Needs: Wing players, talent in general
Picks: 3, 10, 32, 39, 47, 52, 54
This 76ers team is built around two top 11 picks from last year’s draft in rookie of the year Michael Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel, who spent the season recovering from an injury. The lucked out and hit one of the top 3 picks in the lottery, justifying the decision to "tank" and trade away a promising young guard, Jrue Holiday. This year they will have the opportunity to add two top ten picks. There are rumors that they would like to trade up to number one, with Andrew Wiggins in their sights, possibly by pairing the number 3 pick and Thad Young, who has made it clear he would like to play for a contender. This is a young team that has a ton of holes to fill and even with 7 picks won’t be able to fill them all. It’s likely they trade some of their picks on draft night because no coach in his right mind would want to coach 7 rookies in one year. Ideally, they would like to land Wiggins with their pick, giving them some needed athleticism on the wing. The team appears set to make a strong push to add him. Staying pat and adding a skilled scorer like Jabari Parker might actually be their best option, but it does not appear to be their preferred one. Then, with the tenth pick they will be hoping that they can land Noah Vonleh, Julius Randle, or Aaron Gordon to replace Young in the lineup and then trade him for another piece they need. If none of those power forwards slide to the tenth pick, the 76ers will likely take the best player available and fit the player in to the roster they have in place. With such a bare bones roster, they need to focus on adding as much talent as possible and worry about making it all fit together later. Between their high draft picks, adding a healthy Noel, and their ample salary cap room they may be able to make a big improvement this year, but it won’t be enough to become a contender right away.
Needs: Everything except point guard
Picks: 6, 17
The Celtics knew when they blew up the "Big Three" era that it was going to be a total rebuild. Well, here they are looking to rebuild. The first and most important decision the team must decide on is what to do with Rajon Rondo. Do they want to keep him and build around him, or would it be in their best interest to trade him for other assets? There have been a number of rumors surrounding Rondo over the past few seasons, and where there is smoke there often is fire – so it wouldn’t surprise me if they trade him at some point this summer. Among insiders, he’s believed to be one of the most difficult players in the league, and there are questions about the ability to build a winner around a team led by such a difficult player. For now, let’s look at their approach should they elect to keep him and his expiring contract in town. They will have cap space to use in free agency (or to help in the event that they make a play to acquire Kevin Love) and two first round picks. They pick 6th and 17th, which should net them some quality players. As it stands, they have Rondo, Jeff Green, and Jared Sullinger as building blocks for the future, and they will look to add to that talent base on draft day. Rumors persist that the team is extremely high on Aaron Gordon at 6, however we believe that would be a significant reach. Marcus Smart would be a solid option if Ainge has decided that Rondo is not part of the team’s long term plans, a distinct possibility. If not, I think they could benefit greatly by getting a player like Noah Vonleh who would fit in well alongside Sullinger. Sullinger is very skilled but lacks ideal athleticism and shot blocking. Vonleh lacks the offensive game, but excels at rebounding and is improving at protecting the rim and has all kinds of athleticism. They would fit perfectly together in the Celtics frontcourt. At 17, it may be wise for the C’s to look at prospects that can play the point guard spot, with such a talented class this year. Elfred Payton, Kyle Anderson, Jordan Clarkson, and Shabazz Napier could all potentially be available there.
Needs: Point guard
Picks: 20, 37, 59
Toronto was a surprise last season as they ended up winning the Atlantic Division. They ultimately lost to the Nets in the first round of the playoffs, but for a team that few expected to see playing in the post season, it was a big first step. The most pressing issue for them this offseason is the fact that Kyle Lowry, who was their best player for long stretches of the season, will be an unrestricted free agent. The Raptors basically have two choices in terms of Lowry: break the bank in an attempt to resign the player that really led the team to the playoffs, or let him walk and hope they can find a replacement. The draft could influence their decision here. They don’t want to lose Lowry, but at the salary he will command, they may choose to set their sights on Elfrid Payton, Jordan Clarkson, Shabazz Napier, or Tyler Ennis and hope that a rookie can keep the team rolling. If they let Lowry walk they could also use their cap space to attempt to nab a restricted free agent replacement such as Eric Bledsoe or Isaiah Thomas, but the money would likely be about the same due to their restricted status, so they don’t have many options outside of Lowry despite what is likely to be a hefty price tag. It might be in their best interest to sign Lowry and make a play for Lance Stephenson of the Pacers. That would give them a lineup of Lowry, Stephenson, DeMar DeRozan, Amir Johnson, and Jonas Valanciunas. They’ll have options this offseason, but the biggest is what to do with Lowry.
Needs: Small forward, backup point guard
Here’s the thing about mortgaging your franchise’s future by trading draft picks and young assets for highly paid stars past their prime: if it fails, the team is in big trouble moving forward. The team got better as the season moved along and they should have a healthy Brook Lopez back, but the team is aging and over paid, and have very limited options to improve the team. Paul Pierce’s 15 million dollar contract comes off the books and yet the team is still way over the cap due to the contracts of Lopez, Joe Johnson, Kevin Garnett, and Deron Williams. If Pierce does indeed leave, it will leave a major hole in the Brooklyn roster. Alan Anderson and Shaun Livingston were also major contributors last season who may leave as free agents. This is a team that better figure it out in the next year or two or they will be in serious peril. The health of Williams and Lopez will play a big role in that. If those two can stay healthy the team has a chance, but age is also catching up with them. Williams is no longer the elite point guard we have come to know, and Kevin Garnett is a shell of his former self. KG set career lows in just about every statistical category (except rebounding, but that’s only because as a rookie he was allergic to rebounding). Seriously, look at his stats, it’s sad for anybody who witnessed just how good KG was in his prime to see him reduced to what he has become. Part of that is due to him playing fewer minutes, but even his per minute numbers are down. With the salaries they have on the books for the next few years and having traded most of their means for improvement, this team is in an unenviable position.
New York Knicks
Needs: Point guard, Small forward (potentially)
This whole trading all draft picks in order to field a team of high priced, under-performing veterans must be a New York thing. The big difference here for the Knicks as opposed to the Nets is that there is seemingly a light at the end of the tunnel for the Knicks. They’ve installed Phil Jackson to run the team and while this upcoming season shows little promise, after next season we will likely see some massive changes in Madison Square Garden. The one major wildcard in that is Carmelo Anthony. Melo can opt out this year and if he does, the Knicks will likely attempt to resign him. As odd as it may sound, it would likely be best for the team long term if they don’t resign him. The team would be best served by Melo opting in for the final year and here’s why: after next season the contracts of Tyson Chandler, Andrea Bargnani, and Amare Stoudemire come off the books along with Anthony. At that point, the Knicks would have enough cap space to make a huge Miami Heat-like splash in free agency (possibly including a certain member of the Heat). As it stands now, it appears Anthony will opt out and if the Knicks want, they may punt on next season by not resigning him and then looking to rebuild through free agency with a concentration on players that fit Jackson’s triangle offense that Coach Fisher will be running. Without a draft pick and no cap space to utilize, the Knicks are going to have to bide their time and use a patient approach in building the franchise back up, even if that’s unlike the New York style.