A quick key of acronyms used in the entry: RFA = restricted free agent. PO = player option. TO = team option. ETO = early termination option.
1. Denver Nuggets
Players under contract for next season: Danilo Gallinari, Ty Lawson, Arron Afflalo, Kenneth Faried, Al Harrington, Wilson Chandler, Timofey Mozgov, Jordan Hamilton, Corey Brewer, Julyan Stone, Chris Andersen, Kosta Koufos
Free Agents: Rudy Fernandez (RFA), JaVale McGee (RFA), Andre Miller
What they need: The Nuggets are a solid playoff team with a bunch of good players like Lawson, Gallinari, and Faried. However, they don't have that one All Star or superstar that will push them over the top. If they want to be serious contenders, they will need that star player to lead them. Head coach George Karl has been doing a phenomonal job with his players, and GM Masai Ujiri has made several good moves since he was given his current position. They have three picks in the draft, one in the first round and two in the second round. They might look to package the picks and players to get an All Star on their team, but no trades seem imminent.
|McGee is expected to return to Denver this summer.|
2. Minnesota Timberwolves
Players under contract for next season: Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio, Derrick Williams, Wesley Johnson, Darko Milicic, Nikola Pekovic, Wayne Ellington, Jose Juan Barea, Luke Ridnour, Martell Webster, Malcolm Lee, Chase Budinger
Free Agents: Michael Beasley (RFA), Anthony Randolph (RFA), Anthony Tolliver
What they need: This team is somewhat like the Denver Nuggets. They have a lot of good players, but I think they have more with star potential. Kevin Love is already an All Star, and I think Ricky Rubio will be an All Star one day. Derrick Williams showed flashes of the star he could become in his rookie season, but he still needs to develop. With that said, they'll need more veteran presence in the locker room. They can target players like Atlanta's Tracy McGrady, Cleveland's Antawn Jamison, or Los Angeles Clippers' Kenyon Martin. These players can contribute as well as make the players in the locker room more mature. The Timberwolves are on the upswing.
|Can Rubio stay healthy|
this upcoming season?
What to expect: The Timberwolves recently traded their #18 pick to the Rockets for forward Chase Budinger. I don't think it was a bad deal since Budinger is a nice role player, but this draft class is regarded as one of the deepest in years, so I don't know if I would have done it. There has been speculation that the Timberwolves are trying to trade some of their assets for star quality talent. Martell Webster and Wayne Ellington have expiring contracts that will be attractive to teams. Nikola Pekovic is also an expiring contract, but if he produces like he did this past season, Minnesota will try its best to sign him to a long-term deal. Wesley Johnson didn't perform as well as expected in his second season, so there's question about his future with the team. I think the Timberwolves will only make some minor moves to sure up their bench, but that's it. If the key players on this team stay healthy, then Minnesota will be in the hunt for the playoffs this upcoming season.
3. Oklahoma City Thunder
Players under contract for next season: Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Kendrick Perkins, Serge Ibaka, James Harden, Nick Collison, Thabo Sefolosha, Eric Maynor, Daequan Cook, Lazar Hayward, Reggie Jackson, Cole Aldrich
Free Agents: Derek Fisher, Nazr Mohammed, Royal Ivey
|Can Durant and the Thunder return to the Finals next year?|
If they add some veterans, I think they'll win it all.
What they need: Experience. Veterans. Any of that. There is only one player on the current roster for next season who is over 30 years old, and that's Nick Collison. I would not honestly be suprised if they bought Derek Fisher back. He has championship pedigree and seemed to fit well in the locker room. Also, they need head coach Scott Brooks back. He's not Doc Rivers or Phil Jackson or Gregg Popovich but he is a very good young coach. He's done amazing with this team, and I think he can bring the championship to Oklahoma City. I like the way he runs the team and they will continue to grow with him as the head coach.
What to expect: In the NBA Draft, I expect the Thunder to select Michigan State's Draymond Green with the #28 pick. Green was the face of Michigan State basketball last year and played great for the Spartans, leading them again to the NCAA Tournament. He's a high character guy and is physical down low. He's more of a tweener but can be a solid back up behind Durant. Green reminds me a lot of San Antonio's DaJuan Blair, and I expect Green to be a nice role player in the NBA no matter what team he goes to. In free agency, the Thunder won't make any earth-shattering moves. They have a lot of young talent who I can see getting more chances during games. I can see them retaining Fisher and Mohammed but you never know what can happen. The organization has been run very well since GM Sam Presti took office, so I expect them to make the right moves that will get them back to the Finals next season.
4. Portland Trail Blazers
Players under contract for next season: LaMarcus Aldridge, Wesley Matthews, Nolan Smith, Luke Babbitt, Elliot Williams, Kurt Thomas
Free Agents: Nicolas Batum (RFA), J.J. Hickson (RFA), Jamal Crawford, Mehmet Okur, Hasheem Thabeet, Jonny Flynn, Raymond Felton, Craig Smith, Joel Przybilla, Shawne Williams (PO)
What they need: After looking at the current roster, the Trail Blazers will need a point guard, small forward, and center. They made an extremely smart move by trading Gerald Wallace to the Nets for a lottery pick, Okur and Shawne Williams. They have two lottery picks in the draft, where I expect them to fill their needs. If Kaleb Canales remains the head coach, they have one hole filled. The Trail Blazers have four picks, two in each round, for this year's draft. In a deep class, Portland can really position itself well for next season if they draft the right players.
|Portland does not want to mess up in this draft, so does that mean|
they will pass up on the inexperienced Drummond, despite his high potential?
5. Utah Jazz
Players under contract for next season: Al Jefferson, Derrick Favors, Devin Harris, Paul Millsap, Enes Kanter, Alec Burks, Gordon Hayward, Earl Watson, Raja Bell, DeMarre Carroll
Free Agents: Blake Ahearn (RFA), Jeremy Evans (RFA), Josh Howard, C.J. Miles, Jamaal Tinsley (TO)
What they need: The Utah Jazz are a borderline playoff team, but they have a lot of younger players who will be critical to the future success of the franchise. This includes Kanter, Favors, Burks and Hayward. These players will have to develop quick if this team wants to go deep in the playoffs next season. The Jazz will need a small forward, which will probably be easier to find in free agency since they are without a first round draft pick and the immediate talent they need is probably not available in the second round. Devin Harris is an expiring contract and has not worked out great so far in Utah, so they might need a point guard for the future too.
|Can Harris' tenure as the Jazz starting point guard|
be coming to a close soon?
That does it for my "Off Season Needs" series. I've covered each team from each division, and you can look for analysis on your favorite team on the right side of the main page. Just click the division in which your teams plays in, and read away! Next I'll be putting up my NBA 2012 Mock Draft. Kentucky's Anthony Davis is going #1, but how will everything else turn out after he's selected? I'll tell you who I think will go where. Tomorrow is going to be a great day for 60 young men, and I'm glad to say I'm going to the NBA Draft. I'm going to try to interview any players that will be there, and if I do, I'll post the interview(s) on here. Enjoy the draft tomorrow everybody!