Needs: Retain flexibity
Picks: 4, 37, 49
The Kings have been a disappointing franchise for a long time now, floundering and missing the playoffs every year since 2006. They’ve made a number of significant moves since then, but none of them have paid off and the team continues to make questionable moves both from a player stand point and in regards to management. However, with just a little bit of patience, the Kings could finally rebuild the team the right way now. They have a quality young point guard in De’Aaron Fox and acquired big man Domantas Sabonis last season (albeit by giving up Tyrese Haliburton) to form a potent 1-2 punch of players in their prime. However, one of the real benefits of their current roster is that after next season, they only have 4 players (Fox, Sabonis, Richaun Holmes, and Davion Mitchell) under contract. They will add a player or two to that total in this year’s draft, but that will still give them the ability to add some major pieces that fit together to form a real team as opposed to their usual strategy of trying to duct tape together a roster on the run and hoping it’s the year they get over the top. But first, they have to get through this offseason without destroying their flexibility or flubbing the draft (two things they are all too familiar with). With the 4th pick in the draft they will likely be looking at Purdue’s Jaden Ivey, Iowa’s Keegan Murray, Arizona’s Benedict Mathurin, or hoping that one of the “big three” of Jabari Smith/Chet Holmgren/Paolo Banchero somehow drop to them. Adding that piece and potentially resigning Donte DiVencenzo could give them a solid core to build around. But they need to retain as much flexibility as possible going into next year by avoiding handing out large multi-year deals to free agents this year despite having some cap space to play with, the non-tax payer midlevel and bi-annual exception, and trade exceptions that could allow them to take on additional salary in trades. The Kings are finally in a position to become relevant again, but they can’t rush it, because if they do, they’ll find themselves right back in the same position they’ve been in every year since 2006 – watching the playoffs from home. the Kings could also potentially move the 4th pick to someone like OKC for a package including Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and the 12th pick.
Golden State Warriors
Needs: resign Kevon Looney and Gary Payton II
Picks: 28, 51, 57
When you think of the Warriors, who are currently playing in the NBA Finals, what do you think of? Shooting and offense, right? But their defense has been elite this season and it’s made them a different team. One of the biggest revelations has been Kevon Looney playing extremely well down the stretch and he has not only earned himself some money as an impending free agent, but he’s made himself indispensable to the Warriors. Golden State needs to find a way to bring him back, alongside Gary Payton II, as those two have made major contributions to the team this season and complement the existing core well. The team will need to make a decision on what to do with James Wiseman, who has been a complete non factor since the team used the 2nd overall pick on him. His trade value is low, but they are approaching a situation where taking ten cents on the dollar might be better than losing him for nothing after this contract is up. They don’t have cap space to play with this offseason, but they do have the mid-level exception and a core that will draw veterans looking to win a ring to the Bay Area to join them. They also own the 28th pick, which while it may not be a sure-fire impact player, there could be some interesting names available to the Warriors on draft night. They could look to package Wiseman and 28 to move up, but assuming they stay put, 28 could see them land Auburn’s Walker Kessler, Arkansas’ Jaylin Williams, Kansas’ Christian Braun, or Milwaukee’s Patrick Baldwin. For the Warriors, it’s about capitalizing on the last few years their core has by finding the right fit around the existing roster.
Los Angeles Clippers
Needs: More talented role players around George and Leonard
It’s hard to get a read on the Clippers from this season because Kawhi Leonard missed the entire season and Paul George only played 31 games. Despite that, they still finished the regular season 42-40 and 8th in the West. The biggest issue they have in building this roster into a true contender is the fact that they have bloated contracts surrounding their stars. Norman Powell, Marcus Morris, Luke Kennard, and Robert Covington all make more than 12 million next season and deals like that and the two their stars have mean the Clippers only have the mid-level exception with which to add impact free agents. They do, however, have two sizeable trade exceptions that they could use to facilitate trades that could bring in significant pieces. The exception from trading Rajon Rondo is worth 8.25 million and the Serge Ibaka exception is worth even more, at over 9.7 million. The Clippers will have to make their impact moves with those exceptions most likely as they don’t have a ton of highly sought after players on the trade market and they don’t own a first round draft pick because they traded this year’s pick in the move to obtain Paul George. On the bright side, they were a playoff caliber team this season with their two best players nearly non-existent, so with those two back healthy, the Clips could expect to take a significant step forward.
Los Angeles Lakers
Needs: Trade Russ Westbrook, players
The Lakers are coming off a massively disappointing season, everybody is well aware of that. But next year is no walk in the park either, as they have a rookie head coach (Darvin Ham) coming in to take over, and their roster is not only just as flawed as it was this past season, but it’s thinner, as they have only 8 players under contract for next season, and three of those (Stanley Johnson, Wenyen Gabriel, and Austin Reaves) are team options. Despite such a thin roster, they are still well over the salary cap because Anthony Davis, LeBron James, and Russ Westbrook all make over 37 million per year. They have the tax payer mid-level exception to use, but that won’t get them very far, so they are going to have to find a number of minimum contract type players to fill out their roster. Because he had such a rough season and such an enormous contract, it’s unlikely that they can find a truly beneficial trade involving Westbrook, although the fact that he’s an expiring deal could potentially be their saving grace. If they can move him in a deal it would immediately improve their team chemistry, but the team needs a lot of help to pull them out of the doldrums they experienced this year. The draft won’t be of any help to them either, as they moved this year’s first round pick to New Orleans in the Anthony Davis deal, and they don’t even have a second round pick. LeBron James could only carry the team so far, so unless he continues to defy father time and play at an elite level and Anthony Davis bounces back in a big way, it doesn’t look promising for the Lakers to turn things around this upcoming season.
The Suns were the top team in the regular season by a sizeable margin this year and have looked extremely good the past couple of seasons, but have they misplayed their hand? By not offering DeAndre Ayton a max deal, they have severely fractured their relationship with him. And although he’s a restricted free agent and they thus hold the leverage, even if they do bring him back it could make for an awkward, untenable situation. With their recent track record and the fact that Chris Paul is at the end of his career, Phoenix should be going all in on winning now and capitalizing on this opportunity. Instead, they may be in a position where they end up letting a former number one overall pick go for nothing in return. Is he worth a max deal? Probably not, but he’s a big enough part of the team and what they do that it’s worth it to offer him one if it extends the team’s window to win a ring. The Suns could look to explore the sign and trade possibilities with Ayton this summer, or they could simply let him walk and hope they can find a replacement for him with their limited available resources. The final option would be to let him go out and secure a deal (for Phoenix’s sake, hopefully less than the max) elsewhere and then simply match it and look to repair the relationship, although that can be a difficult situation. Other than Ayton, the team will largely be looking to run it back, losing only a couple role players from last season’s team. They will have the non-tax payer exception worth just over 10 million and the bi-annual exception of around 4 million to help replace those players. The Suns could swing for Jusuf Nurkic, Hassan Whiteside, Thomas Bryant, or Andre Drummond in free agency if Ayton does in fact leave town. They don’t own a draft pick this year as their first round pick conveys to the Thunder (who else, seriously?) as part of the Chris Paul trade, so I’d say it was worth it for the Suns.