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Tag Archives: Timberwolves

There is no doubt that the National Basketball Association’s 2010 free agency period left a deep impact in both the media and the public’s eye. The overall depth of the free agent class was so great that practically everyone declared there had been no other like it. Like the exodus of the Jews from Egypt a host of player’s chose to take their talents to a new team and start fresh. Nearly the entire landscape of the NBA changed in a matter of days and now we are left to pick up the pieces and figure out what is what and which teams are feeling good about their chances to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy in June.

 

The first half of this article will give some insight into the conference that lost a number of players to free agency but still has a number of threats that can legitimately vie for the title in June. The Western Conference may not have the same depth that we grew accustomed to in recent years. The playoff teams are listed at the end of the article.

 

Northwest Division

 

Minnesota Timberwolves

09-10 W-L: 15-67

 

With new coach Kurt Rambis and his hybrid-triangle offense the Timberwolves struggled to get any kind of synchronization and faltered to a paltry 15 win season. In the offseason they lost Al Jefferson, but as a player mainly known for scoring only is there any hope that the Wolves can get better on defense? They do have Kevin Love who played with Team USA in the World Championships and they gave Darko Milicic $16 million over 4 years to be their center so it seems they have the two big men they want. GM David Kahn still has to work with the point guard mess he has created, drafting Johnny Flynn but this offseason adding Sebastian Telfair with European blue-chipper Ricky Rubio still to come. They may not be contending this season but at least there are a few pieces to work with.

 

Utah Jazz

09-10 W-L: 53-29

 

The Utah Jazz may be the one team who lost the most players this offseason. With Carlos Boozer, Ronnie Brewer and Kyle Korver all going to Chicago PG Deron Williams will have to adjust to new addition Al Jefferson, who the Jazz believe can fill Boozer’s shoes along with Paul Millsap. Mehmet Okur, who missed most of the previous season due to injury, is hoping to make an impact with the team and there is no doubt that Williams will have them playing at a high enough level, but will it be enough to compete with the likes of the Thunder and Lakers in the playoffs?

 

Portland Trail Blazers

09-10 W-L: 50-32

 

A team that many said could have legitimately challenged the Lakers last season, the Blazers’ season started going the wrong way when top draft pick Greg Oden went down with yet another leg injury. Management did a nice job of filling the void by acquiring Marcus Camby, but an injury to backup center Joel Przybilla left the Blazers with little depth up front, and they soon found themselves without Brandon Roy as they were ousted by the Suns in the playoffs. Like with many teams the Blazers hope that this season will be the one where everything comes together. Barring injury there is a good chance that the Blazers do very well and make it deep into the playoffs, but injuries may always be lurking. Where the frontcourt had its issues, the backcourt is the virtual opposite. There is a great deal of talent and experience, with veteran PG Andre Miller and the talented Jerryd Bayless running the plays. There is one issue that the Blazers have and that is the unhappiness of backup SG Rudy Fernandez. Unsatisfied with his playing time, he has expressed his wishes to be released so that he may pursue and contract in Spain. It’s unlikely that the Blazers will release him, but in time they may be able to trade him and find a complementary piece to their core of Roy, Oden and PF LaMarcus Aldridge.

 

Denver Nuggets

09-10 W-L: 53-29

 

This year may be the swan song of the current group of Nuggets, with many core players’ contracts expiring and head coach George Karl in the last year of his deal. All of this doesn’t even include the Carmelo Anthony saga that really dampers the Nuggets’ chances of going all the way this season. It’s clear that Anthony will be gone and the only questions are when and where is he going. With the Carmelo Anthony cloud hovering over and players Kenyon Martin, Chauncey Billups, Nene and J.R. Smith approaching free agency we may Denver play very well but also speed up their roster turnover if the season goes south.

 

Oklahoma City Thunder

09-10 W-L: 50-32

 

This season’s trendy pick, it’s no secret that everyone believes the Thunder are legitimate contenders with Team USA MVP SF Kevin Durant showing the talent that made him the league’s top scorer last season. With their thrilling 7 game battle against the Lakers in the playoffs the Thunder may have been one player away from being a true rival to the Lakers. They addressed their need for size by drafting Kansas C Cole Aldrich. With Aldrich, C Nenad Krstic and PFs Jeff Green, Serge Ibaka and Nick Collison the Thunder are loaded with explosive guard Russell Westbrook and supports Eric Maynor and James Harden to go with their linchpin Kevin Durant. They surprised many last year, but it won’t be a surprise if the Thunder make a deep run and maybe hoist the trophy in the end.

 

Southwest Division

Memphis Grizzlies

09-10 W-L: 40-42

 

The Grizzlies last season showed they could play with a bunch of teams. With a resurgent Zach Randolph and C Marc Gasol the Grizz have a couple of big men who can play. They may have a few issues at guard with an ineffective Mike Conley leading to SG O.J. Mayo learning the PG position. One of the more puzzling moves the Grizzlies made in the offseason was handing Rudy Gay a max contract. While Gay may be a young and talented player there really was no reason for the Grizzlies to give him a contract of that size when they were really bidding against themselves. This may cripple them in the long-term and inhibit their ability to put out a good team in the future.

 

Houston Rockets

09-10 W-L: 42-40

 

The Rockets, like the Blazers, have their issues at the center position. They’re mainstay, Yao Ming, has shown that he has plenty of troubling staying healthy as he missed much of last season with a foot injury. The Rockets management then traded Tracy McGrady, Carl Landry and Trevor Ariza and brought in Courtney Lee. With a starting group of Aaron Brooks, Kevin Martin, Shane Battier, Luis Scola and presumably a healthy Yao the Rockets may be a group that can bounce back and get into the playoffs and probably make a dent depending on the team they match up with. They also have a good bench with Kyle Lowry, Lee, and explosive Chase Budinger coming in and being able to play extended minutes if needed. Look for the Rockets to stay low throughout the season and make their way into the postseason.

 

New Orleans Hornets

09-10 W-L: 37-45

 

The Hornet’s offseason was as action packed as any other team, with Chris Paul voicing his displeasure with the team and attempting to have a trade out of the Big Easy. Management was able to keep Paul from staging a full revolt and exit, and they were able to get Trevor Ariza to start ahead of the aged and ineffective Peja Stojakovic. The Hornets have the talent with Paul, David West, Emeka Okafor, Ariza and the young Marcus Thornton. A prime concern is their bench, where they don’t have much to offer against other teams with Marco Belinelli being one of their top guys off the pine. If this season goes badly, and it may not surprise anyone if it does, look for Paul to find his way out of New Orleans ASAP.

 

San Antonio Spurs

09-10 W-L: 50-32

 

It seems that every year the Spurs are the team that you just can’t seem to write off even though the age of their core gets a year older. With Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker all taking extended breaks over the summer to rest their bodies, it’s apparent that they and head coach Gregg Popovich know that this year could be the last that we see of the Spurs and their big three. Last season they dealt with injuries to their big three but young players like George Hill and DeJuan Blair were able to fill in nicely and make the most of their playing time. This offseason they finally added Brazilian Tiago Splitter, a Spanish League MVP who they believe can be the center they need to complement Tim Duncan in the post. Splitter has some skill with the pick and roll and running on the break, but like any Euro import there remains concern over whether he has the physique to handle the rigorous 82 game season. The Spurs also resigned Richard Jefferson to a restructured contract and hope that one year in the system can give him the experience to adjust to playing with the big three. The Spurs are looking to send off Duncan with one last ride into the sunset, but their season may hinge on the quality of minutes they get from their role players.

 

Dallas Mavericks

09-10 W-L: 55-27

 

The previous season seemed like déjà vu for the Mavericks, having a great regular season but again faltering in the offseason, losing to the Spurs in the first round. They have basically the same team this year, but are looking for a big impact from point guard Rodrigue Beaubois. Sweet shooter Dirk Nowitski will always give you the points and they have some effective players in Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood, and they added Tyson Chandler to be able to compete with the length of the Lakers. They have a roster that can make an impact, but do they have the mentality to make another deep run through the playoffs like in 2006?

 

Pacific Division

 

Sacramento Kings

09-10 W-L: 25-57

 

The young Kings have a good young nucleus that they can conceivably work with and hopefully contend in the next few years. With Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans and top draft pick DeMarcus Cousins they hope they have an inside-out duo that can bring success on the court. They also added Carl Landry mid-season as he was showing that he could be a force in the post. With the defensive-minded Samuel Dalembert manning the middle the Kings could bring an interesting game every time they play. The development of their younger players will be key, but they already have a core group that should be ready to play sooner rather than later.

 

Golden State Warriors

09-10 W-L: 26-56

 

The Warriors are a team looking to start fresh with a new coach, removing Don Nelson from his position and replacing him with rookie head coach Keith Smart. They have exciting young players in Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis and actively attempted to improve their frontcourt by signing forward David Lee. What remains of the rest of the team is a mystery with the entire team built to run and run some more in Don Nelson’s run-and-gun style. With a new coach how will the Warriors play and how effective, if at all, will they be? It’s doubtful they will contend and having players go from a pure offensive mindset to one with defense may be difficult to do this season.

 

Los Angeles Clippers

09-10 W-L: 29-53

 

The Clippers haven’t been good the past few years, and ever since their 47-35 season in 2005 their win totals decreased every year. They did win 29 games last year, but their top draft pick, Blake Griffin, went down early with a knee injury and missed the entire season. If Griffin can stay healthy this season they may be able to improve their record. The talent is there, with Baron Davis and Eric Gordon in the backcourt and Chris Kaman the main man in the paint. The Clippers have a shot at the playoffs if they can stay healthy, which is a lot better than what they’ve achieved the past few seasons.

 

Phoenix Suns

09-10 W-L: 54-28

 

After making a run to the Western Conference Finals the Suns became one of the victims of the free agent bonanza, losing marquee big man Amare Stoudemire to the Knicks. They did reload, adding Hedo Turkoglu and Josh Childress, but they only have Robin Lopez in the middle. Much of the roster remains intact, with Steve Nash still playing and his backup Goran Dragic fresh of a breakout playoff season.  They still have Jason Richardson, Grant Hill and Channing Frye, but the loss of Stoudemire may be too much to overcome with the Lakers still the top of the class.

 

Los Angeles Lakers

09-10 W-L: 57-25

 

As the defending NBA Champions, the Lakers truly earned their back-to-back, finishing off their season in a seven game series against the Celtics that they battled through until the final minute. This offseason they didn’t lose any true impact players, the loss of Jordan Farmar being the most significant. They added Steve Blake and Matt Barnes, bringing in a ballhandler and a defender to reload in their bid for a third straight title. They do have issues with health, with center Andrew Bynum delaying surgery until late in the summer and having no set timetable for his return. Kobe is also recovering from knee surgery, and it remains to be seen how he will handle this season. The Lakers probably will go for the marathon approach, trying to make the playoffs while sustaining the team’s overall health. They still have Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and Ron Artest to carry the load and they will be ready for the playoffs.

 

Playoff Teams (not seeded):

Los Angeles Lakers

Oklahoma City Thunder

Portland Trail Blazers

Dallas Mavericks

Houston Rockets

Utah Jazz

San Antonio Spurs

Denver Nuggets

 

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Here’s Tim Dimas’s feel on what the draft outcome will look like this year:

#1 Washington Wizards

John Wall, Kentucky, PG

This should come as no big surprise. John Wall is the consensus number 1 pick by all draft experts. The 6’4″ John Calipari cropped point guard is already the leading candidate for the Rookie of the Year Award. Washington is getting a face of a franchise player and if they keep Gilbert Arenas expect him to slide over to the shoot guard position to fit his scoring ability much more and let Wall run the team at the point guard position.

#2 Philadelphia 76ers

Evan Turner, Ohio State, SG

Lots of talks have been about Derrick Favors going here but the 76ers would be dumb not to take Turner. After last season they need to rebuild and why not do it with the second best player in the draft which is Turner. 6’7″ Turner is a Point Forward. Good hands on the ball and can rebound with the big boys. Andre Iguodola I have a feeling is on his way out of Philly so Turner can step it and possibly be the corner stone of this 76ers franchise.

#3 New Jersey Nets:

DeMarcus Cousins, Kentucky, PF

This was a big toss up for myself. Wesley Johnson, Derrick Favors and DeMarcus Cousins all bold well for this spot but I think the Nets go with DeMarcus Cousins. They spent the #11 pick last year to grab Terrence Williams who is a small forward that equal of Johnson and I think Cousins is more NBA ready then Favors and the Nets need ready over waiting after a 12 win season last year. Cousins 6’11” help Kentucky all season long and even though his question of character and work ethic is there I believe he will be better suited for the Nets over Favors.

#4 Minnesota Timberwolves

Wesley Johnson, Syracuse, SF

Best pick here for the T’Wolves. Wes can offer a lot to a team that has Al Jefferson, Kevin Love and Jonny Flynn in the long run. The 6’8″ small forward showed a lot of NBA readiness last year for the Orange and would be a great fit to this young athletic team that still has Ricky Rubio waiting overseas to come and join the team. Rumors have said for the Detroit Pistons to get Al Jefferson from the T’Wolves and if that does happen look for the Wolves to take Derrick Favors or DeMarcus Cousins, who’s ever available at this point.

#5 Sacramento Kings.

Derrick Favors, Georgia Tech, PF

Favors is raw but talented. The Georgia Tech standout would be a nice compliment to last years Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans. Samuel Dalembert who was recently acquired from the 76ers will be a good mentor for Favors on defense. Favors is an athletic and strong big man who has comparisons to Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic.

#6 Golden State Warriors

Ekpe Udoh, Baylor, PF

Very long and lean forward with a great set of skills. Blocking shots are one of his fortes. The 6’10” Forward could cause problems in the post for teams in more ways then one. First off his ability to take a step back shot from mid range and if that isn’t there, he can draw defenses away from Stephan Curry leaving the lethal shooter to spot up and knock down 3’s. Solid pick for a rebuilding team.

#7 Detroit Pistons

Ed Davis, North Carolina, PF

The Pistons are left with no big men down low. With Cousins and Favors off the board Ed Davis is their next best pick. Very craft when he gets into the post and has a great offensive game. Needs to get a little bigger to back down other forwards in the post. Very energetic and strong role player. Won’t be a star though.

#8 LA Clippers

Al-Farouq Aminu, Wake Forest, SF

Clippers have their point guard in Baron Davis, shooting guard in Eric Gordan and power forward in last years number 1 pick, Blake Griffin. What they are missing is someone to help run the wings and that is where Aminu comes to play. When it comes to the word athleticism only one word can stand in front of it, freak. Defense is one of the best in the draft. Only knock on Al-Farouq is his ability to create and hit shots.

#9 Utah Jazz

Patrick Patterson, Kentucky, PF

With the uncertainty of soon to be free agent Carlos Boozer, The Jazz need to make a play to replace him. Paul Millsap will be most likely be given the starting role and Patterson can come off the bench and be the Millsap off the bench. Patterson a little small at 6’9″ for the power forward position but with his soft hands, strong post moves and good feel for the offensive game Patterson will be a strong player off the bench. Very high basketball IQ and is a hand in shooter face kind of defender. Will make it very tough for other forwards to get to the basket.

#10 Indiana Pacers

Greg Monroe, Georgetown, PF/C

The Indiana Pacers have a lot of question marks on this team but adding Monroe with Roy Hibbert down low won’t leave anything to worry about in the post. People might disagree and say Hibbert should mean no Monroe but hey the Spurs took Tim Duncan when they had David Robinson already but it worked out. Twin Towers in the middle of the paint, defense does win games last time I checked. Monroe bestows a little athleticism but good feel on the offensive side not only with scoring but distribution of the ball to other players.

There are more picks to be made, decisions needed deciding. One thing is clear in this years NBA Draft. Lots of players can contribute to teams as starters or off the bench.

-Tim Dimas

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