Needs: Talent and direction
Picks: 6, 25, 33, 35
There’s no nice way to put it, the Magic are, as currently constructed, a mess. The previous front office had no direction, and just took players and threw them together on one roster. Looking at the roster, they can’t shoot (28th in the league in shooting percentage, 29th in three point percentage, 26th in two point percentage, and 25th in free throw percentage), they don’t rebound (20th in rebounding), they don’t create turnovers (24th), and despite playing the 12th fastest pace in the league, they were 27th in points per game. The point is not to pile on a struggling franchise, but rather to point out that there really isn’t a single aspect of the game that the team does particularly well. The team has to decide what they want to hang their hat on. Do they want to be an offensive or defensive team? Do they want to play fast, or slow it down? Who are they? Until they figure that out, they won’t get any better. They will have some salary cap space this year, but the 6th overall pick will likely be much more valuable for them. They do have Nikola Vucevic and Aaron Gordon to build around, but it’s imperative that the Magic figure out how to properly build around them. Do they look to land a point guard to replace Elfrid Payton, who can’t shoot? Unlikely, even with the depth at point guard in this draft. More likely, they look to Jonathan Isaac or Jayson Tatum or to bolster their offense with a playmaker. Issac makes more sense as he is more of the high risk/reward guy with a higher ceiling. Tatum is more of a sure bet to be solid, but lacks as much superstar potential. They will likely be at the mercy of who is left as it’s unlikely they will have their choice of the two. The team could also look to upgrade the PG position with Dennis Smith Jr. or Frank Ntilikina. Malik Monk is another possibility for them, and would obviously help with their shooting woes. Whatever they do, Magic fans better hope that the new regime has a plan in place, because the franchise has fallen a long way since representing the Eastern Conference in the Finals in 2009.
Needs: Shooting, rebounding
Picks: 11, 41
The Hornets are a really interesting team. Kemba Walker is the undisputed leader and they are building around him, but the players they’ve put around him have been a little hit or miss. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was the second overall pick and has developed into the team’s leading rebounder and best defender, but is held back by the fact that he’s a small forward that shoots 11% from behind the arc due to his horrid shooting mechanics. To balance that out, the Hornets signed Nic Batum, another natural small forward, who can do a little bit of everything, but that means two of their three best players overlap in terms of position. They end up teaming those three together with a pair of bigs most of the time, but that area of their lineup has been problematic. Frank Kaminsky has come into his own, particularly as a shooter, but he doesn’t rebound particularly well and isn’t great defensively. This is a team that, if they find a well balanced big man, could find themselves worried more about playoff positioning than lottery picks. However, this past year saw them play Roy Hibbert, Spencer Hawes, Miles Plumlee, and Cody Zeller. Zeller is probably the best of that bunch, but he’d be better suited coming off the bench for a playoff team, not starting 58 games. With the 11th pick in the draft the Hornets could potentially find the post prospect they’ve been searching for. Lauri Markkanen, while not a true post player, could be there and would be value that the Hornets couldn’t, and shouldn’t, pass up. However, if he’s off the board and they look at need Zach Collins, Jarrett Allen, Bam Adebayo, or Harry Giles all could be available just outside the top ten. If the Hornets could land one of those players and get solid contributions from them, they could find themselves back in the playoffs soon.
Needs: power forward, shooting guard
The Heat started off last season looking lost without Dwyane Wade. However, the second half of the season was a very different story as they charged forward looking for a spot in the playoffs. They finished just short, but if they can capture that type of play for next season, they could surprise some people. The biggest news for them this offseason is the fact that Chris Bosh is coming off their books, providing them with some financial flexibility. Dion Waiters is a free agent after a strong season, and they may well use the extra cash to retain him, but that might be a mistake. The Heat will be building a team around Hassan Whiteside, Goran Dragic, and Justice Winslow, meaning the team has some major holes to fill. With Tyler Johnson’s contract set to explode after next season, it becomes even more important that they make good use of their cap space this offseason. It’s very difficult to determine which Miami team from last year is the one we will see moving forward, the terrible team from the start of the season or the team that closed 30-11. The answer is most likely somewhere in between. The Heat will need to make the most of this offseason to build the roster up to ensure their success carries over to next season. Some targets for them in the draft could be Harry Giles, Jarrett Allen, TJ Leaf, Donovan Mitchell, or Terrance Ferguson. Obviously, if Miami opts to resign Waiters, Mitchell and Ferguson will become less of a need. In free agency, they will likely be keeping their eyes on Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Zach Randolph, and Rudy Gay, players they could plug in around their existing core.
Picks: 19, 31, 60
So, it would appear that this is Dennis Schroeder’s team now. Paul Millsap opted out and if he chooses to sign elsewhere, this Hawks team will be built around Schroeder, Dwight Howard and Tim Hardaway Jr. If that is, indeed, the case, the Hawks have a lot of weaknesses on the roster, but a lot of cap space to use towards strengthening their roster. The Hawks could be major buyers once free agency hits. They could look to land a perimeter threat like Danilo Gallinari to open things up for Howard inside. With their focus shifting to players other than Millsap, who had the second highest usage rate on the team, the Hawks very likely will look to change up what they look for in players as well as how they play. They need to add forwards to the roster. It’s the biggest weak point on the roster and the Hawks need to shore up that part of the roster if they are to compete next season. While free agency is one way to do that, the draft also gives them options as they own not only the 19th pick in the first round, but could also take advantage of the first pick of the second round. Some options include Justin Jackson of UNC, Ivan Rabb of Cal, Rodions Kurucs of Latvia, or Caleb Swanigan of Purdue. What the Hawks do this offseason will go a long way towards deciding if they remain a playoff threat or a lottery team next season and beyond.
Needs: Otto Porter to resign
With just about everybody back from a team that went 49-33 last season except for Otto Porter, a restricted free agent, the Wizards are in a pretty good position. John Wall and Bradley Beal are learning how to play together and that is huge for this Wizards team. Otto Porter’s game is growing and the Wizards can’t afford to lose him at this point. They’ve watched as he’s developed, and if they were to lose him, they would have a sizeable hole on the roster without the means to fill it. Ultimately, they will have the right to match any offer he gets in free agency, so expect them to let him go out and find an offer before matching it. Washington doesn’t want to set the market and essentially bid against themselves, and with teams not wanting to handicap themselves by having money tied up in a player that won’t actually play for them, it’s likely Porter will have trouble securing a huge offer early. This will allow some of the free agent spending to dry up and, the Wizards hope, bring Porter’s price down. In all likelihood, he will get a big offer and the Wizards will match it because they absolutely cannot afford to lose him at this stage in not only his development, but the team’s.