Needs: Talent, 3 pt shooting, rebounding, defense
Picks: 2, 23, 24
Houston was the worst team in the league last season and saw James Harden relocate to Brooklyn for 5 cents on the dollar. Losing a former MVP is always going to hurt, but not getting a high level player back can cripple a team. They have a number of draft picks to help rebuild the team, but this is a team with a ton of holes to fill. With so many holes, they need to focus on taking the best player available and worrying about fit later on. Ideally, however, they will be able to address their poor outside shooting as the team shot 33.9% (3rd worst in the league) on 40.6 attempts (3rd most in the league) from behind the arc. The team was also 27th in the league in rebounding, so they will likely need to address that issue this offseason as well. Addressing the rebounding issue and limiting the amount of long rebounds from missed threes will help reduce the 116.7 points against per game (which is 27th in the league) that the team gives up. The Rockets will likely get Jalen Green} or USC’s [Player: Evan Mobley with the second pick. Mobley’s skill set overlaps a bit with Christian Wood’s, meaning Jalen Green is probably the more likely option. Green is an electrifying scorer who can create off the dribble or shoot off the catch. He is a true shooting guard, so he won’t totally fill the role that Harden did in Houston, but he would represent a major upgrade in talent over what the roster looks like today. The Rockets also hold the 23rd and 24th picks. They could use these picks to add depth to a roster that really needs it, or they could also look to package them in an attempt to move further up the draft board. If they hold on to both picks, they could look at players such as Illinois’ Ayo Dosunmu, Isaiah Todd, Usman Garuba of Spain, or Jared Butler of Baylor. The Rockets also have around 13 million in cap space, but likely won’t be signing a major player because they are in the middle of a rebuild, have a hugely unpopular owner, and need to build around young players.
New Orleans Pelicans
Needs: 3 point shooting, shot blocking
Picks: 10, 34, 40, 43, 53
With Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson, the Pelicans have their centerpieces, but the team needs to decide on an identity. Last season they focused on being an inside oriented team, neglecting the 3 point shot more than all but 5 teams. Because the very vast majority of Zion’s offense comes from inside the paint, this limits the space he has to work with and results in him dealing with more wear and tear as he battles inside. Adding more emphasis on scoring from multiple levels could open up their offense and help keep Zion healthy. They have a decision to make on Lonzo Ball, who is entering restricted free agency. They could look to run it back with Ball, but early indications are that they may be okay with losing him and trying a different approach. Should they let him walk, they will have approximately 18 million under the cap with which to add to their team. In addition to free agency, the draft gives them a good chance to improve their team, as they have the 10th pick, which could net them a player such as Michigan’s Franz Wagner, UCONN’s James Bouknight, Baylor’s Davion Mitchell, or Gonzaga’s Corey Kispert. Don’t expect the Pels to use all of their second picks, as many of those will likely be traded or sold off on draft night. One final thing to keep in mind with the Pels is that they hired first time head coach Willie Green, and his vision for the franchise may be different than what we’ve seen from the franchise the last few seasons.
San Antonio Spurs
Needs: Three point shooting, bigs
Picks: 12, 41
San Antonio has fallen off the last few seasons as they didn’t have top tier players to carry them. Long gone are the days of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, and Kawhi Leonard. Turns out that it’s much more difficult to win with DeMar DeRozan, Dejounte Murray, and Jokob Poeltl. It doesn’t help that the league has shifted so dramatically in favor of the outside game the past few years. It’s no secret that Gregg Popovich is not a huge fan of the three point shot, and that was evident last season when the team was last in the league in threes made and attempted. The team has some quality young pieces in Murray, Keldon Johnson, Lonnie Walker, and Devin Vassell, but they need a piece to bring them all together. Free agent DeRozan wasn’t that piece, and with his salary coming off the books, the Spurs have an opportunity to acquire that piece, as they have approximately 54 million dollars to spend in free agency. The team may decide to take a chance and instead of spending it all this offseason, they could hold onto some of that money and try to capitalize next offseason when there’s a star-studded free agency class. If any team is going to be pragmatic, it’s the Spurs, and there isn’t necessarily a player available this offseason that puts them over the top. Look for them to take on short term salary and further develop their young talent. In the draft they have the 12th pick, and some options that they could come away with would be Australia’s Josh Giddey], Texas’s Kai Jones, or Stanford’s Zaire Williams. Ideally they will be able to land somebody that can play the 4 or the 5, as the roster is incredibly thin in the frontcourt.
Needs: A secondary shot creator
Picks: 17, 51
Memphis is a team that if you simply look at the stats, you’re going to think they are nothing special, just a mid-tier team that sneaks into the playoffs. However, numbers don’t really tell the story. This is a team that has a lot of really good, complementary pieces. Young forward Jaren Jackson Jr. missed almost the entire season and Brandon Clarke, coming off a very strong rookie season, failed to capitalize on the opportunity. Despite this, Jonas Valanciunas, Dillon Brooks, and Kyle Anderson all rose to the occasion and made for a tough team to deal with on a nightly basis. When you think of the Grizzlies, ja Morant comes to mind, but the roster is actually pretty good around him. With no major players entering free agency and Jackson expected to be fully healthy to start next season, the team should take a step forward. If they can hit on the 17th pick in the draft, they could make a playoff run. The biggest need is for a secondary playmaker and shot creator to take pressure off of Morant. At 17, some options would be Miles McBride of West Virginia, Nah’Shon Hyland of VCU, Ayo Dosunmu of Illinois, or Josh Giddey of Australia. If they can land one of those players, it could really fill out their roster and we could see them take a step up from young team to legitimate threat in the West.
Needs: Wings, Bigs
Oh, Dallas. It all went so bad so quickly. The good news for the Mavs is that they still have All-World guard Luka Doncic and his greatness is enough to hide many of their flaws. However, they can’t rely on him to do everything himself. Kristaps Porzingis was supposed to be Doncic’s running mate, but he looked like a shell of himself late in the season and the playoffs and it’s fair to question the fit between the two. There were games where Porzingis looked unplayable, and even in some of the games where his numbers looked good, the team struggled. The third best player on the roster last season was Tim Hardaway Jr., and he is a free agent now. Josh Richardson could fill that void left by Hardaway, but he also has a player option and could elect to sign elsewhere. The Mavs have some cap space (although the Richardson decision obviously impacts that) but they won’t have enough to offer a top tier free agent an enticing deal. They don’t currently have a draft pick in the upcoming draft, and they lack many enticing trade chips. Porzingis would likely have a market, but it wouldn’t be as robust as it was a few years ago due to his declining play and large contract that runs through 2023-2024 if he chooses to accept his option year for over 36 million. What I’m trying to say is that Dallas is largely stuck with what they have right now unless they can find a creative way to rework this roster. Maybe they find a taker for Porzingis. Maybe they are able to get a couple free agents to sign for a little less than market value for the opportunity to team with Luka. Neither of those are guarantees, and without a ton of young talent on the team (Doncic, Porzingis, and Jalen Brunson are the only major contributors age 25 or younger on last year’s roster) the team is going to likely have to hope that Doncic stays healthy and that Porzingis reverts back to the form that made him the unicorn if they are to fix this roster.