Needs: Forward, Point guard
Picks: 11, 41, 47
The Magic unexpectedly lost their head coach earlier this offseason, so they are adjusting on the fly. They have some pieces, but are still a ways away from being a contender. They can build around Nikola Vucevic in the post and Aaron Gordon showed a lot of progress the second half of last season. Victor Oladipo and Mario Hezonja on the wings have not lived up to what the Magic were hoping they would be, although Oladipo has shown flashes of brilliance and Hezonja is only entering his second season and has plenty of time to figure it out. One of the real issues with the team is the point guard position, manned by Elfrid Payton. Payton is not a shooter and is a poor man’s Rajon Rondo. After trading two firsts to move up for him in the lottery, the team appears committed to trying to make it work with him. However, with a lack of shooting around him, it becomes even more difficult. However, it seems as though the team will be focusing on adding another weapon to the roster for Payton to pass to.
With the 11th pick, the Magic could look at players such as Skal Labissiere, Domantas Sabonis or Brice Johnson if they want to focus on another big body to pair inside with Vucevic, or they could look at a wing player such as Malachi Richardson or Furkan Korkmaz. It’s unlikely they will look for a new point guard, not only because they appear committed to Payton, but also because there is really only one point guard slated to go in the late lottery: Dejounte Murray. The problem with Murray is that he’s a combo guard that, like Payton, struggles shooting the ball. Murray also is no sure thing to be a point guard in this league, as he could end up developing into more of an off-guard than primary ball handler, and that simply doesn’t fit what Orlando needs. Orlando can have an exceptional amount of cap space this offseason and should be one of the primary spenders in the free agent market. It is unlikely they will land one of the top tier free agents, but they have the ability to add multiple players that could really help their team.
Needs: Al Horford (or his replacement), experienced wing
Picks: 21, 44, 54
Al Horford is hitting the free agent market and the Hawks are in a weird spot as a franchise. They are just one season removed from a 60 win season, but regressed this past year. Paul Millsap has become the team’s best player and can do a lot of good things on the basketball court. However, he isn’t a player that can carry a team by himself, and so the Hawks have to put talent around him in order to return to the top of the conference. There have been rumors of them shopping Jeff Teague, with the most notable trade target being Nerlens Noel of the 76ers. Another potential suitor for Teague would be Utah, who owns the 12th pick in this year’s draft. This is where Atlanta’s situation gets tricky. If they remake the roster, it will be years before they are able to fully rebuild. If they are able to resign Horford and hold on to Teague and Schroeder, they still do not have enough to win a championship. So, it’s up to the Hawks to decide if they want to hold the course and hope that they can recapture the magic from the 2014-2015 season, or if they want to start over. The decision they come to will have a big impact on what they do on draft night. With the 21st pick in the first round they will have options. However, if they decide to rebuild they could gain additional high picks by deciding to trade Teague and/or Millsap. Working under the assumption the Hawks stick with only the 21st pick, they will have the chance to add a big man to replace Horford if he leaves. There is a lot of indication the team is intersted in in taking Syracuse SG Malachi Richardson if he’s avilable at 21, as he worked out for them and then declined workouts for teams below their pick. If not, options include Diamond Stone, Damian Jones, Cheick Diallo, or Stephen Zimmerman. Stone, Jones, or Zimmerman have the added benefit of being able to play alongside Millsap if he’s still in Atlanta.
Needs: Frontcourt, Shooting guard
Kemba Walker, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Spencer Hawes, Cody Zeller, Frank Kaminsky. That’s it, those are the only players under guaranteed contract next season for the Hornets. Troy Daniels will be a restricted free agent as well. Walker had his best season last year, while Kidd-Gilchrist played only 7 games due to injury. So the Hornets will potentially be losing 6 of their top 8 scorers from last season, and will have a lot of available minutes to offer to free agents. Al Jefferson has regressed over the past couple of seasons and has missed a number of games over that span, but losing him would still be a blow to the franchise. Losing Nic Batum would be an even bigger hit as he led the team in assists, was second in scoring, fifth in rebounding and was one of the most reliable three point shooters on the roster. The Hornets number one need this offseason isn’t necessarily to fill a hole here or there, but to put a full roster together. Walker is in place as the team’s best player, and MKG, if healthy, makes up for the lack of offensive game with stellar defense and rebounding. However, outside of those two, there isn’t a lot of production left on the roster.
With the 22nd pick Charlotte could look to replace Jefferson with some of the same bigs Atlanta could target just one pick before them. Ultimately, the Hornets are in the ultimate position to take the best player available. With so many holes to fill, the Hornets will just grab what’s available with their pick and sign players around what they have in place. After passing on him in the draft for MKG, Harrison Barnes, if he were to leave Golden State, would make a lot of sense in a return to North Carolina. However, it’s not just outside free agents, the Hornets would no doubt like to retain some of their own players. If they can hold on to Jeremy Lin, who far outplayed his contract last season, that would be a big boon to the team as he really helped the team on offense last season. At 22, like with Atlanta, Damion Jones, Stephen Zimmerman, and Diamond Stone are all possibilities. Or they could look to go European with a frontcourt player like Ivica Zubac, Guerschon Yabusele or Ante Zizic.
Needs: Retaining their talent
The Heat have two big free agents that could not be more different. Dwyane Wade is a grizzled veteran who has had all kinds of success in the league and is extremely unlikely to leave the only team he’s ever known. Wade, despite being an unrestricted free agent, is not going anywhere. Hassan Whiteside, on the other hand, has come on the last couple of seasons to become one of the league’s premier rebounders and shot blockers. Because of the structure and duration of his contract, the Heat do not possess Whiteside’s bird rights, which forces them to adjust the way they approach this offseason. It is not inconceivable that they are able to retain him, but it won’t be easy. There will be many teams willing to sign Whiteside to a massive deal. The Heat, because of the big money deals they have in place for Chris Bosh and Goran Dragic, plus what is sure to be a big deal for Wade, puts them in an awkward situation when looking to resign Whiteside. If Bosh’s health situation continues, the team will have trouble living up to its full potential regardless of who they acquire this offseason. Without a draft pick, the Heat will have to rely on retaining the talent they have in place now to continue their winning ways.
The Wizards are another team without a draft pick this offseason. However, their young backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal put the team in good position moving forward. Beal is a restricted free agent, and it is very unlikely that the Wizards would let him go. His injury history has to worry them a bit, but not enough to let their second best player walk. The Wizards have Markieff Morris and Marcin Gortat in the frontcourt, so they have the pieces to bounce back from a disappointing season. Nene has been injured throughout his stint in Washington and now he is a free agent. This should give them an opportunity to change the way they play with Scott Brooks taking over as head coach. With the league embracing more of the small ball approach, they could run out a lineup with Wall, Beal, Otto Porter, Morris, and Gortat. If they can remain healthy, they have a team that could regain their winning ways. However, as everybody that follows the league knows, the Wizards have their eyes on somebody else to fill that small forward spot for the team: Kevin Durant. While it probably isn’t all that likely, the Wizards can dream. If they were to land Durant, they would instantly become one of the front runners in the East. However, if they strike out on him, they could add a player such as Harrison Barnes, Chandler Parsons, or Ryan Anderson that could really help add some potency to their lineup. If they can add an impact player or two, this team could become a challenger to the Cavaliers in the conference.