sebastian Telfair. Huh? Then of course the Darko deal. What? Then drafting Wesley Johnson only to bring in a player via trade in Webster that plays the same position. Come again? Then trading Al Jefferson, the face of your franchise, for a couple draft picks. Excuse me?

There's just no rhyme or reason to all this right now. I have no idea what to grade it because I have no idea what the questions even are. Did they get better? I don't know. Did they get worse? I don't really know. Did they set themselves up for the future? I have no idea.

If Sam Presti and Daryl Morey are playing chess and everyone else is playing checkers, right now it looks like everyone else is playing checkers and David Kahn is playing duck-duck-goose.

Grade : D-

Since: Jul 27, 2010
Posted on: August 2, 2010 6:20 pm

Offseason Reviews: Northwest Division

Minnesota's franchise needs to consider the fact that they may not be able to contend in Minnesota. They should re-locate to Seattle so the Sonics can get back the team that was stolen from them in the first place

Since: Feb 16, 2007
Posted on: August 2, 2010 5:29 pm

Offseason Reviews: Northwest Division

Wrong game analogy, poker would be more appropriate.  And when David Kahn took over, his opening hand was jack high.  He wasn't likely to get very far with that, especially with skyrocketing bids so Kahn had a choice; bluff and continue playing with too much money on the line or fold and wait for the next hand.  He got delt three cards in the same suit (tall, quick, athletically gifted, intelligent, good-passers with good shooting skills) so he decided to toss the cards that didn't fit and go for the flush (jack of hearts that was Al Jefferson included).  Milicic, Love, Beasley, Johnson, and Ridnour are the five diamonds he hopes will keep him in the game, rather than the mismatched crap hand he had before.

The point of signing Sessions then Ridnour just to trade Sessions?  Ridnour wasn't available on the free agent market was he, and with Jonny Flynn likely out for the first month or two we were left with Ridnour (and only Ridnour) to play the point.  So we traded to pick up Sebastian Telfair to back-up Ridnour and dump salary. 
Confused about bringing in two players that play the same position in Martell Webster and Wesley Johnson?  First, check their CBS sports profiles, Webster's a shooting guard and Wesley Johnson is a small forward, but more importantly both can play both spots.  And even if they played the same position, unless you want to play your started 48 minutes a game every game for the entire season, having two quality players at the same position is a good idea.
I've said it before and I'll say it again, anybody who questions why the Wolves re-signed Milicic.  The Wolves gave him the chance because he earned it.  I fully expect him to score 10 points, 5 rebounds and 2 assists per game.  Not great, but decent for a starting center.

All you have to do to see what they're doing is look at the sum of the parts they've put together and if (as they hope) to add Anthony Tolliver take a look:
C-Darko Milicic and Nikola Pekovic
PF- Kevin Love and Anthony Tolliver
SF- Michael Beasley and Wesley Johnson
SG- Corey Brewer and Martell Webster
PG- Luke Ridnour and Jonny Flynn/Sebastian Telfair.

One thing you may notice is everyone in that line-up is (at least) a decent player.  There is no Brian Cardinal or Ryan Hollins players in that group.  The added depth and versatility of this team makes them MUCH better overall than last year.

Philosophy: "Instead of getting a superstar and building a team around them, let's build a team and then put a superstar in it."

Grade: B-

Since: Jun 30, 2009
Posted on: August 2, 2010 4:45 pm

Kahn is better then mchale

Why such hate for kahn? i like what he has done for the t-wolves. im excited for the upcoming year. the writer bad mouthed all his moves when in theory if only one pans out for the t-wolves its a successfull year compared to the last couple ones. i like darko and beasely. had to get rid of jefferson or love. jefferson was the one with recent knee surgery so good choice. are starting five are young and promising with a good 6th man. flyn pg, brewer sg, pearson sf, love pf, darko c, beasely 6th man. sounds better then the past couple of years. also with ridinour, telfair, and webster we have a betetr bench especially since all 3 of them prolly would of started for the wolves 2 years ago. wolves are the next thunder.

Since: Jan 7, 2007
Posted on: August 2, 2010 4:42 pm

Offseason Reviews: Northwest Division

I agree with a point.  In a league where imitation is standard - why don't team like T'pups and Sixers just do what the Thunder are doing?  Answer to the question - because they don't have the smart, shrewd GM/front office staff, the solid talent evaluators that OK City have.  You must build thru Draft...not just buy your team.  Sixers could actually do that, since it's a desirable destination - Minnesota, not quite.

They might have an upgrade at positions in talent, yes...but not where they're in a position to really get on a roll long-term.  There really was nowhere to go but up, for the T'pups this year. 

Just completely blow it up...nothing but short-term, 1-2 year deals max.  (NO to Brand, NO to Iggy type deals - no 4 year, 20 mil deals to AT BEST mediocre talent - Darko, Lou Williams, etc).  Trade it all away - and make SMART DEALS for your valuable trade chips.  Strip it down to the bare skeleton.  Lose even more.  Than lottery...lottery.  Lottery.  Draft right.

OK City...

Durant - lottery

Westbrook - lottery again

Green - SMART DEAL for valuable trade chip (trade Allen, get lottery pick)

Harden - lottery.

Cole Aldrich - SMART DEAL for draftee

Ibaka - draft pick

Minny seems like they're trying to get on the right path...

Flynn - Johnson - Love...just not hitting the right picks.

Since: Nov 7, 2006
Posted on: August 2, 2010 4:15 pm

Offseason Reviews: Northwest Division

There's just no rhyme or reason to all this right now. I have no idea what to grade it because I have no idea what the questions even are. Did they get better? I don't know. Did they get worse? I don't really know. Did they set themselves up for the future? I have no idea.

He has no idea what to grade yet he give them a d- because he isn't smart enough to figure out a team he clearly hasn't paid any real attention to.

Comparing the current roster to last seasons we find this:

pg  added Ridnour dumped Sessions...that's an upgrade

sf   added  Wes Johnson and Martell Webester dumped Gomes and Wilkins...this isn't a small upgrade it's a HUGE upgrade.

pf   added Beasley dumped Jefferson...on the surface it may seem like a step backwards but I ask a step back from what exactly? A 15 win team losing "the face of their franchise???"  The intent was clearly to make space for Love as much as anything, Jefferson had an inflated contract, couldn't/wouldn't run and couldn't/wouldn't  play defense. 

c   added Pekovic and dumped Hollins....well I've never seen Pekovic play but I sat through watching Hollins so at WORST this would be no worse than a wash.

Instead of playing a slow, ugly and ineffective game they now have an athletic team that can can actually get up and down the floor with some actual upside.  If clinging to Jefferson, Sessions, Gomes and Wilkins was the preferred answer (which the author of this seems to believe) then what the hell was the question?  Except for perhaps, how can a team make absolutey no improvement?

It amazes me that some people can't comprehend the desire and need to blow up a team that was run into the ground by McHale...of course one would have to pay attention to know that.

Since: Sep 25, 2006
Posted on: August 2, 2010 3:49 pm

Offseason Reviews: Northwest Division

I don't think the local paper here even covers the T-wolves anymore, or if it does, it's on page 8 behind the high school girls' volleyball scores.

Since: Aug 26, 2006
Posted on: August 2, 2010 1:59 pm

Offseason Reviews: Northwest Division

You said it perfectly, BemidjiHockey guy. But while there's not a plan, we'll at least be watching a team lose differently this year.

Since: Sep 18, 2006
Posted on: August 2, 2010 1:44 pm

Offseason Reviews: Northwest Division

If Sam Presti and Daryl Morey are playing chess and everyone else is playing checkers, right now it looks like everyone else is playing checks and David Kahn is playing duck-duck-goose.
FYI: Here in Minnesota, we play duck-duck-grey duck.

Also, we don't talk about the Timberwolves.  All questions about the team will henceforth be met with averted eyes and awkward silence.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or