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Northwest Notes: Nuggets, Freeland, Wolves

There’s only one Northwest Division team in the playoffs, but it’s been a newsy day around the division, with the Thunder’s apparent interest in UConn coach Kevin Ollie as a possible replacement for Scott Brooks perhaps the most significant story. Concerns in the Blazers locker room about whether LaMarcus Aldridge will re-sign loom over Portland, while another team already has a coaching vacancy, and we’ll pass along the latest from Denver and other Northwest locales here:

  • The Nuggets would prefer a coaching veteran to fill their vacancy, as Sean Deveney of The Sporting News writes within a larger look at the offseason ahead in Denver. Ty Lawson is probably staying put, Deveney adds, and the same can be said for Jusuf Nurkic, whom the Nuggets regard as a steal a season after he was the 16th overall pick.
  • British-born Joel Freeland hasn’t played a large role for the Blazers in the three years since he came over from playing in Spain, but as his contract nears an end, he would prefer to remain in the NBA and with the Blazers, as he told Chema de Lucas of Gigantes Del Basket (translation via Mark Woods of Portland can match offers for Freeland in free agency this summer, but that only applies to offers from other NBA teams, not overseas clubs, and the Blazers would first have to tender a qualifying offer of nearly $3.767MM.
  • Flip Saunders said today that the Wolves will have a strong prospect regardless of whom they draft with their first-round pick, which could fall between No. 1 and No. 4, but Michael Rand of the Star Tribune figures the coach/exec must hope he can land a big man. Rand argues that’s because of the injury history of Nikola Pekovic, who’s under contract through 2017/18. Top two prospects Karl-Anthony Towns and Jahlil Okafor are big men and the players widely projected to go next are guards Emmanuel Mudiay and D’Angelo Russell. Saunders said he’ll draft the best available talent rather than for position.

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