Needs: Shooting guard, somebody able and willing to get to the free throw line
Many people don’t realize that Detroit had the third highest payroll in the league last season and that really shouldn’t change all that much this offseason, especially depending on what happens in free agency with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. This team has some quality pieces in place, but the fit isn’t exactly perfect. They also need to settle on a direction for their club. Do they build around Andre Drummond who has some very real strengths on the court, but some glaring weaknesses? Do they build around Reggie Jackson and Tobias Harris? Ultimately, that decision should help determine what player they select on draft night, because due to their financial situation, the draft will be their best way to build their team. They can make a trade or trades, but they really don’t have many players that would get them something great in return. Their best player is a center that is only effective around the rim, which runs counter to the direction the league is heading in, and that really puts a damper on his trade value. Outside of Drummond, nobody else on the roster would fetch even a fringe all-star. So, the question becomes, who can the Pistons land on draft night? Jarrett Allen of Texas would be a good fit playing next to Drummond in a big lineup, but the Pistons might find themselves having to play either Allen or Drummond in some matchups. They could look at TJ Leaf, John Collins as well, and both are guys that could play the four alongside Drummond. What they could really use is somebody that is able to get to the free throw line, as the Pistons were dead last in free throws made and second to last in attempts. They could survive that if they were a stellar shooting team, but they don’t shoot the three well either, which makes retaining one of their few shooters, Caldwell-Pope, that much more important. Unluckily for them, though, that really isn’t the strength of their area of the draft.
Needs: Frontcourt help, offensive efficiency
Picks: 16, 38
The Bulls obviously would like to have another year of Dwyane Wade, but believe it or not, that’s not their biggest need. While Wade, Jimmy Butler, and Rajon Rondo looked pretty comfortable playing together by the time the playoffs rolled around, the Bulls lack enough depth in the frontcourt to be a great team. Robin Lopez averaged 10 and 6 last year, hardly the numbers the Bulls would like to see from their most productive post player. The real story, however, might be how inefficient they were offensively. Wade, historically, has been an efficient player outside of his three point shooting. This past season, his age appeared to catch up to him a bit and his efficiency numbers took a hit. Butler stepped up and had one of his best seasons, though, and that was a large part of Chicago’s success. Rondo struggled all season, but in the playoffs averaged 11.5 points, 10 assists, and 8.5 rebounds. Sure, it’s a small sample size, but if the Bulls retain Wade and Rondo can perform like playoff Rondo, the Bulls will have the opportunity to add a piece in the draft that could make them a threat to advance deeper into the postseason. So, who will be there at #16? John Collins of Wake could provide some scoring from the four spot, Justin Patton or Bam Adebayo could provide a bigger, bulkier presence down low that would benefit the Bulls as well. They could also look to hit a homerun and select Harry Giles of Duke. Another potential wildcard is face up four man combine standout Kyle Kuzma, who is seen as a reach at 16 but has a great deal of talent and upside if he can become more focused and efficient. If they can find a gem at 16, the Bulls could be in really good position moving forward.
Needs: Guard play, a resolution to Paul George’s impending free agency
Picks: 18, 47
The most obvious issue for Indiana currently is not actually something that should have an impact on next season for them unless they make it an issue. Paul George has the right to opt out of his contract after this upcoming season and the Pacers must figure out if they will be able to resign him. Otherwise, they face becoming a situation similar to Oklahoma City when Durant left. The only difference is that OKC still had Westbrook to do the heavy lifting. If the Pacers lose George for nothing, the team could easily find themselves challenging for a top 5 pick in the draft. If they don’t think they can hold on to their franchise player, it would be in their best interest long term to trade him so that they at least have something to show for it instead of being left with nothing. Sacramento struggled with the decision with DeMarcus Cousins and ended up not getting much on paper via trade, so the Pacers can’t let this play out too long if they decide retaining George won’t be possible. However, if they decide holding on to him is likely, they will need to put pieces around him so that they can contend. That will start with guards this offseason, as Jeff Teague, who led the team in assists and was second in scoring, is a free agent. They also lose Rodney Stuckey who, while not the player he used to be, represented some depth. The Pacers will not only need to find a point guard (whether that’s resigning Teague or going in a different direction), but also need to maintain depth at guard in case of injury. They should have plenty of salary cap space to spend, but Indiana isn’t a prime destination, so they’ll most likely look to sign multiple good players as opposed to signing one top level free agent. Then, in the draft, their best bet will likely be to take the best player available at 18, regardless of position. They could look at guards like Luke Kennard, Terrance Ferguson, or Donovan Mitchell, but even if they go with a big man, as long as the big can rebound it would help them out. The Pacers should be looking to add talent at 18 and worry about how it fits later on. After all, nothing will entice George to stay like having enough talent to be a contender.
Needs: Center, rebounding, point guard
Picks: 17, 48
As one of the league’s young, up and coming teams, the Bucks have found a way to throw some non-traditional lineups out there and make it work, largely because Giannis Antetokounmpo is just a freakish talent that seems like he can do anything on a basketball court. Along with Giannis, they have Khris Middleton and Jabari Parker, who are really good players that have missed time due to injuries. Parker has played in 25, 76, and 51 games since coming out of Duke three seasons ago, while Middleton played in only 29 games last year. If those two can remain healthy, the Bucks have a nice little trifecta. Last season they had Malcolm Brogdon, a rookie, step up and look really good all season as well. With those four players, the Bucks could really stand to add a point guard to the lineup, or better yet, a center, because Greg Monroe isn’t the answer and Thon Maker is still a project. Seriously, could you imagine this team with a big, rebounding center in the middle? Currently, Giannis leads the team in rebounding, but if they could find their own version of Andre Drummond, the team would be extremely tough to match up with. In the draft, don’t be surprised if they target a bigger, bulkier frontcourt player to play that role, especially since they have the long, thin Maker already. Justin Patton would make a lot of sense, as would Bam Adebayo, but they could also look at raw, athletic UCLA center Ike Anigbogu or a trade down to the last first in which their target was North Caorlina freshman Tony Bradley.
Needs: A defensive stud
The Cavaliers have all of their major pieces back for next season, but that may not be enough if the Cavaliers can’t stage yet another miraculous NBA Finals comeback. They are no longer trying to just put together the best team possible, but also trying to figure out how to best counter the Golden State Warriors. The Cavs don’t have the money to throw at free agents, but the type of player they need could potentially be had via cheap either through an outright signing or via trade. Buying an early second rounder for cash would be one strategy, targeting someone like Wesley Iwundu perhaps. They need a very strong defensive player that is good enough all around to actually play meaningful minutes. The Cavs currently have Dahntay Jones, but he can only play on one end of the floor. Iman Shumpert was expected to be a three and D guy, but he isn’t an elite defensive wing. Cleveland has focused on offense, but because they have Irving, James, and Love who can all hold their own offensively, the Cavs should target a player like Tony Allen or Andre Roberson who wouldn’t have to provide much offense, but could match up with an opponent’s best wing players and negate them as much as possible. There has to be some balance and the Cavs can’t just rely on outscoring opponents to win, sometimes you have to stop an opponent from scoring, too. That isn’t to say the Cavs are a weak team, but if they want to achieve their ultimate goal, they may need to look at their roster composition this offseason. They don’t have a draft pick, so it’ll likely be cheap free agent deals for players looking to cap their career with a championship that the Cavs pursue to change their roster up.