Needs: Somebody that can score
Picks: 5, 23, 35
The Jazz feel like they’ve found their point guard of the future in Trey Burke and a franchise big in Derrick Favors. In addition to that, it’s likely they will be able to hold on to Gordon Hayward, who is a starting caliber wing player. Alec Burks has shown the ability to be a player in the league, but ultimately, the Jazz struggle to put the ball in the basket at a high enough rate to compete in the Western conference. For them, it doesn’t matter what position they are able to find that scoring from, they have a roster that has the flexibility to fit a talented player into the rotation. Their best bet at improving the roster this offseason is with the 5th pick in the draft. They would have liked to have had a chance at one of the top three players (especially Mormon Jabari Parker), but they will have a number of choices once they are on the clock. They should have some cap space to use to enhance the roster as well, but it’s unclear who they may target or who they can realistically sign. Utah doesn’t exactly have a rich history of signing big name free agents as it struggles to compete with the bright lights of a big market like New York or Los Angeles. What this means is that landing a transcendent player in the draft takes on added importance for them while they use their cap space to add second and third tier players to complement the players they already have. It’s difficult to peg who the Jazz may take with the 5th pick, but some ideal options for them would be Dante Exum of Australia, Julius Randle of Kentucky, or they could go with Noah Vonleh and hope his offense develops. The Jazz don’t look to be contenders anytime soon, so they can be patient in developing a player here.
Picks: 11, 41, 56
There are two things the Nuggets couldn’t do last season: stay healthy or stop anybody defensively. Obviously, they can’t draft an athletic trainer come draft day, so they should be looking to find somebody to help their defense. Having JaVale McGee back to protect the rim should help next season, but they need more hard-nosed defenders. For the Nuggets, it really doesn’t even matter what position it’s at. They have good players on the roster, but they need to find a way to blend their talents together. Ty Lawson is a starting caliber point guard while Wilson Chandler provides outside shooting while Danilo Gallinari is a potential star when healthy. Kenneth Faried’s ability to rebound and bring energy makes a big difference on this team, and they could probably benefit from finding somebody that can match his energy level. A guy like Gary Harris could be a good fit here as he could be plugged into the shooting guard spot and he will compete from day one. He isn’t very big, but he isn’t afraid to challenge players on defense and can provide some scoring on offense when needed. Another option, although it would be a reach, would be Harris’s college teammate Adreian Payne who could be physical on defense and space the floor for Lawson whereas McGee and Faried don’t have that element to their game. Ultimately, this team becoming healthy again will make a massive difference, assuming they can remain healthy throughout next season.
Needs: Wing players
Picks: 13, 40, 44, 53
Let’s get this out of the way right off the bat: they need Kevin Love in order to continue moving in the right direction. Pekovic is good, so is Rubio, but neither of those players can do it on their own. Granted, the team has struggled to win with Love, but there is little chance that they will be able to get anything near equal value if they deal him. On the other side of this double-edged sword, if they lose him for nothing the cap space they gain won’t help them all that much as Minnesota isn’t a major free agent destination. So what this means is that the Wolves need to find some way of convincing him that Minnesota gives him the best chance of winning. Granted, this is easier said than done, but it’s what must be done to make this team a winner for the first time since Kevin Garnett left town. If they are lucky they will be able to find a team that is interested enough in the 13th pick to trade a veteran player that can help them right away. This would go a long way in showing Love they are truly intent on winning. If that scenario doesn’t play out, the Wolves must find a player that can step in and contribute right away because a project player will only serve to chase Love from town. Nik Stauskas or Rodney Hood would be able to come in and provide some shooting from the shooting guard/small forward position and should be able to play right away. Another option could be Kyle Anderson. Anderson isn’t a shooter, but he is a point guard in a small forward’s body and could help to keep Love even more involved in the offense. It might be a bit short sighted, but this may also help to entice Love to stay because while winning is important, all players like to be highly involved with what the team is doing.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Needs: Backup point guard, more offensive options
Picks: 21, 29
Oklahoma City has become one of the top teams in the entire league behind reigning MVP Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. It’s pretty evident on the offensive end that they miss James Harden as late in games the offense stagnates and becomes predictable as they play through their two stars. They had little choice though, as either Harden or Ibaka was probably going to have to be a casualty of their cap situation. It was obvious in the Western Conference Finals matchup with San Antonio how much of a difference Ibaka makes on the other end of the court. With Kendrick Perkins no longer having the impact that he did in Boston, it becomes even more important that Ibaka continues to change games defensively. His emerging ability to stretch the defense is simply a bonus. After having Steven Adams outperform expectations and Reggie Jackson step up to expand his role, the Thunder don’t have much in terms of needs. With Derek Fisher being considered in coaching searches they will need to find a backup point guard to replace him. Reggie Jackson is obviously capable of this role, but it’s become apparent that the team is best served having him play as more of a 2 guard alongside Westbrook. With two first round draft picks they can take some chances on trying to find somebody that can diversify their offensive attack. Tyler Ennis would benefit from continuing to learn the position behind Westbrook and also allow Westbrook to be able to play off the ball a few minutes a game to give defenses a different look. They may also be wise to look at Kristaps Porzingis for a few seasons and work on his body and game. a long, athletic forward with a sweet shooting stroke who could be stashed , and kept off the books for a team with cap considerations.
Needs: Frontcourt depth
The Blazers got off to, appropriately, a blazing start this past season. Damian Lillard is quickly becoming a team leader and is on his way to becoming one of the very best point guards in this league. When paired with Nicolas Batum and LaMarcus Aldridge, it becomes a nice core to build a team around. Wesley Mathews and C.J. McCollum provide guard depth, assuming McCollum develops this offseason. If Thomas Robinson can figure it out and put all of his physical tools together, he could fill a void for the team. Robin Lopez does a good job manning the middle for them inside, but they could use some additional post players capable of contributing. Joel Freeland and Meyers Leonard don’t provide the interior presence this team would like alongside Aldridge. Their roster is pretty much set for this upcoming season as Mo Williams will be a free agent but the rest of the team is, for the most part, under contract for next season. The team won’t be adding any draft picks unless they are able to swing a deal on draft night. Luckily for them they have the pieces in place to be a contender in the Western conference as they showed this past season.