Needs: SG/SF, C
Picks: 9, 26, 52
The Timberwolves possess two first round picks this year, including the 9th overall pick. Their most pressing and obvious need being somebody on the wing. They tried out Brandon Roy last year and it didn’t work out. It’s likely Andrei Kirilenko will exercise his option to come back, but he doesn’t give them a go-to scorer on the wing. Ricky Rubio gives them a quality young point guard and Kevin Love is a talented power forward that can score inside or out, but they need to complement those two pieces with an outside scorer to fulfill the promise of this team. Nikola Pekovic filled the center position for them extremely well the past few seasons, but he is a free agent and if Minnesota wants to keep him it would most likely involve overpaying for his services. It’s difficult enough to build a winning team in Minnesota (not exactly a premier free agent destination) without having to overpay to keep the talent you have in place.
With that said, it would make a lot of sense if Minnesota targeted Alex Len, Cody Zeller, Kelly Olynyk, or Steven Adams to fill the spot next to Kevin Love down low. Sure, the wing positions are arguably a bigger need for them, but it’s also a need that would be much easier to fill late in the first round with pick 26. One other thing they may consider is a trade. With two first round picks and Derrick Williams they could potentially make some moves on or before draft night. I don’t expect it to happen, but with teams at the top of the draft making it known that they are open to a trade, the Timberwolves could attempt to move up to select either Nerlens Noel or Ben McLemore to fill their needs. At 9, a scorer like CJ McCollum or Kentavious Caldwell-Pope appear to be possibilities.
Needs: C, Depth
Picks: 10, 39, 40, 45
The Trailblazers have some younger players to build around. They have the reigning rookie of the year starting at point guard for them in Damian Lillard. Behind Lillard they also have Eric Maynor, so the point guard position is pretty much set. Add to that Wesley Matthews and Nic Batum, two of the more underrated players in the association, and of course LaMarcus Aldridge and there is little reason for this team to be as bad as it has been. They have pieces, so if they can find the right coach and stay injury free they could turn it around pretty quickly. They do, however, have an obvious need at center. They’ve played free agent J.J. Hickson major minutes there and drafted Meyers Leonard to play center, but like Minnesota, they could really use a jolt at that position. They likely will target many of the same players as their division-mates, Minnesota, including Len, Olynyk, and Adams. If they can find a quality big to pair with Aldridge it will only be a matter of health/coaching for this team, as they’ll have the pieces to get to the playoffs. Owner Paul Allen attended a KCP workout and his name has been linked to the sophomore SG, making him a possibility as well to platoon alongside Matthews.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Needs: C, SG, Backup PG
Picks: 12, 29, 32
Seems odd that the Thunder would have such a high draft pick this season, picking 12th, but that’s one of the benefits of trading James Harden. They’ll have two picks, the 12th and their original pick, 29th. Not to beat a dead horse, but this team really needs a center to enhance an already stellar team. Yes, Kendrick Perkins is a quality player when it comes to defense and rebounding, but he struggles to contribute anything offensively aside from physicality. There’s a reason there was speculation that the Thunder would amnesty him, but paying a player to go away just doesn’t quite fit the Oklahoma City style. So, like Portland and Minnesota, they will certainly consider the likes of Len, Adams, and Olynyk with their top pick. Len would obviously require a trade up. They may also opt to try and fill the gap left by losing Harden as Kevin Martin simply wasn’t the same player Harden was and it showed this season. However, they might be better served attempting to find another point guard. Yes, they have Russell Westbrook who really puts this team over the top, but when he went down, the team crumbled. It was extremely telling that Kevin Durant took over a lot of the point guard duties in the absence of Westbrook. OKC would be wise to look at somebody such as Michael Carter-Williams or Dennis Schroeder. The beautiful thing about Westbrook is that because of his style of play, Scott Brooks could slide him over to the shooting guard position at times and create minutes for the rookie without having to reach just to find a player that can play in the post. The 12th pick is right in the range for both point guards. CJ McCollum is another possibility as the team would love to have a Steph Curry spreading the floor alongside Westbrook and Durant.
Needs: PG, C
Picks: 14, 21, 46
The Jazz, having young wing players Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks along with a stable of post players including Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors, are a team with some decent pieces. They need to figure out how hard they want to push to bring back Al Jefferson and/or Paul Millsap. Regardless of their situation with Jefferson and Millsap, they need to look at upgrading their point guard play as well as add depth at the shooting guard and small forward position. This isn’t a team built around a star player any more, but they do have a fair amount of all around talent. With that being said, Utah is in a position with picks 14 and 21 where in this draft they can target or take the best possible player regardless of position, making them a real wildcard in this draft. Sure, they’d like to find a star in this draft, but that’s easier said than done in the middle of the first round, so they will have to find somebody that they can develop in their system and who will become a contributor by the time this team is ready to contend. Shane Larkin is a player that has been linked to them. It’s beginning to look more and more like he won;t be there at their 21st pick. Some other players to keep an eye on are Shabazz Muhammad, Giannis Adetokoubo, Lucas Nogueira, and Gorgui Dieng. Each of these players will likely be in play between the 14th and 21st picks. It’s unlikely the Jazz would look to package the two picks to move up and instead will likely want to grab two players that can develop into role players and/or starters for the franchise moving forward.
Needs: SF, PG
Honestly, I hate assigning "needs" for the Nuggets. This is a team full of very good players at each position and the only major free agent they could lose would be Andre Iguodala. This team’s only two true needs would be a new general manager and head coach. They had the executive of the year and coach of the year and made the bone-headed moves to let Masai Ujiri bolt for Toronto without at least making a competitive offer and giving George Karl his walking papers. They could use a small forward in case Iguodala decides to sign elsewhere and Danillo Gallinari doesn’t recover fully from last season’s injury. They could also use a point guard because they are used to throwing two very different point guards at their opponents to keep the defense off balance. Ty Lawson will no doubt continue to be the lead guard, but Andre Miller is getting up there in age. They could look to find an eventual replacement for him. Nate Wolters could be a player they target at #27 if they’re looking for a floor general. There may not be a more difficult team to predict in this draft than Denver simply because they have talent in place, a new lead executive, a new coach, and pick very late in the first round which all comes together to make predicting not only who they’ll pick, but what they’ll be looking for very difficult. Some of the best available talents there when their pick comes up could be Tony Mitchell 2586, Glen Rice Jr., or Allen Crabbe.