Needs: A trade partner
Picks: 14, 26, 30, 47
Boston may not have made it to the NBA Finals this season, but they are positioned to be in the thick of things for years to come. Their team isn’t perfect, but there is a considerable amount of talent on the roster that helps them to overcome the sometimes awkward fits. I’m not convinced we’ll see massive changes from the franchise this offseason as they don’t have a ton of cap flexibility, but they do have a lot of draft capital. The only problem is that they don’t need 3 first round picks, so what they really need is a trade partner that will allow them to either trade those picks for a better (or future) pick or use them to entice a team to make some other sort of deal that might net them a veteran. One of the biggest weaknesses this team has is that while they have 4 players that averaged 17.5 points or more per game, they don’t necessarily have a player that excels at putting others in good positions and makes the game easier for his teammates. Kemba Walker and Marcus Smart both averaged fewer than 5 assists per game, so it’s not a massive weakness, but getting Tatum and Brown easier looks could benefit the team in the long run, so I predict we’ll see Boston opt to add a backup point guard on draft night. Who that ends up being will likely depend in large part on what they do with their existing picks. Also keep an eye on any potential Gordon Hayward trade, as that could potentially change the construction of the team as well. It’s been said that Boston would love to move up to add USC bigman Onyeka Okongwu, (pictured), or perhaps Obi Toppin, to bolster their frontcourt, but whether they have the draft capital and/or willingness to deal assets to land one of them remains to be seen.
Picks: 19, 55
Brooklyn, at least on paper, should be a good team. Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are both outstanding players, and they are joining a team that already has Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris Levert on the outside and Jarrett Allen and DeAndre Jordan inside. The number one thing this team needs is chemistry, and the only way to get that is to spend time actually playing together, something that wasn’t possible last season as Irving, Durant, Dinwiddie, and LeVert combined to play just 129 total games. Add in that the team basically brought in the 7 seconds or less Suns to be the new coaching staff, and there is going to be some growing pains as they try to work out the kinks. If they do, this could be an elite team. That is, however, no sure thing. The parts could fit poorly together to the point that the whole is less than the sum of its parts, or Durant could struggle to regain his pre-injury form. However, the Nets seem committed to putting together a team with all of the tools needed to compete right away. One of those pieces would be the 19th pick, which the team could use in a number of different ways. They could look to pair it with Dinwiddie and make a trade, or they could stand pat and use it on a player such as RJ Hampton, who spent the season playing overseas and the team is rumored to be high on, Washington’s Jaden McDaniels, or Precious Achiuwa of Memphis. Ultimately, expect the Nets to be more concerned with getting the most value out of the pick as opposed to trying to fill a specific need.
Needs: New offensive approach, point guard
Picks: 21, 34, 36, 49, 58
Of all the “good” teams in the league right now, Philadelphia probably finds themselves in the 2nd weirdest position right now (shout out to Houston for being the strangest). The team is all in on winning right now, as evidenced by big contracts given to Tobias Harris and Al Horford, along with the firing of Brett Brown. Now, I’m not of the opinion that coach Brown was the problem, but something clearly needed to change in Philly. So they bring in Doc Rivers as coach and Daryl Morey to work in the front office, and now they have to figure some things out. First of all, do Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid really fit together? Is Ben Simmons better playing as point power forward or as a point guard? Do they have enough floor spacing to cover for the fact that Ben Simmons is petrified of shooting jumpshots? Rivers was able to win in Boston while defenses played 15 feet off of Rondo, but the league is a little different today. Ultimately, Rivers and company have to figure out if they want to keep their two stars in town, and if they do, figure out how to get the most out of both of them at the same time. I’m sure they’d like to move on from Horford and his giant contract, but that’s probably not feasible, so they will have to fill out their roster with draft picks, minimum salaried players, and the best players they can fit into their exceptions. The best case scenario might be to get a player like Kentucky’s Tyrese Maxey with their first pick, because he can play on or off the ball, giving them options to allow him to play alongside Simmons more often. Other players in the 76ers’ range include Tyrell Terry of Stanford, Desmond Bane of TCU or even Leandro Bolmaro of Argentina.
New York Knicks
Needs: A new owner
Picks: 8, 27, 38
The Knicks very well may be the worst run organization in all of American sports. They are always selling hope, but never actually provide any meaningful change. They remade their front office, brought in a new coaching staff, and will have some new players for the upcoming season, but it won’t matter. I repeat: it won’t matter. I am now officially convinced that the Knicks will be a bad team for as long as James Dolan owns the team. Remember during the 2014 draft when Fran Fraschilla said that Bruno Caboclo was “two years away from being two years away” when evaluating the pick? Well, the Knicks may very well be 10 years away from being 10 years away. There was a time that would have seemed like hyperbole to me, but we’re talking about a team that thought they could run RJ Barrett out on the court with half a dozen power forwards and call it a team. The top 5 scorers on the team last season were Marcus Morris, Julius Randle, Barrett, Bobby Portis, and Elfrid Payton. You can’t have a competitive team if the plan is just to throw money at your problems and hope they go away. There is a reason a rebuilding process is referred to as a process, but the Knicks don’t operate that way. They have the #8 pick to help them build the team and balance out their roster this offseason. They could look at Iowa St. point guard Tyrese Haliburton, French point guard Killian Hayes, or Auburn wing Isaac Okoro. Whoever they pick, it won’t matter long-term unless they make a fundamental change to the way the franchise operates, and I’m not optimistic that happens until a new owner takes Dolan’s place. Oh, and free Mitchell Robinson, he doesn’t deserve this.
Needs: Point guard, small forward, center
Picks: 29, 59
The Raptors didn’t experience the drop off many predicted when Kawhi Leonard departed to join the Clippers. Instead, they looked really strong throughout the season before being eliminated by the Celtics in seven games. The good news for them is that Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, and Norman Powell are all young pieces that played vital roles on the team last season. The bad news is that Fred VanVleet is a free agent and will be in high demand on the market this offseason. Also, Kyle Lowry is a 33 year old on the final year of his contract, so they may need to start making arrangements for the future of that position. They also need to find a more traditional big man so that Siakam isn’t stuck playing as the center. With so many needs, the Raptors will have a lot of different options on draft night and will be hoping a player they like drops down the draft board on draft night. Among possible options for them are San Diego State’s Malachi Flynn, Colorado’s Tyler Bey, Arizona’s Zeke Nnaji, Alabama’s Kira Lewis, or Minnesota’s Daniel Oturu.