NBA Team Needs: Northwest Division

NBA Team Needs: Northwest Division
Jun 21, 2008, 12:01 am
Denver Nuggets (50-32 in 2007-08)

Draft Picks: No. 20

Depth Chart:

PG: Anthony Carter* / Chucky Atkins / Taurean Green*
SG: Allen Iverson / J.R. Smith* / Yakhouba Diawara*
SF: Carmelo Anthony / Eduardo Najera* / Bobby Jones*
PF: Kenyon Martin / Linas Kleiza / Nenê
C: Marcus Camby / Steven Hunter

*Potential free agent

Could use help at: Point Guard, Center

Bottom line: On paper, the Nuggets have one of the most talented rosters in the NBA. However, that doesn’t overshadow the fact that they were built to play in a way that isn’t conducive to success in the Western Conference Playoffs. No team with such tremendous athleticism should give up as many points as the Nuggets do, and while blame can’t be piled solely on George Karl, the franchise has to find a way to foster a defensive identity. Whether that means that means trading Carmelo Anthony remains to be seen, but Karl, Mark Warkentien, Brett Bearup and co. will need to find a way to get more than just scoring out of their roster next season.

Draft outlook: At 20, the Nuggets are in position to snag one of the many post players this draft has to offer, possibly even one that offers some presence defensively. The problem is they need an impact player, and those are usually hard to come by at that slot, particularly with size and athleticism. DeVon Hardin and Robin Lopez could both provide pay some dividends off the bench down the road, although Lopez’s stock may have surpassed that pick at this point. While neither player looks particularly ready (either physically, or experience-wise) to be a dominant defender at the NBA level from day one, each has shown a dedication to that side of the floor as a collegiate, and both have the physical tools to develop into solid players. Another option for Denver is Alexis Ajinca, who has the size and length to be a factor altering shots, but remains very raw and lacks the strength to hold position inside. Down the road he could reap dividends, though. Along those same lines we find players such as DeAndre Jordan and JaVale McGee, who recently have seen their stock fall to the point that they may be options at 20. Ultimately, the Nuggets may opt to trade down in an attempt to find a guard who complements Allen Iverson, and possibly would help bring some character to the locker room. It would be very optimistic to think that the Nuggets can remedy their problems with a draft pick, let alone one in the mid to late first-round.

Minnesota Timberwolves (22-60 in 2007-08)

Draft Picks: No. 3, No. 31, No. 34

Depth Chart:

PG: Randy Foye / Sebastian Telfair*
SG: Marko Jaric / Rashad McCants
SF: Kirk Snyder* / Corey Brewer / Greg Buckner
PF: Ryan Gomes* / Craig Smith* / Mark Madsen / Antoine Walker
C: Al Jefferson / Michael Doleac* / Chris Richard

*Potential free agent

Could use help at: Center, Forward, Depth

Bottom line: Minnesota has one of the youngest rosters in the NBA, but they are still in the process of adding prospects for the long-run. Though the team already has some nice assets in Al Jefferson, Rashad McCants, and Randy Foye, they still need another major contributor. Considering the franchise’s missteps in the trading market and in the draft over the past few seasons, this is not a decision they can afford to miss on. With the third overall selection, the franchise will have the opportunity to add yet another cornerstone next to Jefferson before tabbing anyone that falls out of the first-round with their other selections. The Timberwolves’s rebuilding effort is in full swing, and this draft affords them the opportunity to accelerate that effort considerably.

Draft outlook: Almost every draft service around currently has tabbed O.J. Mayo as the third overall pick in their mock draft, and they’ve reached that consensus for good reason. Mayo has everything you look for in a modern day guard, and while he isn’t an incredible athlete, Minnesota could definitely use another playmaker with some star quality. Despite all that, Kevin McHale has been known to think outside the box (for better or worse), and Mayo should not be viewed as a lock until he hears his name called on draft day. Kevin Love might actually garner some attention too, as he’s rumored to indeed be the apple of McHale’s eye. Minnesota might feel like it’s a bit of a reach to take Love here, and there is already some talk about them moving down two or three slots to let someone jump ahead of them and acquire Mayo while they draft Love and pickup another asset in exchange. It wasn’t too long ago that Brook Lopez was considered the consensus pick here, as it does make sense to acquire a starting caliber center that will allow the team to move Al Jefferson to the power forward position.

In the second-round, armed with two very early selections, Minnesota will likely target the top big man that falls to this range, and may opt for a European player in addition to stash overseas. It’s rumored that they may package these picks in an attempt to move up to the end of the first round. Ryan Anderson is someone that makes sense, offering great size and shooting touch at the power forward spot and a stark contrast to the players currently filling that spot in Minnesota. Richard Hendrix is another player who could garner consideration, as would D.J. White (McHale loves his Big 10 players), Jason Thompson, Omer Asik and Ante Tomic.

Portland Trailblazers (41-41 in 2007-08)

Draft Picks: No. 13, No. 33, No. 36, No. 55

Depth Chart:

PG: Steve Blake / Jarrett Jack / Sergio Rodriguez
SG: Brandon Roy / Von Wafer*
SF: Martell Webster / Travis Outlaw / James Jones
PF: LaMarcus Aldridge / Channing Frye / Josh McRoberts
C: Greg Oden / Joel Pryzbilla / Raef LaFrentz

*Potential free agent

Could use help at: Point Guard

Bottom line: The Portland Trailblazers really took a big step forward this season. Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge have turned into fantastic players under Nate McMillan, and have taken the team to a new level. Portland’s terrific staff has done a sensational job revamping the roster (and the organization in general) from top to bottom, making this team a force to be reckoned with in coming years. With the opportunity to add another player through the draft, Portland will be stacked with young talent. While Kevin Pritchard has the flexibility to pull the trigger on any number of deals to expedite the team’s competitive window, he may choose to let his current staple of players gain experience and see where things go. With a core featuring Roy, Aldridge, Webster, Outlaw, and Greg Oden, things will be looking even better in Portland very soon.

Draft outlook: Don’t be surprised if the Trailblazers deal their lottery pick on draft night. Portland has enough youth on its roster already, and would probably like to pick up a savvy veteran to set an example on the court and in the locker room. They are reportedly heavily shopping their pick at the moment, and as we’ve seen in the past, will have no qualms about making a move if it makes sense. Should Portland choose to keep the pick, Pritchard would strongly look at Russell Westbrook and D.J. Augustin should he find a suitor for Jarrett Jack or Steve Blake. It doesn’t appear that either will be on the board, though. They are reportedly very high on Joe Alexander as well, but he too may be gone when they pick. The name Alexis Ajinca has started to circulate more and more around this pick, and it will indeed be interesting to see if Portland pulls the trigger on this highly skilled, highly competitive and extremely raw player with incredible physical tools.

Pritchard is guaranteed to deal at least one (and possibly two or even all three) of his second-rounders in a package to sweeten a deal. Portland is the ideal franchise to draft Nikola Pekovic, who is unlikely to come overseas in the near future, but could be an instant contributor whenever he does. Most teams would be in a hurry to get a player like Pekovic in uniform, but Portland doesn’t have the roster space to make him come over before he actually wants to. Other internationals that their scouting staff has likely been looking at are Omer Asik, Serge Ibaka, Ante Tomic and Goran Dragic. Two other possibilities for the team in round two should they decide to keep the pick are Richard Hendrix and D.J. White, both of whom would add some muscle to Portland’s more athletic power forward stable, something that team is lacking somewhat. The Portland Trailblazers will be one of the most interesting teams to watch on draft day, since they’ve reached the point that they have, essentially, too much depth.

Seattle Sonics (20-62 in 2007-08)

Draft Picks: No. 4, No. 24, No. 32, No. 46, No. 50, No. 56

Depth Chart:

PG: Earl Watson / Luke Ridnour
SG: Kevin Durant / Damien Wilkins
SF: Jeff Green / Adrian Griffin / Ronald Dupree* / Mickael Gelabale*
PF: Chris Wilcox / Nick Collison / Donyell Marshall
C: Johan Petro / Francisco Elson* / Saer Sene / Robert Swift

*Potential free agent

Could use help at: Point Guard, Forward / Center, Depth

Bottom line: The Sonics are in need of a facelift, and are in position to add yet another immediate impact player next to Kevin Durant and Jeff Green through the draft. With six selections, a need at point guard, and a glut of underdeveloped raw centers, Sam Presti should have no trouble pushing forward with his plan to rebuild the Sonics. The young General Manager is almost guaranteed to make a deal, and with the way the team’s cap situation looks, he’s positioned himself to have tremendous flexibility in any transaction he chooses to pursue. All he needs to figure out now is where his team will be playing in the next few seasons…

Draft outlook: Much like O.J Mayo going to Minnesota, almost every draft service sees Jerryd Bayless in Seattle. His explosive offensive game will mesh well with Kevin Durant and give the team a playmaker. Though Bayless may not be a pure point guard, he’ll have a few seasons to work things out before the Sonics become competitive. Late in the first round, the Sonics could target a big forward with a legitimate mid range game. Serge Ibaka and Jason Thompson are capable of knocking down shots from the elbow, with Ibaka having the superior upside of the two. Either player would add a new dimension to Seattle’s frontcourt rotation. Marreese Speights and Roy Hibbert are also potential targets should they fall. They really have the benefit of being able to select the best player available, especially if someone unexpected like Nicolas Batum or JaVale McGee slips somehow.

The Sonics have four second-round picks, but it is entirely likely that they deal at least two of them for cash or a future selection. Seattle will probably heavily look towards international prospects to stash for the time being as well, as they don’t want to overload their payroll with too many rookies.

Utah Jazz (54-28 in 2007-08)

Draft Picks: No. 23, No. 44, No. 53

Depth Chart:

PG: Deron Williams / Ronnie Price / Jason Hart
SG: Ronnie Brewer / Kyle Korver / C.J. Miles*
SF: Andrei Kirilenko / Matt Harpring / Morris Almond
PF: Carlos Boozer / Paul Millsap*
C: Mehmet Okur / Jarron Collins / Kyrylo Fesenko

*Potential free agent

Could use help at: PF/C, Depth

Bottom line: Utah has emerged as one of the powers of the Western Conference, and while they don’t have the firepower of the Lakers or Spurs right now, they may have more longevity. The team doesn’t have any major holes, nor is its nucleus all that old at this point. Jerry Sloan has his team playing great at home, and the team may be a few moves away from being a very real threat to win the championship. However, it may take another team to falter to move Utah into the upper echelon of the West.

Draft outlook: The Jazz aren’t looking to add an immediate starter in the draft, so they can take some liberties that others cannot. For instance, they can take a player like Alexis Ajinca (who they’ve studied extremely closely throughout the season) and let him work on his body before throwing into their rotation. However, it seems more probable that they will add a player that fits in Jerry Sloan’s system. Kevin O’Connor may tab Roy Hibbert as that player. He could earn minutes at center as a rookie and be a nice role player behind Mehmet Okur. They also have to be intrigued by Marreesse Speights if he slips, as players with that combination of physical tools and skills are rarely available that late in the first round. Utah knows it needs to get more athletic in the front-court, and therefore will hope that someone with some bounce in their step becomes available. Serge Ibaka could be a name to look out for, even if they will have to wait a few years before seeing any real dividends. In the second-round, the Jazz may try and take a flyer on a guard. Players like Goran Dragic, Mike Taylor and Kyle Weaver could be available around the 44th slot. Jamont Gordon is another player who could provide versatile depth. At 53, the Jazz may tab a player like Sonny Weems who could be sent down to their D-League team, take and stash an international player, or trade the pick for future considerations.

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