Needs: PG/SG, C
Picks: 25, 55
Their core of future Hall of Famers might be getting old, but they still have plenty to learn; specifically, what it will take to topple the Miami Heat next year. Crippled by the lack of depth down low after dealing Kendrick Perkins for combo forward Jeff Green, the Celtics relied heavily on 15-year vet Jermaine O’Neal and 19-year vet Shaquille O’Neal, both of whom were all but useless in the playoffs. With a nice group of wings (Pierce, Allen, and Jeff Green, whom they’re committed to) and Garnett manning the PF position, but little depth in the backcourt, it’s clear that the Celtics will go for either a guard or a center with their first round pick.
There was a rumor floating around that Danny Ainge has made a promise to local kid: Boston College point guard Reggie Jackson, who might be a good fit even though they have last year’s first round pick, Avery Bradley, waiting in the wings. Jackson is a solid shooter, possesses great length, and could inject energy into the aging ball club.
But more likely the C’s will target a big man with a number of options potentially available, such as JaJuan Johnson, Trey Thompkins, Jordan Williams and Justin Harper. Johnson would likely be the safest bet of the lot due to his experience, shot-blocking ability and versatility. If he could add another 10 pounds, he would be ready to contribute at PF or C from day one.
New Jersey Nets
Needs: SG, SF, PF
Picks: 27, 36
Even after the mega deal that netted them Deron Williams, the Nets still hold two valuable picks in this draft. While important, these picks, unlike last year’s, will not govern the Nets offseason; they have just one year to impress D-Will and $18 million in cap space, so expect them to go all out in free agency and on the phone lines.
Though he likely won’t average more than 15 points, Anthony Morrow is a legitimate starting SG for this team with their lack of spot-up shooters. Point guards love to have someone that they can reliably kick it out to on the wing, the type of player that Williams never really had in Utah. They could still use depth at SG, but their most pressing needs are at SF and PF.
Drafting Derrick Favors last year prevented them from luring big-name power forwards Amare, Bosh and Boozer, and now that Favors is gone, the need for a versatile PF to play next to Brook Lopez is even more evident. Kris Humphries had a breakout year, but he still cannot create offense for himself and the Nets might be better off taking the money that they might have spent on Humphries and putting it towards a top-tier PF. David West would have been an excellent option had he not gotten injured. Unfortunately this is a very weak PF class, with Carl Landry being the second best option. The Nets are one of the few teams in the league that have enough cap space to absorb a huge contract, so look for them to take advantage of their fiscal freedom.
The Nets will have the same mindset when it comes to small forwards as well, though the free agent pool of swingmen is much deeper. For a team that desperately needs offense, they should look at Wilson Chandler and Thaddeus Young, both of whom would be great fits and won’t command cap-crippling contracts. Veteran defensive specialists Andrei Kirilenko and Shane Battier should be in play as well.
Expect the Nets to go with the best player available at 27, because the player they take certainly won’t be claiming a starting spot. JaJuan Johnson would be an excellent fit as he is ready to score in the NBA right now and can conceivably play PF or center with his 7-2 wingspan and 38” vertical. Marshon Brooks could provide the shooting that they desperately need, and Nikola Vucevic would be a solid addition down low. With their second pick, a raw but potential-laden big man should be in their sights; that means Jeremy Tyler, Justin Harper or Jordan Williams.
New York Knicks
Needs: PG, SG, C
With four roster spots to fill and no money to spend, the Knicks better make this pick count. Preparing to acquire either Deron Williams, Chris Paul or Dwight Howard next summer, the Knicks will not want to make the same mistake as the Heat and should try with all their scouting might to add a productive player with their mid first round pick. Seeing as Billups and Douglas have just one year left on their contracts, and nabbing Williams or Paul isn’t a certainty, they might want to consider every PG that could conceivably be picked in that region. Darius Morris would be a good fit and beat Jimmer Fredette head to head in their workout in front of the Knicks.
Apparently the Knicks are enamored of Kenneth Faried, who would be a handy defensive specialist for a team that currently doesn’t have any. Landry Fields looks to be a very satisfactory role player (assuming they add a big name in 2012), so they can afford to look at more one-dimensional players. It might be hard for them to pass on Jimmer considering how well he fits into D’Antoni’s system.
Needs: SF, PF, C
Picks: 16, 50
Who would’ve thought that even after a disappointing season for second overall pick Evan Turner and no major acquisitions, the Sixers would be in considerably better standing than they were the year before? New head coach Doug Collins instilled in this team a new mentality on the defensive end that everyone bought into. Elton Brand had his best season since 2006-07, Iguodala grew to become arguably the league’s best wing defender, Jrue Holiday improved immensely, while Lou Williams and Thaddeus Young combined to be the league’s best bench duo.
With the exception of Young, now a restricted free agent, they’ll all be back, though this team still has a number of needs to address. Re-signing Young, who had a terrific PER of 18.46, should be their top priority. They’ll then turn their attention to PF and C; Elton Brand could use a better backup, and their weakness at center will be magnified even more with Spencer Hawes becoming a free agent.
The Sixers have already stated that they’ll be targeting big men, which makes plenty of sense considering how many valuable guards they have locked up. There will be a number of solid power forwards available around the 16 spot (Markieff Morris, Tristan Thompson, Kenneth Farried, and won’t all be gone), though they may decide to reach for a center such as Nikola Vucevic. Vucevic, who measured 7-0/260 at the combine and is known for being a great shooter for his size.
Needs: PG, SF, C
Picks: 5, 33
Despite averaging 21.4 points per game this past season, starting center and former #1 overall pick Andrea Bargnani might have to go. It is becoming clear that this team cannot be successful with Bargnani down low; power forward Reggie Evans averaged nearly as many offensive rebounds (4) as Bargnani did total rebounds (5.2) in 10 less minutes per game, and his 0.7 blocks per game average is pathetic for a 7-footer playing 36 minutes a night. With two very promising young power forwards (Amir Johnson and Ed Davis), Bargnani has become expendable.
The Raptors would love for Enes Kanter to fall to them at #5; Kanter is more physical than Bargnani, is a legit 6-11, and possesses a nicer jumper than you might expect. They might not be willing to give up on Bargs yet, however, and this team could have as much as $14 million in cap space if Leandro Barbosa decides to opt out of the final $7.6 million left on his deal.
The Raptors will consider more players than any other team picking in the top five. They will have their eye on Kanter, but if he’s swept up by the Cavs at #4 as most are expecting, Kemba Walker would be the best available prospect. Though they have a decent veteran (Calderon) manning the position and a potential future starter (Bayless) improving at a good rate, there’s no doubt that Walker would be an upgrade and a great complement to DeMar DeRozan in the backcourt. They’ll also be looking at Brandon Knight if he slips to them, and Jonas Valanciunas is a possibility if he remains in the draft. Brian Colangelo might be one of the few GMs in the top 10 picks with the job security to draft Valanciunas and his difficult contract buyout and wait for 2-3 years for him.
Their most pressing need is at the swing, however, where they would be able to choose between [Player: Kawhi Leonard and Jan Vesely. The Raptors have proven to be one of the best drafting teams in recent years, and it will be hard for them to make a bad decision considering the variety of solid-fit talents they’ll have available to them.