Oklahoma City Thunder
Needs: Shooting, talent
Picks: 2, 12, 30, 34
Honestly, at this point nobody truly knows what Oklahoma City is or could be. They have made absolutely zero effort to be a winning franchise as they try to collect every draft pick possible and build towards a future that may or may not ever actually come to fruition. “Trust the Process Revisited”. Their best players become unavailable (sit out) a big chunk of the year as they try to tank. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (who OKC is looking to trade) played 56 games, Josh Giddey played 54, and Lu Dort played 51. Meanwhile, the project that is Aeksej Pokusevski played 61 and Darius Bazley played 69. They have the second and 12th pick with which to add to their stable of talent, and it’s a safe bet that they will look to add either Paolo Banchero or Chet Holmgren with the 2nd pick to give themselves some additional size on the interior. At 12, it will likely be a best player available situation, so look for them to target Ohio State’s Malaki Branham, Wisconsin’s Johnny Davis, Kansas’ Ochai Agbaji, and maybe even Duke’s Mark Williams. With OKC, they will be building towards the future and focusing on draft picks. They will likely be active trade seekers during the draft, so expect them to make at least a couple moves. They have a ton of cap space, but likely lack the draw to pull a major player out of free agency, especially one that will fit their timeline. If they use their cap space, it will likely be in taking on salary in trade and picking up future picks. So again, it’s all about the draft and collecting future assets for the Thunder. Sam Presti’s greatest ever pick was Russell Westbrook, who was a shock to many at 4, and even though it didn’t result in championships, Westbrook turned into one of the most electric and dynamic players in the league for many years. Could Presti see some Westbrook in Jaden Ivey and shock everyone again and select him at 2? Or possibly dangle a trade including SGA and a package of picks along with the 12th pick to move up for Ivey between 3 and 5?
Picks: 7, 36, 59
It feels like the Dame Lillard in Portland thing has played out now. They seemingly reached their ceiling building around him, and trading CJ McCollum signals that they may potentially feel the same way. They aren’t built to win big right now, and Lillard can only carry the team so far. Will they move him this offseason? Hard to say, but I still lean towards no, but we could see him moved during next season. Because of this very real possibility, Portland will likely look to build towards the future this offseason instead of trying to contend now. That begins with the 7th pick in the draft. If they are smart, they will focus on the future and take the best available player regardless of fit on the current roster and position, but there’s a chance that Portland refuses to commit to a rebuild and find themselves directionless. With the 7th pick, they could take a swing with Shaedon Sharpe, the young guard that never played a minute of college basketball, take a solid upside player like AJ Griffin of Duke, or Benedict Mathurin of Arizona. If they elect to attempt to build a contender around Lillard, I could also see them targeting Ochai Agbaji of Kansas to be a wing defender. Assuming they keep Lillard, the Blazers could have north of 30 million in cap space, but will have to account for Anfernee Simons and his restricted free agency. It could be worth it for them to make a run at Phoenix center Deandre Ayton in free agency. They could build around a former #1 overall pick who is still young and use the assets gained from a Lillard trade to set themselves up for years to come.
Needs: A third wheel for Edwards and Towns
Picks: 19, 40, 48, 50
The Timberwolves exceeded expectations this season as Anthony Edwards blossomed into an electrifying scorer and Karl Anthony-Towns remained dominant. D’Angelo Russell was good as well, and was one of the few players on the roster that created scoring opportunities for others, leading the team in assists at 7.1 per game. With Pat Beverley and Jarred Vanderbilt supplying fantastic defense, the team made a late run to secure a playoff spot before being bounced by Memphis. One of the big issues is that in the postseason they suddenly had to change their rotation as Vanderbilt became nearly unplayable. They will need to find one more significant piece for them to become true contenders in the West. They’ve got the mid-level exception to use to sign a player for approximately 10 million a season, but it’s difficult to lure top targets to Minnesota, so it may come down to how well they do on draft night. They hold the 19th pick, and some names that could be relevant to them on draft night are Baylor’s Jeremy Sochan, the G-League’s Jaden Hardy, Santa Clara’s Jalen Williams, or France’s Ousmane Dieng. Minnesota showed promise this season, now the question becomes how much they can build off this season’s success.
The Nuggets have one advantage over the rest of the league: they have Nikola Jokic on their roster. The back-to-back MVP winner was phenomenal this past season, leading the Nuggets to the 6 seed despite their roster being decimated to the point that Austin Rivers and Facundo Campazzo were vital cogs in their rotation. Assuming Jamal Murray comes back healthy this season, Michael Porter Jr. is able to remain healthy (a rather large “if”), and Aaron Gordon is able to settle in as a complimentary player, the Nuggets could very well catapult themselves up a few spots in the conference standings. This is a team that has a lot of really good pieces that fit together extremely well, and because of Jokic can play a style very different from other teams in the league. The health of their roster is the single most important aspect for them moving forward. They aren’t losing anybody they can’t replace, and even if they lose Austin Rivers, the 21st pick in this year’s draft should be able to come in and play a role for the team this year. Some possible targets include Notre Dame’s Blake Wesley, Michigan State guard Max Christie, or Santa Clara’s Jalen Williams. I think it is a very safe assumption that the Nuggets will look to add a guard or wing player in the draft to avoid the situation they found themselves in this past season. They don’t have much to spend in free agency, but the allure of playing with Jokic could be enough to get a veteran player to come to Denver on a discount.
Needs: A face lift
Man, life comes at you fast. One moment you’re a stalwart at the top of the conference standings, the next your two best players don’t fit together well or get along all that well, and your coach is bolting for greener pastures. The Jazz are at a crossroads where they are going to have to make some major decisions. Do they try to run it back with Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert? Do they trade Gobert? Do they trade Mitchell? Do they trade both of them? And let’s say they decide to blow the current roster up. Do they continue trying to contend now or do they look to reset the roster while looking years into the future? This is a team that has a ton of questions and not many answers right now. I could sit here and tell you about how they have no draft picks, but if they trade one of their top two players, they will likely find themselves with at least one pick in this year’s draft. I could also tell you that they have no cap space, but any trade they make would have the potential to significantly alter their cap situation moving forward. So until the Jazz determine what to do with their whole mess of a Mitchell/Gobert situation, it’s impossible to determine what the team actually needs at this point. Well, outside of a coach, because with Quin Snyder deciding to leave the team, the Jazz will have to find a new coach to lead a new roster. It’s an unenviable task for a coach to find themselves in, but the Jazz have had enough regular season success that coaches should still see as an opportunity to take over a team that has a significant amount of promise. Assuming at least one of the team’s stars remains on the roster or they can get a haul of good talent and assets to build around moving forward, the Jazz should be able to land a quality replacement for Snyder. Perhaps a trade in which bigs Rudy Gobert and DeAndre Ayton get flipped for one another could result in better results for both teams.