NBA Summer Moves: Northwest Division
Portland and Minnesota add their desired point guards.
The teams in the Northwest Division decided to play things low key this offseason, opting to resign much of the talent on their respective rosters while dabbling only somewhat in the free agent market. Portland made the most noise by signing veteran point guard Andre Miller who will make life much easier for the rest of the Trailblazers offensive weapons, while providing a wealth of playoff experience. The Jazz and Nuggets kept things to a low hum around their camps by resigning a bulk of their free agents, though Denver did let Dahntay Jones and Linas Klieza walk. Those losses should be offset somewhat by the additions of Malik Allen, Arron Afflalo and James White who came over in trades.
Minnesota was able to set their backcourt for the next several years by signing Ramon Sessions to a fairly long-term deal. That was just one of a tremendous number of moves that took place for the Timberwolves who will begin the upcoming season with just five players who were in uniform for them last year. Oklahoma City had an almost non-existent summer given that their young nucleus is set and growing together as a unit, though veterans Kevin Ollie and Etan Thomas were added to the roster.
Best Offseason Move: (See Potential-Over-The-Top Move)
Potential Over The Top Move: Trail Blazers sign Andre Miller
Notice how the awards for best offseason move and potential over the top move have been going hand in hand throughout the breakdown of each division so far? The theme this summer was the teams on top got better by making the marquee moves during the offseason. Now, is the addition of Andre Miller suddenly going to put Portland in a position to take home an NBA Championship this season? No, that would be wishful thinking. However, the addition of a talented veteran point guard – particularly one with playoff experience — to a young, growing nucleus should prove to be a major step towards future success for the kids in the Pacific Northwest. Miller is certainly an upgrade at the point over Steve Blake and his playmaking abilities are going to make life a lot easier for everyone else on the floor, but the inherent value of this move can be summed up by two points.
First, in acquiring a point guard who is more of a scoring threat than Blake, the Trailblazers are making it harder for opposing defenses to key their backcourt defenders strictly on Brandon Roy. Second (and perhaps most important), Miller’s greatest value to this team may be the experience and intangibles that he will bring to the younger players he will be calling teammates. As much talent and potential as the Portland roster possesses, it is devoid of any real playoff experience (other than last year of course), something that Miller has plenty of.
Best Long-Term Move: Timberwolves Sign Ramon Sessions
Well after several additional months of waiting, David Kahn finally has his backcourt of the future. C’mon, you didn’t really think that he was going to waste Jonny Flynn as a backup point guard did you? Regardless, with so much of the attention focusing on a certain point guard of the future opting to stay overseas, Minnesota went out and signed the best option on the free agent market instead in locking up Sessions to a four year deal worth $16.4 million. In his first full season of action the former second round pick of the Heat produced very respectable averages of 12.4 ppg and 5.7 apg. Perhaps the most impressive number was his nearly 3 to 1 assist-to-turnover ratio while running the show a good amount of the time in Milwaukee.
Of course, if the T-Wolves really want to go small with the guards, Sessions does have the versatility to slide over to the shooting guard position, allowing Flynn to handle the reigns as floor general. This looks like a very solid move for a team in the process of rebuilding (albeit slowly) and trying to assemble a young, up-tempo unit for the future. Sessions doesn’t suddenly make Minnesota a contender for really anything, but at just 23, it will be interesting to see how he and Flynn develop together.
Most Overpriced Move: Nuggets Resign Chris Andersen
As important as Andersen is to the success of the Nuggets and as unfair as it may be to label his resigning in this manner, at the end of the day a 5-year $26 million contract is a lot for a player who sees 20 minutes of action each night. The Bird Man rebounds and blocks shots at a very high rate and brings a ton of energy off the bench, but he doesn’t offer much offensively and he commits a large number of fouls given the time he is on the floor.
Given how effective he was in short spurts for Denver last season, the front office may feel perfectly fine in putting up that much money to keep Andersen a Nugget. When you really break him down simply as a energy guy who plays solid interior defense though, shelling out more than $5 million a year for five years seems like an awful lot of money for a role player who sees limited minutes.
Worst Offseason: Oklahoma City Thunder
Yes, the Thunder had a very solid draft and their young players are starting to form a very intriguing nucleus that could explode in just a couple of seasons. That doesn’t excuse what turned out to be an absolute yawner of an offseason though. OKC let Desmond Mason walk in free agency and answered by signing veteran guard Kevin Ollie who hasn’t seen significant minutes on the floor since the ’02-03 season. The Thunder will be Ollie’s 12th team that he has suited up for, but the question really has to be where is he going to fit? He brings experience to an otherwise young team, but there are a slew of talented players already in the backcourt who will likely get minutes before he does.
Oklahoma City did make a smart move for the future in trading Chucky Atkins and Damien Wilkins to Minnesota for big man Etan Thomas and a couple of draft picks for 2010. This actually wasn’t a bad move in that the Thunder solidified their frontcourt somewhat, acquired an expiring contract and have now stockpiled five picks for the 2010 Draft; all of this for a couple of veterans who wouldn’t likely see much playing time next year anyway. Many years this might not be looked at as a terrible offseason, and it really isn’t, but compared to the rest of the division, the Thunder didn’t make much of a splash.
Best Offseason: Utah Jazz
It’s hard to argue with picking the only team in the NBA that didn’t lose a single player from their roster this summer, even if the Jazz only snuck into the Playoffs as an eight seed. Utah was able to keep their entire core intact, resigning Carlos Boozer, Paul Millsap, Kyle Korver, Mehmet Okur in addition to bench players Ronnie Price and Kyrylo Fesenko.
This ties up essentially all the money Utah has and leaves them somewhat crowded at the power forward position, but it guarantees that they will be battling into the postseason again next year barring any type of major injury. There is still the very real possibility that Carlos Boozer will get shipped off somewhere, but at least the Jazz can get something in return for him. Obviously, it wasn’t an overwhelmingly big offseason in the division for anyone, but Utah managed to keep a playoff team together which is to be commended.