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NBA team needs: Northwest Division

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  • Denver Nuggets (50-32: second in Northwest, lost in first round)
    Draft picks: No. 20
    Depth chart
    PG: Anthony Carter* / Chucky Atkins / Taurean Green*
    SG: Allen Iverson / J.R. Smith* / Yakhouba Diawara*
    SF: Carmelo Anthony / Eduardo Najera* / Bobby Jones*
    PF: Kenyon Martin / Linas Kleiza / Nenê
    C: Marcus Camby / Steven Hunter
    *Potential free agent

    Could use help at: Point Guard, Center

    Bottom line: On paper, the Nuggets have one of the most talented rosters in the NBA. But that doesn’t overshadow the fact that they were built to play in a way that isn’t conducive to success in the Western Conference. No team with such tremendous athleticism should give up as many points as the Nuggets do, and while blame can’t be piled on George Karl alone, the franchise has to find a way to foster a defensive identity. Whether that means that means trading Carmelo Anthony remains to be seen, but Karl and VP Mark Warkentien will need to find a way to get more than scoring out of their roster next season.

    Draft outlook: At No. 20, the Nuggets are in good position to snag a post player that offers some presence defensively, but they need someone who can make an impact. DeVon Hardin and Robin Lopez could both pay some dividends off the bench down the road. While neither player may possess the physical assets to be a dominant defender at the NBA level, each has shown a dedication to that side of the floor in college. Another option for Denver is Alexis Ajinca, who has the size and length to be a factor altering shots, but he’s also very raw and lacks the strength to hold position inside. Ultimately, the Nuggets may opt to move up in an attempt to acquire Russell Westbrook, who would be a perfect complement to Allen Iverson. He also would add some character to the locker room. It would be very optimistic to think that the Nuggets can remedy their problems with a draft pick, let alone one in the late first-round.


    Minnesota Timberwolves (22-60: fourth in Northwest, missed playoffs)
    Draft picks: No. 3, No. 31, No. 34
    Depth chart
    PG: Randy Foye / Sebastian Telfair*
    SG: Marko Jaric / Rashad McCants
    SF: Kirk Snyder* / Corey Brewer / Greg Buckner
    PF: Ryan Gomes* / Craig Smith* / Mark Madsen / Antoine Walker
    C: Al Jefferson / Michael Doleac* / Chris Richard
    *Potential free agent

    Could use help at: Center, Forward, Depth

    Bottom line: The Timberwolves have one of the youngest rosters in the NBA, but they’re still in the process of adding prospects for the future. Though the team already has some nice assets in Al Jefferson, Rashad McCants and Randy Foye, it still needs another major contributor. With the No. 3 overall selection, the franchise will have the opportunity to add yet another cornerstone next to Jefferson. This draft affords the Timberwolves the opportunity to considerably accelerate their rebuilding effort.

    Draft outlook: Almost every draft service around has tabbed Brook Lopez as the third overall pick in their mock draft, and they’ve reached that consensus for good reason. Lopez has everything you look for in a young center, and while he isn’t an explosive athlete, his game fits perfectly next to Al Jefferson. Despite all that, Kevin McHale has been known to think outside the box (for better or worse), and Lopez should not be viewed as a lock until he hears his name called on draft day. Kevin Love might actually garner some attention, too. In the second round, Minnesota will likely target a player with potential and suited to be a role player. Ryan Anderson would fill the latter role, offering great size and shooting touch at the power forward spot and a stark contrast to the Minnesota players currently filling the position. McHale may opt to deal the other pick, making it a non-issue, but he would probably consider someone with a high ceiling like Bill Walker if he can’t pull the trigger.


    Portland Trail Blazers (41-41: third in Northwest, missed playoffs)
    Draft picks: No. 13, No. 33, No. 36, No. 55
    Depth chart
    PG: Steve Blake / Jarrett Jack / Sergio Rodriguez
    SG: Brandon Roy / Von Wafer*
    SF: Martell Webster / Travis Outlaw / James Jones
    PF: LaMarcus Aldridge / Channing Frye / Josh McRoberts
    C: Greg Oden / Joel Pryzbilla / Raef LaFrentz
    *Potential free agent

    Could use help at: Point Guard

    Bottom line: The Trail Blazers really took a big step forward this season. Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge have turned into fantastic players under Nate McMillan. With the opportunity to add another player through the draft, Portland will be stacked with young talent. While Kevin Pritchard has the flexibility to pull the trigger on any number of deals to expedite the team’s growth process, he may choose to let his current staple of players gain experience and see where things go. With a core featuring Roy, Aldridge, Webster, Travis Outlaw and Greg Oden, the future could be looking even better in Portland in a hurry.

    Draft outlook: Don’t be surprised if the Trail Blazers deal their lottery pick on draft night. Portland has enough youth on its roster already, and would probably like to pick up a savvy veteran. Should Portland choose to keep the pick, Pritchard would have no qualms with taking D.J. Augustin or Russell Westbrook should he find a suitor for Jarrett Jack or Steve Blake. Ultimately, he may decide to keep the pick just to see who is available, but he’ll probably have a few deals lined up beforehand. Pritchard is guaranteed to deal at least one of his second-rounders in a package to sweeten an offer, but has the chance to make a big splash with one of the others. Portland is the ideal franchise to draft Nikola Pekovic, who is unlikely to come overseas in the near future, but could be an instant contributor whenever he does. Most teams would be in a hurry to get a player like Pekovic in uniform, but Portland doesn’t have the roster space to make him come over before he actually wants to. Two other possibilities for the team in round two are Richard Hendrix and D.J. White, both of whom would add some muscle to Portland’s more athletic power forward stable. The Trail Blazers will be one of the most interesting teams to watch on draft day because they have too much depth.


    Seattle SuperSonics (20-62: fifth in division, missed playoffs)
    Draft picks: No. 4, No. 24, No. 32, No. 46, No. 50, No. 56
    Depth chart
    PG: Earl Watson / Luke Ridnour
    SG: Kevin Durant / Damien Wilkins
    SF: Jeff Green / Adrian Griffin / Ronald Dupree* / Mickael Gelabale*
    PF: Chris Wilcox / Nick Collison / Donyell Marshall
    C: Johan Petro / Francisco Elson* / Mouhamed Sene / Robert Swift
    *Potential free agent

    Could use help at: Point Guard, Forward / Center, Depth

    Bottom line: The Sonics are in need of a facelift, and are in position to add yet another immediate impact player next to Kevin Durant and Jeff Green through the draft. With six selections, a need at point guard and a glut of underdeveloped raw centers, GM Sam Presti should have no trouble pushing forward with his plan to rebuild the Sonics. Presti is almost guaranteed to make a deal, and by the way the team’s cap situation looks, he’s positioned himself to have tremendous flexibility in any transaction he chooses to pursue.

    Draft outlook: Much like Brook Lopez going to Minnesota, almost every draft service has Jerryd Bayless in Seattle. His explosive offensive game will mesh well with Kevin Garnett and give the team a playmaker. Though Bayless may not be a pure point guard, he’ll have a few seasons to work things out before the Sonics become competitive. Late in the first round, the Sonics could target a big forward with a legitimate mid-range game. Kosta Koufos and Jason Thompson are capable of knocking down shots from the elbow, with Koufos having more consistency from deep. Either player would add a new dimension to Seattle’s frontcourt rotation. Marreese Speights is another potential target should he fall. It is entirely likely that Seattle will deal at least two of its second-rounders for a higher selection, meaning they’ll probably find themselves back near the end of the first round. At that point J.R. Gidden or Shan Foster would provide some immediate depth in the backcourt.


    Utah Jazz (54-28: first in Northwest, lost in second round)
    Draft picks: No. 23, No. 44, No. 53
    Depth chart
    PG: Deron Williams / Ronnie Price / Jason Hart
    SG: Ronnie Brewer / Kyle Korver / C.J. Miles*
    SF: Carlos Boozer / Paul Millsap*
    PF: Chris Wilcox / Nick Collison / Donyell Marshall
    C: Mehmet Okur / Jarron Collins / Kyrylo Fesenko
    *Potential free agent

    Could use help at: Depth

    Bottom line: The Jazz have emerged as one of the West’s best teams, and while they don’t have the firepower of the Lakers or Spurs right now, their success may last longer. The team doesn’t have any major holes, nor is its nucleus all that old at this point. Jerry Sloan has his team playing great at home, and the Jazz may be a few moves away from being a very real threat to win the championship.

    Draft outlook: The Jazz aren’t looking to add an immediate starter in the draft, so they can take some liberties with their pick. For instance, they can take a player like Robin Lopez and let him work on his body before throwing him into their rotation. However, it seems more probable that they will add a player that fits in Jerry Sloan’s system. GM Kevin O’Connor may tab Roy Hibbert as that player. He could earn minutes at center as a rookie and be a nice role player behind Mehmet Okur. In the second round, the Jazz likely will try to add at least one guard. At No. 44, Anton Pankrashov is a unique player who can log minutes at point and use his size to create looks for his teammates. Jamont Gordon is a similar player who could provide versatile depth. At No. 53, the Jazz may tab a play like Sonny Weems who could make the roster as a reserve or trade the pick for future considerations.