Los Angeles Lakers
Needs: Star power, three point shooting
Picks: 2, 28
The Lakers possess the second overall pick, but it doesn’t come without questions. In this draft, picking that high essentially means a team is going to be picking either a point guard or a small forward. Here’s the thing with the Lakers, though. Those aren’t necessarily the most obvious needs on their roster, but they are needs. With D’Angelo Russell playing point, the Lakers offense has sputtered. Russell averaged 15.6 points and 4.8 assists per game, but that didn’t translate to team wide success. Russell could easily slide over to play the shooting guard role where he would have more freedom to focus on scoring as opposed to running the team. So, let’s assume the Lakers opt to go point guard. Boston as it is widely assumed, will take Markelle Fultz. Lonzo Ball seems to be the most logical choice; he could take over playmaking duties from Russell while providing a local star for the franchise. The Balls love LA, but does LA love to Balls? There’s concern about his father and his over the top antics, but Lonzo has proven that he’s capable of being a star in Southern California while at UCLA. The hope will be that Magic will able to persuade Ball’s father into becoming less of a "presence". Ultimately, he seems to make the most sense. The dark horse would appear to be De'Aaron Fox, whose speed and quickness would bring an element to the Lakers’ offense that they simply don’t have while being the best defender of the three guards.
Small forward could also be an area they look at. Small Forward Josh Jackson could end up the best player in the entire draft and will also need to be considered thoroughly, but with Brandon Ingram in the fold, and the chance to make a run at Paul George next season, it probably doesn’t make sense to draft or sign someone at that position this offseason. Regardless of what the Lakers do this offseason, they aren’t contenders next year. However, if Magic Johnson plays his cards right, this team could be in position in just a couple years to roll out a lineup featuring Ball, Russell, George, and Julius Randle. That’s a lineup that could get the Lakers back to relevance and the playoffs.
Needs: Three point shooting, a ball distributor, small forward
Picks: 4, 32, 54
Here’s a fun little set of facts. What team was fourth in the league in most turnovers last season? What team had the second fewest assists? What team led the league in two point field goal makes and attempts? What team had the fourth worst three point percentage? If you guessed the Suns, you’re either really smart, or you read the heading directly above this paragraph. Either way, good for you, but really bad for Phoenix. First, what do they do with Eric Bledsoe? When healthy, he is really good, but he’s missed significant portions of three of his four seasons in Phoenix. Phoenix has a glut of point guards on the roster with Bledsoe, Brandon Knight, and Tyler Ulis, but with such a strong crop of incoming point guards, Phoenix could opt to snag one, perhaps another Kentucky guard in Fox since they seem to never be able to get enough Wildcat guards? Jayson Tatum or Josh Jackson would also make a lot of sense for them with their first round pick. With approximately 25 million in cap room, the Suns could scour the free agent market for shooters to invigorate their offense and catch up with the rest of the league in that department. With the league emphasizing the three point line more than ever, it’s going to be very difficult for the Suns to have any semblance of success unless they join this milenium, and having the second worst record in the league should drive that point home. This offseason they have to find a way to get more shooting, and they have to make their offense more efficient. If they don’t, they’ll be stuck in the mid lottery for years to come.
Picks: 5, 10, 34
They did it; they finally started the full rebuild. Rudy Gay is a free agent, DeMarcus Cousins is a Pelican, and the Kings are a team looking to form a roster that can get them back to respectability. The Kings are starting over with a nearly clean slate. They have some holdovers, but they will be looking to put some talent around the likes of Buddy Hield, Willie Cauley-Stein, and Skal Labissiere. They have two top ten picks, in a great draft to be in the 5 to 10 range, so they should be able to add some talent to the roster this offseason regardless of what they choose to do in free agency. Vlade’s trade of Cousins was a very underrated one as he secured two excellent picks. Now they must make the correct choices. With a team building for the future like this one, they could go a number of different directions on draft night, and very well could just go with the best available talent with each pick and worry about how each part fits together later on. With the fifth pick, they could look to replace Gay’s spot in the lineup with one of Josh Jackson, Jayson Tatum, or Jonathan Isaac of Florida State. Then, with the tenth pick they will have plenty of options, including Lauri Markkanen, Frank Ntilikina, or Zach Collins. Sacramento is said to want a point guard so they will have to decide whether to take one at 5 (Fox, Smith or Frank Ntilikina), or grab a wing and gamble that Ntilikina slips past the Mavericks at 9 and they can select him at 10. It’s difficult to decipher just what Sacramento will look to do since they are in the middle of rebuilding this roster from top to bottom. In addition to the draft, they could have in the neighborhood of about 40 million to spend in free agency. Whatever they do, it’s imperative that they nail their two early picks in order to get back on track to where they want to be as a franchise.
Los Angeles Clippers
Needs: Small forward, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin to resign
Say what you will about the Clippers coming up short of expectations, but their options are extremely limited currently. If they are able to retain Paul and Griffin, then they have the pieces to compete and will be looking to find the smaller pieces to get them over the top. However, if Paul and/or Griffin opt to leave via free agency, the Clips aren’t in a position to replace them because they’re on the hook to pay DeAndre Jordan over 22 million, and Jamal Crawford and Austin Rivers combine to cost over 25 million. With those big contracts, it prevents LA from going out and restocking, which would result in the team taking a presumed major step backwards. With no draft picks and no cap space, the Clips really have to hope that they can keep the roster intact and find a way to make a deep playoff run. Ultimately, this offseason is less about the draft for them, and more about the futures of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and to a lesser extent, JJ Redick.
Golden State Warriors
Needs: Depth, Andre Iguodala to resign
By any metric you use, the Warriors are an elite team. For them, the draft isn’t as significant as it is for the teams in the lottery. Last year they added two quality young players in Damian Jones and Patrick McCaw. McCaw was an under the radar early entrant who should have gone a lot higher than 38th, a pick that the team purchased on draft night. Look for the team to be aggressive once again on draft night looking to add a second rounder with value to contribute to their star laden roster at a cheap cap figure. Ultimately, though, if they can hold on to their core of Durant, Curry, Green, and Thompson, they are going to be a generational team. Curry and Durant can each become free agents, but it seems unlikely either will be looking to leave, so in terms of this offseason, it seems like the biggest need they have is for Iggy to resign with the team. He provides so much to them off the bench and can step in and fill the void if Durant gets injured like he did this past season. The Warriors won’t just rest on their achievements this offseason though. They will be scouring the free agent market looking for veterans willing to sign a deal for less money in exchange for a chance at winning a ring. It’s hard to say just who will be willing to chase a ring, a la David West, but they will likely add some pieces, most likely to bolster their frontcourt.