Needs: Scoring, Shooting, Rebounding
Picks: 1, 37, 42, 52
Detroit came away from the Draft Lottery as the proud owners of the number one pick. Because of that, they will almost assuredly come away with Oklahoma State guard Cade Cunningham. Cunningham is a player that can play on or off the ball, has excellent size, excellent vision, and the ability to turn a franchise around. However, there isn’t necessarily a quick fix for the Pistons. They have a flawed roster and will need some of their young guys to take the next step in their development. They have a roster that lacks scoring punch and outside shooting and while Cunningham can help in those areas, he’s not going to completely alleviate those concerns. Last year’s seventh overall pick, Killian Hayes, will need to become a reliable playmaker for the team, while Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Stewart will need to build on the foundations they laid last season. Beyond that, the Pistons do have a little over 40 million to spend in free agency to fill out the roster. It’s difficult to envision the Pistons landing one of the top free agents, but they could use that money to fill targeted needs. An interesting approach they could take is making a big offer to restricted free agent Lauri Markkanen and dare the rival Bulls to match. In that instance the Pistons either force the Bulls to spend more than they want for a player that I’m not totally convinced the Bulls love, or the Pistons come away with a player that could help create driving lanes for players like Cunningham and Hami Diallo (assuming they resign him) while bolstering the outside shooting of a Pistons team that only made 35.1% of their three point attempts last season. I could also see them trying to lure Bobby Portis away from the Bucks to provide some toughness and rebounding. Obviously being able to score the ball and create consistently good scoring opportunities is their biggest need, but I anticipate Detroit hoping that improvement from their young core fixes that problem with Cunningham running the offense. Cunningham is not a player that will single handedly make the Pistons a playoff team, but he’s a step in the right direction and gives them a plug and play primary ball handler that if paired with a few other high level players could put the Pistons back on track.
Needs: Scoring, Wings, Power Forward
Cleveland could find itself in an interesting position on draft night depending on how the first two picks play out. Cleveland picks 3rd and has a very real need on the wing for a player that can score the basketball. If Jalen Green fell to them, he could address one of their biggest weaknesses. He is a guard that could come in and get buckets right away while being able to play alongside the young players they already have on the roster. However, there is a real chance Green goes second overall, and at that point Cleveland would likely have to decide between taking a combo forward like Jonathan Kuminga or Scottie Barnes to fill a need, taking Jalen Suggs despite already having two point guards on the roster that were high draft picks, or selecting the conventional best player available in Evan Mobley and playing him primarily at the four alongside Jarrett Allen. Cleveland’s offseason is especially difficult to predict because of the uncertainty of who they come away with on draft night. Cleveland has approximately 18 million in salary cap space and could conceivably create more by moving Kevin Love, Larry Nance, or the expiring contract of Taurean Prince, but they’d likely have to throw in a young piece to facilitate those deals so they’d have to have a move lined up already to make it worth it and this isn’t a roster that’s one free agent signing away from being a playoff team. Cleveland could make a run at Otto Porter Jr. to give them a combo forward that can score the ball and hope that giving him the freedom to go out and be a scorer will rehab his confidence and open up the game for the Cavs’ guards.
Needs: Point guard, perimeter shooting
Picks: 13, 54, 60
The Pacers struggled last season, but there is reason to believe that they are better than last season may lead one to believe. For starters, TJ Warren played only 117 minutes last season after essentially morphing into Michael Jordan in the bubble. That’s not to insinuate that bubble TJ Warren is the TJ Warren we should expect when he comes back next season, but he’s clearly a major part of their team (and will be in a contract year). Simply adding him should make a big difference in this team, as he allows them to be more balanced and is a player that will compete on both ends of the court. In addition to regaining him, the Pacers will also be picking 13th in the draft. At that point in the draft, there will still be some very good pieces available, such as UCONN’s James Bouknight, Stanford’s Zaire Williams, Gonzaga’s Corey Kispert, or Illinois’ Ayo Dosunmu. The point being, Indy will have options. They won’t have salary cap room to add big time free agents, so it will be the draft and getting their players back that will determine how much improvement they show next season. Speaking of getting their players back, one of their biggest priorities this offseason should be resigning TJ McConnell, who is one of the most underrated players in the league. He competes his tail off defensively and create turnovers while being the second leading assist man on the team on the other end.
Needs: Mobile bigs, perimeter shooting
Milwaukee made it to the Finals behind the play of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton, but along the way they’ve had some of their weaknesses really highlighted. In the opening game of the Finals, the Suns hunted the Bucks’ centers in ball screen actions, forcing the switch, and then attacking that matchup. Giannis and Jrue Holiday are both very high level defenders, but if opposing teams can just choose a matchup, create it, and then exploit it, the Bucks defense falls apart a bit. The Bucks gave up way too much for Holiday to allow opposing teams to get away from him that easily, so they should be looking to add a big that is able to move in space better than Brook Lopez. That doesn’t mean they can’t play Lopez, but it gives them an alternative to turn to when teams look to exploit the matchup. The Bucks don’t have the cap space to go out and get a big name, but they could look at cheaper alternatives like Willie Cauley-Stein, Nerlens Noel, Paul Millsap, or JaMychal Green to fill that hole. They could also look to fill the role on draft night, but with the 31st pick, they’d likely be hoping for Charles Bassey of Western Kentucky to fall to them. Outside of that, the Bucks are in good position moving forward to be a power in the Eastern Conference which means we could also see some veterans looking to join them and chase a late-career ring. Next year’s Bucks team should look pretty similar to this year’s when all is said and done.
Needs: Power forward, point guard
The Bulls really changed their team last season by acquiring Nikola Vucevic, but integrating him into the existing roster was not easy. This offseason the team needs to focus on building a roster that complements the players they already have in place. Vucevic and Zach LaVine are the cornerstones and they have young players like Patrick Williams and Coby White that have shown enough promise to warrant being in the Bulls’ plans. LaVine attempted over 8 threes per contest, Vucevic averaged 5.8 three point attempts per game, and White attempted 6.6 per game. If they bring back Markkanen, he attempted 5.8 threes per game as well. So to bring all of these players together, the Bulls need to find a guard that can draw defenses in and kick out to the open shooters. The Bulls likely aren’t going to find that player in the draft as they only have one pick and it falls in the second round. They also don’t have a ton of cap space (approximately 12 million) as of right now, but they could create additional space with Thad Young (14 million) and Tomas Satoransky’s (10 million) non-guaranteed deals able to be taken off the books. The ideal acquisition would be a player like DeMar DeRozan, although it is unlikely Derozan would look to join a team that isn’t seen as a contender. Assuming they can’t land DeRozan, Victor Oladipo is a player that could be an option, albeit one that comes with some substantial injury risk. Spencer Dinwiddie could also be a target for the Bulls to fill that role. Ultimately, the Bulls should be looking for a player that can get into the paint and create for others while not needing to be the focal point of the offense. With a good offseason and some time for the players to develop some chemistry, the Bulls could take a major step forward, but they need that one piece to tie everything together.