Needs: Small forward, defensive rebounding, perimeter defense
Picks: 14, 43, 58
Denver is in very good position for such a young a team. Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Gary Harris are all good young players that Denver will continue to develop and look to add to. They also have a veteran in Paul Millsap to provide more frontcourt scoring, but he played less than half of last season. With him back and healthy next season, the Nuggets could very well wind up with a playoff spot. This offseason will be about building towards taking the step from rebuilding to becoming a contender. With Wilson Chandler and Darrell Arthur likely to opt in to their contracts for next season, the Nuggets won’t have much to spend in free agency. They would probably be best served trying to re-sign Will Barton and may even be able to finally find a taker for Kenneth Faried, who they’ve been eager to trade over the past couple of seasons. They’ve been unable to do so, but with his salary coming off the books after next season, the Nuggets might be able to finally unload him. If they do it on or leading up to draft night, there’s no telling what they might be able to get for him, but they could end up being the facilitating team in a three team deal that is able to pick up talent on the cheap. Speaking of draft night, the Nuggets hold the 14th pick, and with it there will be some interesting options. Robert Williams of Texas A&M could be their power forward of the future, taking over after Millsap leaves. They could also look at someone like Kentucky’s Kevin Knox, Michigan States’s Miles Bridges, or Maryland’s Kevin Huerter to fill the small forward position. A good offseason could easily propel the Nuggets back in to the playoff picture after narrowly missing the postseason last year.
Needs: Three point shooting, defensive rebounding, shot blocking
Picks: 20, 48
Minnesota is relatively cash strapped with big contracts on the books for Jeff Teague, Jimmy Butler, Gorgui Dieng, Taj Gibson, and Andrew Wiggins. The team has a solid foundation with those players and Karl Anthony-Towns, but they are in an awkward position after falling short of expectations and barely sneaking into the postseason last year. Add to that the rumbles that Towns is not happy about things in Minnesota, and this becomes a team that could be on the brink of being top 3 in the west, or falling apart completely. The Timberwolves, as currently constructed, don’t fully embrace the outside shot (ranking dead last in both makes and attempts) and don’t rebound the ball particularly well either, at least on the defensive side. Because of this, it becomes important that they find players that can fix those issues this offseason so that they can fulfill the promise they entered last season with. Butler and Wiggins will get the majority of the minutes on the wing, especially under Tom Thibodeau, but they would benefit from finding a player or players that can come in off the bench, play alongside either Butler or Wiggins, and knockdown open jump shots. If they can do that, not only would it allow them to take more advantage of the three point shot, but would also create more space for Towns to operate and grow. As for the rebounding issue, finding somebody that could play substantial minutes at the 4 or 5 position alongside Towns and has a high rebounding rate would help limit the amount of time they spend playing defense and could have a profound impact on the team’s overall success. The draft will allow them to potentially add a player to fill one of these roles. At pick 20, they won’t have a surefire superstar available to them, but there are some pretty good options expected to be on the board still. Oregon’s Troy Brown, Boise State’s Chandler Hutchison, or even Jerome Robinson of Boston College could be excellent fits for the Wolves.
Needs: Power forward, scoring
Picks: 21, 52
The Jazz struck gold in last year’s draft, picking up Donovan Mitchell, who balled out last season and looks like one of the premiere backcourt talents to build around. Can they strike gold again this year? They pick 21st, and will likely be looking to fill the spot that Derrick Favors may leave open if he opts to sign elsewhere in free agency. The Jazz have a very specific style in which they put defense first and look to grind out games. This can make it difficult for some players to fit into the team culture and style, meaning the Jazz have to be a bit pickier when choosing players to add to their roster. Because they have Rudy Gobert protecting the rim, Jazz defenders can get away with gambling a bit more, but if they don’t play hard defensively, the Jazz probably won’t be able or willing to overlook that deficiency. So, in the draft, who will the Jazz look for? Omari Spellman of Villanova would be an excellent fit playing alongside Gobert as he can stretch the defense, but also has the size and strength to defend frontcourt players at the NBA level. Outside of Spellman, there aren’t many power forwards available at this point in the draft, so the Jazz may look to add some guards or wings that can score, allowing them to take some of the scoring load off of Mitchell. If they opt to go that direction, Chandler Hutchison could be a good option, as would Elie Okobo of France, and Khyri Thomas of Creighton.
Needs: Off ball offensive players, active defenders
The Blazers finished third in the conference this past season and have CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard in the backcourt to lead the team. Both are electric scorers that can take a game over at any given moment. However, their blessing is also their curse, as the team ranks dead last in assists. With guards that score a ton, but don’t necessarily get other involved, it’s important to have players at other positions that excel at getting others in position to score. Now, not all of that is on Lillard and McCollum, as the other players on the team have to be able to get into scoring position and then take advantage of those looks, but it is certainly a weakness of this team. If there is a single team in the association that needs to add a dynamic playmaker on the wing this offseason, it’s the Blazers. The top options at pick 24 would likely be Khyri Thomas of Creighton or Gary Trent Jr. of Duke. The team is already over the salary cap, so don’t expect big movement from Portland at the start of free agency.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Needs: Paul George to re-sign
Picks: 53, 57
The Thunder have an offseason in which the draft is more of an afterthought, while they focus primarily on convincing Paul George to stick around Oklahoma City instead of leaving for Los Angeles. If they can do that, Russ Westbrook will still have his top running mate. Steven Adams gives them a strong interior presence, and Carmelo Anthony is unlikely to opt out, so retaining George would allow them to essentially keep last year’s team together after finishing 4th in the conference. An extra year of playing together would have a noticeable difference on the team and its chemistry. If, however, George opts to leave, Anthony will likely have to take on a more prominent offensive role, which would hurt the team’s overall efficiency and force them to lean even more heavily on Westbrook. The Thunder don’t have money to spend in free agency beyond their exceptions and the draft offers them only late second round picks, so the success of OKC’s offseason is 100% dependent on the outcome of negotiations with George.