Portland Trailblazers
Needs: Efficient scoring, rebounding/ interior presence
Picks: 7,14,34,40

Last season, Portland was not very good, finishing last in the conference. However, they went into the year understanding that it was a rebuild, and on top of that, injuries put them behind the eight ball for much of the season. Anfernee Simons played 46 games, Jerami Grant 54, Shaedon Sharpe 32, Deandre Ayton 55, Malcolm Brogdon 39 and Scoot Henderson, their rookie point guard, 62. On top of that, of the 62 games Henderson did play, he didn’t look like the player Portland thought they were getting at #3 overall in last year’s draft. All of that worked together to lead to a 21-61 campaign in which Portland was 29th in scoring. This offseason will be about getting their players healthy and capitalizing on their four draft picks. With four top 40 picks, the Blazers are in position to add some significant pieces to their roster. I anticipate them looking to add an efficient scorer and at least one interior presence. Simons can score the ball and Sharpe has shown flashes, but the Blazers still need somebody that can complement them while not further dragging their efficiency numbers down. A team can have an inefficient scorer or two, but once they get too many of them it becomes exceedingly difficult to keep up with the other offenses in modern basketball. Tennessee’s Dalton Knecht could fit in nicely with the pieces they have in place, as could Tristan da Silva of Colorado or Cam Christie of Minnesota. They also need more bodies inside. Robert Williams missed all of last season with a knee injury. With his history, it’s hard to count on him staying healthy, and Ayton and Duop Reath could use a little help inside. UCONN’s Donovan Clingan would be a fit and could be the pick at 7 if Memphis doesn’t trade to move up from 9 before their pick. Duke’s Jared McCain would seem to be a fit at 14. The other benefit of having four draft picks and no expectation of being a playoff contender for next season is that Portland does not have to rigidly stick to filling needs. They could select somebody like Cody Williams early, who is a prospect with a ton of tools but will need some time to develop and then look to fill in some of their needs with their later picks.

Utah Jazz
Needs: Perimeter defense, three point shooting
Picks: 10,29,32

I simply don’t know what to expect from Utah. The last couple of years they come in with rock bottom expectations and then start off the season showing just enough promise to make you think they might have the pieces to build around and then they fall apart down the stretch. This past season, they won only two of their final 20 games, including a one point win over a Clippers team that barely played it’s starters. The Jazz have decisions to make this season that will drastically impact the direction of this team for years to come. They really seem to love Lauri Markkanen, but he will be a free agent after next season, and it would do the team no favors to lose him for nothing after this season. So, for that reason alone, it would not surprise me to see them move him to maximize the value they get in return. I would assume that they are counting down the days until John Collins becomes a free agent, but he has a player option after next season, so they could try to use Markannen to offload Collins’ deal as well. And if they end up moving their best player largely for draft capital or young players, does it make sense to keep Collin Sexton? Maybe, but Keyonte George could fill his spot long term. So Utah first needs to decide how they want to navigate this tricky offseason. They have three picks in the first 32 selections, with their first at number 10. Ron Holland would be a really good pickup for them, Cody Williams of Colorado could be a nice addition as well, and players such as Devin Carter (Providence), Carlton Carrington (Pitt) come into play should they elect to move Sexton. At 29, they could target somebody such as Antonio Reeves (Kentucky), Baylor Scheierman (Creighton), or Ajay Mitchell (UC Santa Barbara).

Oklahoma City Thunder
Needs: To not make a mistake
Picks: 12

The Thunder had the second best record in the entire league last season. Generally, a team like that is not in a position to make many moves. However, that is not the case for this Thunder team. They have the 12th pick in the draft and cap space to spend in the off-season. OKC seemed to have advanced more quickly than even they anticipated, and so when they were eliminated by Dallas, it was not generally seen as a major letdown. The Thunder sold off some young pieces in exchange for a washed up Gordon Hayward late in the year as if they were trying to skip a step, and it will be important that they not replicate that mistake this offseason. With Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Chet Holmgren, and Jalen Williams locked into their spots and Lu Dort and Josh Giddey as major players, the Thunder have the pieces they need to continue to compete for a championship moving forward. Giddey’s inability to hit the outside shot hurt the team in the post season, so it’s conceivable that OKC could look to find a guard to take his starting spot and move him into a 6th man role where he could focus on creating for the second unit. While I don’t anticipate him falling far enough, the Thunder would do well with a guard like Pitt’s Carlton Carrington, who can be a playmaker for others as well as shoot it and has a good deal of upside left to develop. However, they are not likely to force the pick, as they will take the highest rated player on their board and find a way to fit him into the roster they already have. Part of the reason they don’t have to force a pick here is because they have the cap space to make a move in free agency. With as good as the team was this past year, it’s not hard to see players lining up to sign with them, especially with few desirable teams having cap room this offseason. The Thunder will have to ensure that anybody they bring in doesn’t have a negative impact on the team chemistry they currently have. Some options in free agency include Malik Monk, Kentavious Caldwell-Cope, De’Anthony Melton, or DeMar DeRozan. The Thunder also have up to five draft picks next season, so they could also look to make a move using their draft capital. There’s a lot of chatter that Atlanta could trade the top pick to a team like San Antonio, but if OKC wanted to, they could easily jump into the fray if they liked Zaccharie Risacher, Alexandre Sarr, or Reed Sheppard as they won’t have room for all the draft picks they own. They could legitimately come away from this offseason as one of the most improved teams – a scary thought for a team that finished 57-25.

Minnesota Timberwolves
Needs: Bring back their own free agents
Picks: 27, 37

Welcome to Cap Hell, population: Minnesota. As a second apron team, Minnesota essentially has the team they are going to have next season locked in. They have extremely limited ways to add players to their roster. As a second apron team, they have no midlevel exception, can’t combine multiple salaries in a trade, send out cash in a trade, or use a traded player exception. So for that reason, they can only really sign their own free agents, use their draft picks, sign players to minimum deals, or make trades where they acquire less salary than they send out. On the bright side for them, they have Anthony Edwards, who ascended last season and looked great through much of the playoffs, Karl-Anthony Towns is locked in, Rudy Gobert was Defensive Player of the Year, and Naz Reid looked great as a sixth man. However, one of the biggest issues for this team is that they have an odd roster construction. As a result, they match up really well with certain teams and really poorly with other teams. With few ways to manage their roster, they will have to find ways to deal with the teams that they don’t match up well with. Edwards could be a star for them, but he can’t necessarily make up for their odd roster construction in which three of their top four players are centers. They do have the 27th pick, which could allow them to grab Pacome Dadiet for France, Johnny Furphy of Kansas, Baylor Scheierman of Creighton, or Antonio Reeves of Kentucky. Ultimately, with such a late pick, it’s hard to count on their incoming rookies to move the needle on such a good team, and with so few ways to improve their roster, it is imperative that they bring back as many of their free agents as possible. Kyle Anderson, Jordan McLaughlin, Monte Morris, and Luke Garza are all players I expect to see them attempt to retain.

Denver Nuggets
Needs: Resign Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Three point shooting
Picks: 28, 57

Denver, just like Minnesota, is a second apron team. So like the Timberwolves, Denver is in a position where they can’t add much to their roster. For that reason, it is imperative that they bring back KCP. He’s a plus defender that can also shoot from the perimeter. The Nuggets obviously play through Nikola Jokic, and that can create a lot of really good three point shots. However, last season Denver struggled to take advantage of them, as they were 25th in made threes and 30th in attempted threes. KCP was third on the team in both categories, so losing him would be a back breaker for the team. They still have Michael Porter Jr., but he doesn’t do much beyond scoring and Minnesota showed how to limit his effectiveness. Denver needs to find ways to spread the court for their Jokic//Murray-centric offense. As a second apron team, losing KCP could be a major setback for their team. For this reason, I anticipate the Nuggets paying him well to keep him around. Beyond minimum deals, I don’t expect much more action from Denver other than adding their draft picks, where they are rumored to have offered a promise to DaRon Holmes of Dayton. Duke’s Kyle Filipowski is another potential option here.


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