Los Angeles Lakers
Picks: 2, 27, 34
The Lakers have probably the easiest decision on draft night. Picking second, it’s safe to assume that they’ll pick the big man Minnesota passes up. There is really nothing the Lakers don’t need, but Karl-Anthony Towns or Jahlil Okafor appear to be the only two possible choices that make sense here. Particularly when you factor in their need for a center, and the emergence of All Rookie Teamer Jordan Clarkson. The Kobe Bryant era in LA is coming to a close, and they need to find somebody that can handle the bright lights and glamour that accompany playing for one of the league’s most popular teams. Whoever they add will join Kobe and Julius Randle (who missed all but a few minutes of his rookie season) next season. So, why is center the obvious pick?
Los Angeles is a destination city for players and the Lakers are a destination team. Players simply want to play for the Lakers, historically. It’s easier to find players at other positions through free agency. Top tier centers don’t become available on the open market very often, so it would seem prudent to grab one while he’s available through the draft. With Randle and Towns/Okafor in the fold down low, the Lakers will also be looking to add a free agent wing or point guard to bolster a team that lacked fire power last season. The aforementioned Clarkson had an excellent rookie season and if he continues to improve could be in the team’s long term plans. They had to deal with significant injuries, but even had they been healthy, it would have been a rough season. Grabbing a quality big man in the draft will be a good place to start in returning the Lakers to the playoffs.
Needs: Everything except center
I like the Kings, I really do, but they are a mess. DeMarcus Cousins is one of the top centers in the league, but there isn’t a tremendous amount of talent surrounding him, and he still has not proven that he can win. Rudy Gay made big strides in becoming a more efficient player and seemed to fit in nicely. Darren Collison was up and down last season, and was only able to play in 45 games. The biggest issue for Sacramento (other than the game of musical coaches they played last season with Mike Malone, Tyrone Corbin, and George Karl) was that their recent draft picks have fallen flat. Nik Stauskas averaged a whopping 4.4. points on 36.5% shooting and 32% from three. Ben McLemore started to live up to the high expectations that he had coming out of Kansas, averaging right around 12 points per game in his second season.
The Kings will hope to grab somebody at 6 that will help them both in the immediate future and develop in to somebody they can build around moving forward. Some of the prominent names being mentioned in that area are Justice Winslow who absolutely shined for Duke last season, the lanky Kristaps Porzingas, who could pair with Cousins and complement him quite nicely, Mario Hazonja, who is a dynamic guard with a sweet shooting stroke. The Kings can’t keep missing on high draft picks, and hopefully they break that trend this year.
Needs: Guard depth, Power forward/Center
Picks: 13, 44
Jeff Hornacek nearly snuck his team into the playoffs in 2014. This past season they looked like they were poised to make another run at a playoff berth, behind their three headed point guard monster of Isaiah Thomas, Eric Bledsoe, and Goran Dragic. Fast forward, and Thomas and Dragic have been jettisoned, with only Bledsoe remaining and being joined by Brandon Knight in the backcourt. The Suns aren’t afraid to be unconventional, but Hornacek really likes playing multiple ball handling guards and now he doesn’t have that, so don’t be surprised if they add another guard at 13. In fact, there’s a roster trend that may give us a clue as to who they will pick in the draft. The Suns have a history of acquiring guards from Kentucky. They have Bledsoe and Knight in their starting lineup, both former Wildcats. Coming off the bench behind them is Archie Goodwin, another former Wildcat. Devin Booker is projected to go in that area of the draft, and he gives you something a little different from the aforementioned players. He isn’t a ball handler like Hornacek typically likes, but he shoots lights out. The Suns obviously have a comfort level taking players from UK, and could go back to the well one more time to further bolster their stable of guards.
If they choose to go in a different direction, we could see them opt for someone with some size that could allow them to throw some different looks at opponents. They could look at Myles Turner or Frank Kaminsky, whose ability to shoot the ball could be useful for somebody like Hornacek. They would also, in all likelihood, consider Bobby Portis and Sam Dekker. Those two give you something a little different. If they want somebody that is going to be more at home playing in the paint they could go with Portis. Otherwise, Dekker could provide some outside scoring while supplying some additional height and length in the lineup.
Golden State Warriors
Needs: Nothing, they need nothing, they’re already scary enough.
I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but Golden State is pretty good at this basketball thing. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson are stating a claim as the best pair of shooting teammates ever, and may end up the best backcourt. Andrew Bogut, a former number one overall pick, supplies the tough interior presence, and Draymond Green plays stellar defense while also stretching the floor. Steve Kerr has given his team the offensive freedom their skills warrant, and it’s really paid off for them. Their biggest need this offseason would be to ensure Green sticks around town because of the impact he has on the way they play on both ends of the court. The Warriors aren’t a team that is likely to add a significant piece in free agency this year, and drafting another star is unlikely at 30. So, this is the team they will likely have for the next couple of years.
Some of the players they may look to add through the draft would be Rashad Vaughn of UNLV, or Norman Powell of UCLA if they want a guard, or Jarrell Martin/Jordan Mickey of LSU or Rakeem Christmas from Syracuse if they want with frontcourt help. Chris McCullough would be a roll of the dice upside pick. There’s also the chance that somebody projected higher, slides. They will have a few options, but this team is essentially what it is at this point. They will likely add some free agent role players, but the biggest thing for them is retaining the core players that they have in place now.
Los Angeles Clippers
Needs: Composure, Small forward
The Clippers are a flawed team. They look good on paper…you combine one of the top point guards on the planet in Chris Paul, add a rapidly progressing, super athletic power forward in Blake Griffin, and throw in an uber-athletic defensive presence in DeAndre Jordan, and you end up with a good looking team. But the pieces put around them, aside from JJ Redick, were very questionable. And it just wasn’t enough this past season. Opposing teams challenged Jordan to free throw shooting contests knowing his 38.5% free throw shooting percentage would essentially forfeit the Clippers possessions. The team is also built around a lot of passionate individuals who don’t always express it in the best ways. The biggest hole in the roster is at small forward, where they rely on the mercurial Matt Barnes. There is a ton of talent on the roster, but the personalities don’t seem to mesh. There are rumors swirling that Paul and Jordan are on the outs ahead of Jordan’s impending free agency.
The Clippers aren’t in an unfixable situation. You never are when you have a point guard like Paul. However, Doc Rivers is going to need to find the missing piece in free agency this year. Paul Pierce is a name that’s been floated, as he could leave Washington to reunite with his former coach. It would make some sense, and provide them with a scoring threat on the wing, but he will be 38 next season. The team needs to find players that can provide some reliable scoring without getting too high or too low. LA’s collapse in the playoffs was due in part to the fact that the Clippers couldn’t keep their composure when it mattered most, and adding players who can keep things on the rails is sometimes more important than adding pure talent. This is probably one of those times.