NBA Preview/Offseason Grades – Northwest Division

Northwest Division

Oklahoma City Thunder

Who’s in: Hasheem Thabeet, Daniel Orton, Kevin Martin.

Draft: Perry Jones, Jeremy Lamb.

Who’s Out: Nazr Mohammed, Royal Ivey, Lazar Hayward, Cole Aldrich, Daquan Cook

Summary: Considering the Thunder made the Finals last year whilst having the fifth youngest squad in the league, allowing the chemistry to grow organically for another year makes perfect sense. Well at least we all thought until “savvy” GM Sam Presti ripped off the “pay me” sticky note  slapped on James Harden’s forehead, wiped his ass with it, and immediately flipped him to Houston.

Getting back equal value for Harden was never going to happen. Not for a guy who played 60% of game time yet returned a net value of +367 points, shot 52% on jump shots (68% on shots assisted), can run a second unit, is a play-maker, was clutch (+9.7 on his direct opponent in “clutch” situations) and impacts your team positively when on the floor in every single statistical category outside of blocked shots, opposition free throw attempts, fouls and defensive rebounding (barely).

Players like James Harden are not a dime a dozen and you do not let money dictate whether or not he is or is not on your team. Especially this team. A team who was seconds away from taking a 2-0 lead in the NBA Finals.

From a future perspective the deal is fine, the value is there. From a short-term perspective and purely basketball perspective I cannot understand anybody justifying this trade. Kevin Martin can do one thing; Shoot. Need proof? Fine. There’s eight categories that Kevin Martin ranked inside the NBA’s top fifty players for last season;

– 3 point attempts (7th)

– Free-throw percentage (11th)

– 3 pointers made (15th)

– Free throws made (27th)

– Points (33rd)

– Field Goal attempts (40th)

– Free-throw attempts (40th)

– Field Goals made (50th)

Kevin Martin ranks inside the NBA’s top 160 in just two other areas;

– Assists (78th)

– Efficiency (96th)

Kevin Martin ranks outside the league’s top 200 players in several areas, but namely;

– Rebounds (224th)

– Field Goal Percentage (230th)

Basically what we have here is the anti-beard. Kevin Martin is a shooting guard with nice size who can find the open shot but is a streaky shooter. Martin can hit the open three, get to the line, but does absolutely nothing else.

In other words he helps the Thunder in an area where they already possess two of the league’s top five scorers (Westbrook and Durant) and have the third highest scoring offense in the NBA.

This is why James Harden was worth every cent of a max contract. He does what no other shooting guard can. Harden impacts a game in a number of ways whilst contributing at a higher level of efficiency than anybody else at his position. This is a bad deal and the Thunder went backwards.

You might only see glimpses of it during the regular season. But come playoff time unless point guard Eric Maynor can make the leap (A bigger leap than you’re thinking) you will notice the hell out of James Harden’s absence in the Playoffs. All this and we haven’t even mentioned defense yet. For the record that’s also an area in which Martin stinks. Last season the Houston Rockets were worse in every statistical category with Martin on the floor outside of fouls drawn and free throws made. Houston were -15 net points when Martin played and possessed a 17-19 record.

Stop defending this fucking trade.

As for the rest of the OKC off-season… Coming out of Baylor first round draft selection Perry Jones was largely considered a top ten pick before a rumored knee injury resulted in teams jumping over each other to draft the likes of Fab Melo ahead of him. As the twenty-eighth pick in the draft Jones instantly became a steal especially in a situation like Oklahoma where he will be given time to adjust and grow.

As a former number two overall pick Hasheem Thabeet may be soiled in “bust” stink but at 7’3” and 7’3” (that’s all I’ve got) the former Huskee can still contribute six fouls a night (that’s all I’ve got). I’ll let former teammate Kurt Thomas sum up what I’m trying to say about Thabeet “I can’t make no wine out of water”.

There won’t be much coming from Thabeet next season but Harden or not there will be a helluva lot of wins piling up for the Thunder. Pre-Harden trade another trip back to the Finals was the minimum expectation. Now? I assume the goal remains the same but the task become infinitely harder.

Offseason Grade: D-

Predicted Win Total: 53-57

Denver Nuggets

Who’s in: Anthony Randolph, Andre Igoudala.

Draft: Evan Fournier, Quincy Miller.

Who’s Out: Chris Anderson, Rudy Fernandez, Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington.

Summary: Congratulations, you now live in a World where Javale McGee earns more than $10 million annually. The overwhelming positive is that Javale McGee and Anthony Randolph are now playing on the same professional basketball team; Thank you basketball Gods for smiling down upon Denver’s rocky mountain landscape.

The Nuggets may have severely shortened the odds of head coach George Karl experiencing a sideline coronary but they also addressed last year’s twenty-eighth ranked defense. With the addition of Andre Igoudala the Nuggets now have arguably the NBA’s most talented wing defender. Not only does Igoudala fill the gaping void on the defensive end he’s the perfect complement to Denver’s run-and-gun offense. The Lawson/Igoudala backcourt will be a consistent feature on Sportscentre’s top ten and should allow the Nuggets to repeat on last season’s efforts and lead the league in scoring yet again.

The huge kicker for Denver is that they were able to improve and save roughly $10 million whilst only having to offload swing-man Arron Afflalo and Donatello from the Ninja Turtles. The Igoudala deal also resulted in me Googling obscure things along the lines of “Is Orlando Magic GM Rob Hennigan the worst GM in the history of everything regardless of a one trade sample size?”

Offseason Grade: A-

Predicted Win Total: 48-52

Utah Jazz

Who’s in: Mo Williams, Marvin Williams, Randy Foye.

Draft: Kevin Murphy.

Who’s Out: Devin Harris, Blake Ahearn, C.J Miles.

Summary: Looking back was making the playoffs, getting swept by the Spurs and forfeiting a pair of lottery picks in the process essentially the right move? Instead of opting for additional youth the Jazz went the way of the veteran by adding depth pieces in Mo Williams, Randy Foye and Marvin Williams. With core members Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and the aforementioned Mo Williams all expiring after this season the Jazz can go a number of directions depending on how their seasons starts. If they’re in the playoff hunt they can chug along as a sixth-to-eighth seed. If it turns sour there’s plenty of flexibility to take it in another direction and make some moves at the deadline.

Improved play for Gordon Hayward, Alec Burks, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter will likely salvage the Jazz from being one of the most Vanilla squads to watch in the league.

Given their young bodies you’d expect the Jazz to be potent on the fast break but a lack of a pure point guard significantly decreases their ability in transition. Utah ranked twenty-forth in the league for fast break points and Mo Williams isn’t going to help them improve in that area any time soon.

Offseason Grade: C

Predicted Win Total: 40-44

Minnesota Timberwolves

Who’s in: Brandon Roy, Chase Budinger, Alexey Shved, Greg Stiemsma, Andrei Kirilenko, Dante Cunningham, Lou Amundson, Jerome Dyson.

Draft: –

Who’s Out: Darko Milicic, Martell Webster, Michael Beasley, Brad Miller, Wesley Johnson, Wayne Ellington, Anthony Randolph.

Summary: The goal for the Wolves this offseason was to clean house and re-tool for a shot at the playoffs. Minnesota posted a 4-17 record once Ricky Rubio went down which resulted in Wolves fans such as myself being locked into the fetal position for the past seven months. After missing out on Portland’s Nicolas Batum the Wolves were faced with a Kevin Love public whine buffet and an evaporating list of potential free agents before Brandon Roy turned all Forrest Gump and showed up with his “custom made titanium alloy magic legs”. If Roy can reach even 1% of his Blazer output he’ll be an upgrade over Wes Johnson.

Following the Roy signing was the acquisition of Russian pair Alexey Shved and former three-time all NBA defensive member and pig friendly jet ski enthusiast Andrei Kirilenko. In Shved the Wolves get a proven playmaker who can handle minutes at both guard spots and provide hair style versatility that hasn’t been seen in the league since the late Dwayne Schintzius. Reigning Euroleague MVP Kirilenko will bring plenty of versatility and can only add improvement to the Wolves twenty-fifth ranked defense.

Minnesota further underlined their commitment to a “win now” ethos by trading their first round pick for Houston’s athletic sharp-shooter and Adelman favorite Chase Budinger. With shot-blocking big Greg Stiemsma replacing the erratic Darko Milicic It’s increasingly obvious that the Wolves improved their roster across the board.

With a successful need addressing off-season Minnesota are in contention to overcome their eight year playoff drought. The key for the Wolves will be health. There will be yearlong question marks regarding Roy’s durability, and with significant injuries to stars Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love the Twolves depth will be tested from the get go.

Love’s absence will bring forward a chance for Derrick Williams to showcase his talents. The former number two pick has shown the ability to be productive when given an opportunity and In games where he played more than thirty minutes last season produced a healthy sixteen points and eight rebounds per game.

With Kirilenko, Dante Cunningham, Lou Amundson and centre Nikola Pekovic’s ability to kill a man with his bare hands, the Wolves could potentially hold off disaster and tread water until their stars return.

Offseason Grade: B+.

Predicted Win Total: 38-42.

Portland Trailblazers

Who’s in: Jared Jeffries, Dan Gadzuric, Joel Freeland, Victor Claver, Ronnie Price, Sasha Pavlovic, Giorgos Printezis.

Draft: Damian Lillard, Meyers Leonard, Will Barton.

Who’s Out: Jamal Crawford, Raymond Felton, Hasheem Thabeet, Kurt Thomas.

Summary: After back-to-back-to-back first round playoff exits they Blazers finally saw their run of postseason appearances come to an end last season. The reason behind the Blazers recent rebuild has been in part due to injury and, well no, that’s it. The Blazers are coming off a year where they were hit with the injury apocalypse for the seventieth straight season. We all know about Greg Oden’s woes, Brandon Roy’s lack of cartilage and the big man injury curse that has haunted every Blazer big in franchise history, so It was only a matter of time before LeMarcus Aldridge joined the list. Given the injury plague in PDX I’m not entirely sure that dancing with the Devil and drafting a seven footer in Meyers Leonard is a logical move. Why kick the Bear? Leonard has looked impressive thus far so my only advice for the former Illinois big would be to insure each and every limb and find a hobby that doesn’t require the use of his legs.

The positive out of Portland’s 28 win season (apart from Billy King gifting them a top six pick in starting point guard in Damian Lillard) was the firing of head coach Nate McMillan. The Blazers haven’t averaged over 100 points per game since the 1994-95 season and under McMillan Portland never finished higher than 28th in the league for pace. What I’m trying to say is they were more often than not boring as shit.

The name “Terry Stotts” doesn’t exactly have Portland natives continually alternating their underwear due to excitement, but if the new Blazers head coach replaces McMillan’s vendetta against ball movement with a free flowing offense that could quickly change.

Being forced to overpay for Nicolas Batum this offseason wasn’t ideal but a move that had to be made. Lottery pick additions in Leonard and Lillard will take time to develop, and with little roster depth the Blazers will likely find themselves lottery bound yet again.

Offseason Grade: C

Predicted Win Total: 31-35

You can follow Scott on Twitter: @ScottyBarby

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Posted on October 30, 2012, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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