Los Angeles Lakers
Needs: Keep their young free agents, move D’Angelo Russell, Ensure LeBron Happiness
Picks: 17, 47
The Lakers made a strong run in the playoffs, but it sort of masked the fact that their regular season was actually quite disappointing, and they finished as the 7th best team in the conference. Now, they have a ton of questions that need answered about this roster moving forward, and quite frankly, only limited information with which to work with. First, there’s the question of LeBron James. He insinuated that he would consider retirement, but I am not sure anybody believes that’s truly on the table at this point. However, the Lakers need to ensure he is content in Lala Land, or it could cause them a ton of headaches over the next year or so. Their window to compete is closing quickly, so they need to make the most of the next year or two before the total uncertainty begins. Second, they have to decide what to do with Austin Reaves and Rui Hachimura. Is Austin Reaves going to be worth the contract he’s going to be given this offseason as a restricted free agent? People compare his situation to Alex Caruso, which the Lakers regretted, but Reaves is more of an offensive threat and played very well down the stretch, so he will command a very large deal, and if he gets tendered a deal, the Lakers will almost have to match it purely out of necessity at this point. Then, they have to decide what Rui Hachimura is. He looked like the secret ingredient defending Nikola Jokic in the playoffs and simply couldn’t miss from three down the stretch. However, he’s only played 60 or more games in one season, is a career 12.5 point per game scorer, and even when he was playing his best, the team got swept. Hell, he even got a DNP-CD as late as March 26th in a game the Lakers lost by ten. So exactly how valuable is he really? And yet, because the Lakers have limited options to build the roster around LeBron and Anthony Davis, they will have to match virtually any offer just to give themselves a shot to keep their window open. Then there’s the case of D’Angelo Russell. He’s a good player, but he got played off the floor a lot in their playoff series against Denver. Russell is a player that LA could explore sign and trade deals with looking to bring new blood into the franchise. With the Wizards clearly looking to shed salary, would the Lakers trade Russell for Kristaps Porzingis since Davis clearly has zero interest in playing center? Would they take Kyrie Irving in a double sign and trade with Dallas? Or could they forego big names and look to bring back several smaller pieces in a deal to round out the roster? Either way, look for Russell’s name to be shopped considerably. Then they have the 17th pick in the draft. There is little doubt that they would like to move up into the top ten, but I’m not sure that’s feasible, so they could look to target players such as Nick Smith or Arkansas, Cason Wallace of Kentucky or Noah Clowney of Alabama who all project in that range. Even if this offseason goes according to plan for LA, there’s no telling if they will look more like they did in the regular season or like they did during their strong playoff push.
Golden State Warriors
Needs: Power forward, slasher, no changes to CBA
Speaking of windows that are closing, the Golden State Warriors are watching theirs close before their very eyes. Steph Curry is 35, Klay Thompson will turn 34 during next season, and Draymond is expected to opt out of his contract this offseason. While Green will almost certainly want to come back, he will also want to get paid, and while he is far more valuable to Golden State than he would be to any other franchise, all it would take is one big offer and it could give the Warriors pause. It may be easy to say “just bring him back at all costs,” but with the way the new punitive tax aprons are set up, keeping Steph, Klay, Andrew Wiggins and Green all on massive deals would prevent the Warriors from doing basically anything outside of signing minimum contract dudes to fill out the roster. It’s for that reason that the Warriors need to figure out their power forward position moving forward. They could do this in the draft at 19, taking Noah Clowney of Alabama, Trayce Jackson-Davis of Indiana, or GG Jackson of South Carolina. Kris Murray of Iowa could also garner consideration. They could also look to package a young player like Jonathan Kuminga or Moses Moody with the pick to move up to grab France’s Bilal Coulibaly, Duke’s Dereck Lively or Taylor Hendricks of UCF. Kuminga looks primed for a breakout season, following a full offseason of development, and it’s unlikely anyone they would be able to draft could equal his value. Therefore trading him away just to move up in this draft is unlikely to age well. If they do decide to resign Green and figure it all out later, they could use a slasher on their roster. They have a ton of shooting, and Wiggins has the ability to be a slasher, but this team doesn’t get to the free throw line enough to survive on nights where they aren’t shooting the ball well. So they could bring Green back and use the pick to target a wing Maxwell Lewis of Pepperdine perhaps, that can take advantage of all the spacing their shooters create and make their offense a bit more dynamic.
Picks: 24, 38, 54
The Kings surprised a lot of people this season, by finishing as a top three seed in the conference. De’Aaron Fox looked amazing, and Domantas Sabonis played extremely well as the two led the team to one of the best offenses in the association. The best part for them is they really aren’t losing much from that team and will have a chance to run it back next season. Harrison Barnes is a free agent, and it wouldn’t shock me to see them bring him back as he was their third leading scorer, but it’s possible they look to rely on Keegan Murray (last year’s 4th overall pick) and his brother Kris Murray (this year’s #24 pick possibly?) to fill a void left by Barnes if he leaves. With three picks, but only one in the first round, the Kings could find themselves having a busy draft night. I do expect them to target Murray at 24, but Maxwell Lewis of Pepperdine, and Ben Sheppard of Belmont could all be good fits as well. The Kings could also look to bolster their team through free agency, while they don’t have space, they could use their midlevel exception to target someone such as Dillon Brooks. If Sacramento wants to get aggressive, they could also attempt to work with Harrison Barnes’ camp to use him in a sign and trade deal to his desired location which could net him a bigger deal while getting the Kings some assets back in the deal as well. I anticipate the Kings will not look to rest on their laurels and instead will be trying to prove to the league that last year was no fluke.
Los Angeles Clippers
Needs: Point guard
Picks: 30, 48
I don’t even know what the Clippers do this offseason. This is a team that is built around two stars in Kawhi Leonard and Paul George that each played fewer than 60 games last season and both have player options after next season. The Clippers could look to continue trying to surround them with enough talent and have been mentioned as suitors for Chris Paul depending on what Washington does with him now, but they are in a tough situation where they don’t have the means to acquire a high level player in most situations, but also even if they did, do you commit big money and years to somebody knowing there’s a chance that George and Kawhi could both just up and leave next year and leave the franchise with zero hope to compete in the short term? I anticipate the team will look to move the expiring contract of Eric Gordon in hopes of acquiring a third high level player, but whoever they bring in needs to be someone that can not only play alongside their existing stars, but can stay on the court. You can’t have two guys that are the wing player equivalents of Anthony Davis and bring in yet another injury concern. So look for The Clips to be aggressive and try to not only compete for a championship this year, but attempt to convince their stars to stay in town.
Needs: Depth, Depth, more depth
Well, the first draft of this piece looked a little different. The Suns pulled the trigger on a trade with Washington this weekend to send Chris Paul and his contract for Brad Beal. There had been reports of Paul potentially being waived, but that never made sense for a team that needed to add pieces and Paul being the type of player that could get you a big piece because of the fact that he had a huge cap number, but only 15 million guaranteed. So essentially, Washington was able to get out of Beal’s max contract for a little over 15 million and Landry Shamet should they choose to go that route. In the meantime, Phoenix saw what happened when you put two stars together at the expense of depth and said, “let’s do it again, but do it more.” Beal, Booker, and Durant will be a formidable trio along the perimeter and is extremely intriguing. However, they have a lot of work left to do. Deandre Ayton is still on the roster and while they could keep him, I expect them to look to move him in a trade to provide them with more depth. I mentioned Indiana as a suitor previously, and they could very well be an option. Would they give up Myles Turner and Chris Duarte in a deal perhaps? Milwaukee and Portland could be teams that target Ayton in a deal as well. The Suns will have to fill out this roster though, as the team has five players under contract for next season (plus a team option on Ish Wainwright that they are likely to pick up). They will most likely want to resign their own free agents in Torrey Craig, Josh Okogie, and Damion Lee. They have a few players that are free agents that are interesting. TJ Warren was basically Michael Jordan in the bubble a few years back, but has done nothing since then as he’s spent most of it injured. Do they look to bring him back and hope that he can finally rebound since he will likely come extremely cheap and offer some upside? Do they bring Terrence Ross back? He has been a good player in the past, but they didn’t play him much and now have yet another guard/wing player ahead of him. They will have to do something to fill out this roster, because as good as their big three is, they can’t do it alone.