Northwest Division

Denver Nuggets
Record – 50-32
Standing – 2nd Place / 5th in West
2011-12 Payroll - $40,175,414 for 10 players
Areas of Need –PF, SG, C




The Nuggets started the season in a very familiar fashion, jockeying for playoff position on the back of Carmelo Anthony. As the season progressed the writing on the wall became clear, the Nuggets had to deal Melo or risk losing him for nothing at the end of the season. The Nuggets made the deal to send Melo, Chauncey Billups, and Anthony Carter to the Knicks in exchange for Danilo Gallinari, Raymond Felton, Wilson Chandler and Timofey Mozgov. Many expected this momentous change in the team’s configuration to affect their performance but the new Nuggets managed to finish the season strong and land themselves the 5th seed in the Western Conference. Unfortunately for Denver, the Nuggets met the formidable Oklahoma City Thunder, which created matchup problems for Denver and were eliminated in five games.

The Nuggets are in a good position to remain a playoff team with their youthful core. With George Karl expected to return as coach next season the Nuggets must decide what to do with potential free agents Kenyon Martin and JR Smith. Without these two veterans, the Nuggets roster is even younger and less experienced. As the roster stands right now the Nuggets could also face potential problems with players fighting for minutes. Who is going to get the lions share of minutes at the SF spot, Danilo Gallinari or Wilson Chandler? Will Raymond Felton consent to being a long-term back up or will he look for other options as Ty Lawson looks to be the Nuggets PG of the future?

The Nuggets will look to infuse even more front court help as someone will need to be on the floor for the aging Kenyon Martin, whether he is retained or not. Do not be surprised if the Nuggets try to make deals in the draft to rid themselves of some pieces left over from the Melo trade in an attempt to acquire the type of game changing talent that was lost in the deal.

First Round Targets
Kenneth Faried PF Morehead State
DonatasMotiejunas PF Lithuania
Markieff Morris PF Kansas
Justin Harper PF Richmond
Nikola Vucevic C USC
Lucas Nogueira C Brazil
Marshon Brooks SG Providence
Chris Singleton SF Florida State
Tobias Harris SF Tennessee


Minnesota Timberwolves
Record – 17-65
Standing – 5th Place / 15th in West
2011-12 Payroll - $42,440,622 for 11 players
Areas of Need – C, SG, SF


The Timberwolves are a franchise that has produced many head scratching front office moves during the David Kahn era. During the 2009 draft David Kahn selected two point guards with consecutive picks and later selected Ty Lawson. In the 2010 draft Kahn selected Wesley Johnson with the third overall pick though they had a huge hole at C and two legitimate C prospects where still of the board, Demarcus Cousins and Greg Monroe. With this criticism however, one could praise one of the shrewdest and perhaps genius moves of the past year when the Timberwolves acquired the controversial and prolific scorer Michael Beasley for a mere second round pick.

The addition of Beasley provided one of the few bright spots for the Timberwolves over the past season. The Timberwolves finished with the worst record in the NBA despite the magnificent all-star season that Kevin Love was able to provide. The Timberwolves struggled to be consistent because of problems with the rotation. The Timberwolves were also able to acquire Anthony Randolph midseason by sneaking into the Nuggets-Knicks Carmelo Anthony Trade.

Looking forward the Timberwolves have so many pieces that one good draft pick or trade could put them over the top and towards a winning record. Kahn’s ability to finally bring Ricky Rubio to the NBA helps Minnesota tremendously as PG was one of their many needs. With two first rounds pick this year, including the 2nd overall pick, look for the Timberwolves to select the best player available rather than fulfill any specific needs.

Going into the draft, the rumor mills are alive with chatter that the Wolves are looking to possibly move the 2nd overall pick. Look for Kahn to be extremely active in talks throughout the draft and possibly make another head scratching move.

First Round Targets
Derrick Williams PF Arizona
Donatas Montiejuna PF Lithuania
Jonas Valanciunas C Lithuania
Enes Kanter C Turkey
Nikola Vucevic C USC
Marson Brooks SG Providence
Tobias Harris SF Tennessee
Tyler Honeycutt SF UCLA
Jordan Hamilton SF Texas


Portland Trailblazers
Record – 48-32
Standing – 3rd Place / 6th in West
2011-12 Payroll - $61,024,092 for 12 players
Areas of Need – PG, C, PF


The Trailblazers continue to produce playoff seasons without ever being able to make the late playoff runs that Portland fans are craving. This season started much like the past few for the Blazers, an injured Greg Oden, a franchise resting on the deteriorating knees of Brandon Roy and the sweet stroke of Lamarcus Aldridge. The Blazers were able to bring in Gerald Wallace midseason from the Bobcats in order to sure up the SF position with a veteran defensive presence. Wallace was able to provide what he has always been known for: defense, rebounding, and aggressive drives to the basket. The Blazers were able to create another successful playoff birth despite their injury woes and chemistry problems between Andre Miller and Brandon Roy.

The Blazers met the Dallas Mavericks in the first round gave the Mavs their best shot. Roy was able to provide his brilliant scoring bursts, in short spurts, but the Mavericks experience and superior teamwork proved to be too much for the still relatively youthful Blazers.

The Blazers have two major roster issues going into this offseason, frontcourt depth and the point guard position. Two players in specific are huge question marks for the Trailblazers, Greg Oden and Andre Miller. The Blazers could choose to let Oden walk this offseason if they believe the injuries are too much or that he is simply not the answer for their long-term center problem. In addition, Marcus Camby’s career is inching towards an end further amplifying the need for a center. As for Miller the Blazers need a youthful PG to lead the pack and coexist with Roy. Look for the Blazers to address one of their needs.

First Round Targets
Kenneth Faried PF Morehead State
Donatas Motiejunas PF Lithuania
Markieff Morris PF Kansas
Nikola Vucevic C USC
Lucas Nogueira C Brazil
Darius Morris PG Michigan
Iman Shumpert PG Georgia Tech
Reggie Jackson PG Boston College
Josh Selby SG Kansas


Oklahoma City Thunder
Record – 55-27
Standing – 1st Place / 4th in West
2011-12 Payroll - $49,066,878 for 13 players
Areas of Need – C, SF, PF


Since last season, the Thunder looked like a dynasty in the making. With Kevin Durant locked up for the foreseeable future and Russell Westbrook really coming into his own, the Thunder started the season looking. The Thunder stunned the basketball community when it made one of the most surprising deadline deals this season. The Thunder moved Jeff Green and Nenad Kristic to the Boston Celtics for Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson. This trade brought the Thunder a defensive backbone that they had desperately needed. With Serge Ibaka taking the minutes left behind by Jeff Green, the Thunder’s interior defense became an extremely intimidating force. The Thunder finished off the season extremely strong and earned home court advantage for the first round of the playoffs by securing the fourth seed in the West.

After disposing of the Nuggets, OKC matched up with the Memphis Grizzlies for one of the most entertaining series in recent playoff memory. The Thunder were instantly put to the test by the Grizzlies, who were led by Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol.

Once the Thunder were matched up against the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference finals the end was near. The experience and teamwork that the Mavericks brought proved to be too much for Durant and Co. What appeared to be a close series in the first two games was ended with two huge comebacks by the Mavericks that highlighted the Thunder’s immaturity. Durant was still spectacular and James Harden was great but Russell Westbrook played out of control and was not consistently disrupting the Mavs defense. The season should not be perceived as a failure because the Thunder are young and improving.

The Thunder’s roster for the next season does not display many major flaws but definitely has room to improve. The only important member of the team that is eligible for free agency is backup center Nazr Mohammed. Cole Aldrich and Byron Mullens may not be the future centers the Thunder had originally thought. These two factors could create a significant need for a backup center as Kendrick Perkins does not exactly have a perfect bill of health. Another potential problem could be the lack of anyone able to efficiently back up Kevin Durant to ease the wear and tear on him.

The Thunder could further cement their position as a franchise modeled after the Spurs by drafting a young European prospect and stashing him in Europe for a couple of years to help develop while the Thunder continue to chase a title here. If that route is not taken, the Thunder might look for an experienced draft choice that will fight for quality rotation minutes immediately.

First Round Targets
Tobias Harris SF Tennessee
Kyle Singler SF Duke
Davis Bertans SF Latvia
Tyler Honeycutt SF UCLA
Nikola Mirotic SF Montenegro
Lucas Nogueira C Brazil
Nikola Vucevic C USC
Jeremy Tyler C USA


Utah Jazz
Record – 39-43
Standing – 4th Place / 11th in West
2011-12 Payroll - $51,914,192 for 9 players
Areas of Need – PG, SG, SF


The Jazz spent much of the 2010-2011 season in transition. Starting with the offseason loss of Carlos Boozer and acquisition of Al Jefferson, the Jazz went into the season with a totally different style of frontcourt. Boozer is more of a pick and roll player while Jefferson is a back to the basket type center. The early part of the season really highlighted the transition that was occurring. The Jazz could not find much consistency while struggling early to create chemistry between star point guard Deron Williams and the newly restructured frontcourt. The Jazz were able to post a respectable record while fighting through these struggles.

The transition did not stop there though, as long time coach Jerry Sloan retired abruptly midseason. Sloan had been the staple of the Jazz franchise for decades and his retirement brought speculation of inner turmoil between him and Deron Williams. Williams was shockingly traded midseason to the New Jersey Nets for Derrick Favors, Devin Harris, and several first round drafts picks. Prior to the trade, the team was struggling but was still fighting for another playoff birth. The trade seemed like the Jazz were giving up on the year and the core that the organization had rode into the playoffs in the prior years. Unlike the Carmelo Anthony trade, there was no urgency for the Jazz to move him but they saw a chance to better their team for the long term so the Jazz closed the deal, effectively ending an era.

Examining the Jazz’s roster going forward, it’s hard not to see glaring flaws. With the potential loss of Andrei Kirilenko the Jazz will lose even more wing scoring that they had already lacked. Is Gordon Hayward the one to step in and take that starters role? Is he ready? The Jazz are also lacking any sort of PG depth. Devin Harris is the obvious starter but there are no options behind him. This is an extremely critical role that needs to be filled if the Jazz have any intent on competing in the heavily competitive Western Conference. The Jazz also need to look for a replacement for the rapidly aging Raja Bell. He can still play starter minutes but for how long and is he their best option?

The draft is a great opportunity for the Jazz to improve their roster instantly. They own the 3rd, from the Deron Williams trade, and the 12th overall picks. Look for the Jazz to install more youth into the franchise to further transition the team from the perennial playoff competitor they were not longer than a year ago.

First Round Targets
Brandon Knight PG Kentucky
Kemba Walker PG Connecticut
Jimmer Fredette PG Bringham Young
Klay Thompson SG Washington State
Alec Burks SG Colorado
Jordon Hamilton SF Texas
Chris Singleton SF Florida State
Derrick Williams PF Arizona
Enes Kanter C Turkey
Jonas Valanciunas C Lithuania