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Offseason Team Grades: Nuggets, Timberwolves, Thunder, Blazers, Jazz

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NBA training camps started on Tuesday, and after a fairly turbulent and rumor-filled summer, many squads are looking different or wishing they did. Here’s a breakdown of the offseason each Northwest Division franchise had and how good it was with consideration for what could be expected and how it sets up the future success of the team.

Divisions previously covered:

Denver Nuggets

I tried to stall to see if something would get done with Carmelo Anthony, but it looks like he’s in town for the time being. Every trade that’s been floated out there would clearly be great for Denver, so at least that’s good for future grade changing. The Nuggets signed C Shelden Williams and re-signed veteran PG Anthony Carter for one year each and for cheap, so that’s good. Other than that, they had no draft picks and their big signing was a five-year deal to Al Harrington, who’s quite versatile but also streaky and not tough enough to play inside at all. Fans seem to be a lot happier about this deal than they should be. Grade (until Carmelo is moved): C

Minnesota Timberwolves

It wouldn’t be a David Kahn (Minny’s GM) summer without bringing in at least 3 guys who play the same position. Through a good trade, a bad trade, and the draft, the T-Wolves added SF Wesley Johnson (#4 draft choice), SF Lazar Hayward (#30 draft choice, through a bad trade, still unsigned?), SF Martell Webster (through a bad trade), and SF/PF Michael Beasley (through a good trade). They definitely did not need to re-sign Darko Milicic, so they wrapped him up for 4 years of course, as Kahn laughably dubbed him “manna from heaven” while trying to compare him with Chris Webber to Chris Webber (awk-ward). Minnesota signed Anthony Tolliver for two years, which I like. After drafting four PG’s and signing another one last year (they now still have one of those five), they went ahead and traded should-be-the-future-franchise-PG Ramon Sessions and Ryan Hollins for Sebastian Telfair and the chance to waive Delonte West, plus they signed PG Luke Ridnour for four years, but they still swear Ricky Rubio will show up at some point. OK. They also traded top player Al Jefferson for…well let’s just say nothing. Yeah they got some protected first-round draft picks, but Kahn selects those, so…yeah. I understand they had to make a change/decision with him, but I think we all agree they could have done better. There were a couple little things I liked about this offseason, and then a bunch of head scratchers. Grade: D

Oklahoma City Thunder

OKC signed GM Sam Presti to a contract extension, so this is a guaranteed good grade. On draft night, the Thunder picked up perfect-fit C Cole Aldrich and the last year of veteran Mo Peterson’s contract for a couple draft picks that didn’t fit their glaring need for a tough, defensive-minded center like Aldrich does. Also on draft night, they flipped Eric Bledsoe to the Clippers for a future first-round pick, which is great considering LAC’s track record and OKC’s GM, and they ended up with streaky shooter Daequan Cook’s cheap contract. They predictably got Kevin Durant to sign a contract extension, and he didn’t announce it on a TV special dedicated to his awesomeness, so that was great. This team doesn’t need much right now other than for their youngsters to get a little older, and that happened this summer as well. Grade: A-

Portland Trail Blazers

Portland signed SG Wesley Matthews to a long-term deal at a hefty price ($34 million over 5 years), but it makes more sense if you assume they want him to start alongside Brandon Roy whenever PG Andre Miller is dealt or his contract is up, although it’s still debatable if they really do play slow enough to go with no true PG in the starting lineup if that’s what they had in mind. The Blazers made some draft night moves to end up with best-shooter-in-the-draft SF Luke Babbitt, super athlete SG Elliot Williams, and emerging talent PG Armon Johnson. Greg Oden’s status is still unknown, so there’s that elephant. Rudy Fernandez was one second away from being traded for most of the summer, but he’s somehow back but unable to practice due to “blurry vision.” Rich Cho was picked up to replace GM Kevin Pritchard, but that awkward move (Pritchard was fired before the draft effective at the end of the draft, so he ran the draft) can’t be judged for a while since Cho hasn’t really done anything yet. Not too many moves outside of the Matthews signing, but in theory all they need is more experience and some health for once. Grade: B-

Utah Jazz

The big transactions were the inevitable loss of PF Carlos Boozer to free agency and the trade for PF Al Jefferson, which looks like a fairly even swap, and isn’t bad at all when you realize Paul Millsap is great off the bench and they got Jefferson for almost literally nothing. They signed defensive SG Raja Bell and his Kobe feud for a decent $10 million over 3 years, smartly re-signed Jolly Green Giant Kyrylo Fesenko for one year after he demanded a multi-year deal for most of the summer, and drafted supposed-to-replace-Kyle-Korver-but-probably-won't-for-a-while SF Gordon Hayward. They lost quite a bit with Korver, Wesley Matthews, and Ronnie Brewer all leaving town (Jefferson replaces Boozer just fine, so I’m not including him), but Jerry Sloan and Deron Williams will find a way to make the most of the still solid core that’s left. Grade: C+


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