Needs: Backup point guard, forward, shooting
Picks: 1, 17, 33
The Timberwolves have Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell set up as their cornerstones and will have the opportunity to really bolster their team this offseason, as they have two first round picks and a high second rounder. Obviously, there are a lot of people looking at what they do with the #1 pick, but those other two picks could pay very real dividends for the franchise long-term. Most people expect the T-Wolves to select either Anthony Edwards or LaMelo Ball, and while both of those players could help Minnesota, neither is a particularly good fit. The team’s defense is not very good and their offense is inefficient, and the same can be said about both of those players. If they can trade down, it might be a wise move, but the odds of that happening are relatively low. One of the team’s biggest issues is that they take the third most threes in the league, but only hit at a 33.6% clip, good for 28th in the league. So, assuming they take Edwards or Ball, they still will need to address that issue. The 17th pick could potentially help them fill that need, but there aren’t a lot of shooters in that range of the draft, Josh Green, Aaron Nesmith and [Player Tyrell Terry] are all players that would help out from a shooting perspective. They could look at forwards as well to provide additional depth to their frontcourt. If they go that route,Jalen Smith or Preciuos Achiuwa could be options.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Needs: Resolution to Chris Paul and his contract
Picks: 25, 53
Oklahoma City is a team that over-achieved last season relative to virtually everybody’s expectations. A large part of that was due to Chris Paul and his excellent play. Ultimately, though, this team seems to be in a rebuild, but hasn’t been able to fully commit to it because of the talent (and salaries) of Paul and Steven Adams. Rumors started circulating on November 10th that the Thunder were in talks with the Phoenix Suns about a potential CP3 trade, and while the trade partner was a bit surprising, a move would not be. With the deep stash of upcoming draft picks, the Thunder have the opportunity to completely rebuild this team in a short period of time, so it’s in their best interest long-term to expedite that progress. Because it looks like the hard reset is on the horizon for this squad, their pick at 25 is fairly tough to project, as they won’t be looking for anything in particular, but instead will look to get a player that fits with young players on the roster like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Lu Dort and someone that has plenty of room to develop. Some possibilities include Arizona’s Josh Green or Zeke Nnaji, Colorado’s Tyler Bey, or Serbia’s Aleksej Pokusevski.
Needs: Another dynamic scorer
The Jazz are in a situation where they have their pieces locked in for the most part and need to build out the team around those pieces. If you watched the Jazz in the playoffs, it became clear that although the team is dedicated to their defensive identity, on offense they devolved into the “Hey, Donovan Mitchell, bail us out here, will you please?” offense far too often. Mitchell is a great talent, but he has to do too much heavy lifting for them on that end of the court. Players like Bogdanovic, Rudy Gobert, and Joe Ingles are excellent in their roles and can score the basketball, but they don’t create a lot of offense themselves. For that reason, the Jazz need to find an offensive threat that can take some pressure off of them on that end. With the 23rd pick, if the Jazz can land RJ Hampton, he would need to develop, but he could be a really interesting and game changing addition for him, but Cole Anthony of UNC would also be a really interesting pickup as well.
Picks: 16, 46
The Blazers have Dame Lillard, CJ McCollum, and Jusuf Nurkic locked in, so now they need to take advantage of their opportunity and add the final pieces to make themselves true title contenders. They caught lightning in a bottle with the signing of Carmelo Anthony last season, and if he wants to run it back, I think the Blazers would be wise to do that as long as it doesn’t break the bank. However, they also have the 16th pick in this year’s draft, which will allow them to add another quality player to the roster. This is a team that, because of the way they play, they don’t rack up a lot of assists, and it could benefit them to find someone that is an excellent ball mover that could create less need for isolation plays and create easier offensive opportunities. However, their offense is effective, so it wouldn’t shock me if they opted for a player capable of breaking his man down off the dribble and forcing tough defensive match ups on opposing teams. Memphis’ Precious Achiuwa, Maryland’s Jalen Smith, and Arizona’s Josh Green are all players I’ll have my eye on if they’re available when Portland is on the clock. Local product Payton Prichard (pictured) would certainly be a fan favorite and would be an excellent pick to back up to Damien Lilliard if available to them at 46.
Needs: Shot blocking big man, resign Jerami Grant
The Nuggets proved in the playoffs that they are a hard-nosed bunch that never quit playing hard. Obviously, Nikola Jokic is one of the best players in the league and is very different from every other player at his position. In addition, Jamal Murray became a star in the bubble and this team, despite often being overlooked, showed that it is absolutely a contender. Paul Millsap, Mason Plumlee, and Jerami Grant are the only significant players that may be gone next season. If The Nuggets can resign Grant and further develop young players Michael Porter Jr. and Bol Bol, they could find themselves in excellent position again next season. Ideally, the Nuggets will be able to add a talented big man in the draft to backup Jokic (and protect against Jokic foul trouble) and offer more front court athleticism. They have Bol Bol, but he is too thin to be able to matchup with many of the bigs in the league, meaning they will want a big that could potentially play alongside of him or in place of him in certain matchups. Arizona’s Zeke Nnaji seems like an excellent fit, but I could see them being willing to move back in the draft and target someone like Kansas’ Udoka Azubuike or DePaul’s Paul Reed. This is a team that doesn’t need a star, but they need somebody that could play a Christian Wood type of role for them and help to bolster their lineup.