Needs: Star power, Youth, offensive firepower
The Mavericks are in a weird place as a franchise. They aren’t a playoff team, but they also don’t want to commit to a complete makeover of the roster out of respect for the twilight of Dirk Nowitzki’s career. They brought in Harrison Barnes in an attempt to bolster the team, and he averaged just over 19 points per game this past season, but he should never be a team’s best player if they have playoff aspirations. Their salary structure is a bit of a mess, as well, as Dirk is scheduled to make 25 million this season (assuming the Mavs pick up his option), Barnes will make over 23 million, and Wesley Matthews will earn almost 18 million. They also will most likely match a large offer to restricted free agent Nerlens Noel. That isn’t exactly a fearsome foursome, and their plan moving forward is, if nothing else, confusing. Dirk will be 39 next season, Matthews will be 31, Barnes will be 25, and Noel will be 23. The timelines for their top players simply don’t match up. Because of this, along with Mark Cuban’s desire to compete, it makes it very difficult to ascertain what the Mavericks will do this offseason. Ultimately, they need some offensive firepower added to the lineup. They played the second slowest pace in the association last year and were dead last in scoring. That wouldn’t be a problem if they were a bit more like the Jazz in that they were designed to lock teams down. However, that’s not the Mavericks. They allowed the 4th fewest points per game last season, but that was more a result of pace, as they were a middle of the pack team in terms of defensive efficiency. Now, how do they fix their issues this offseason? They will have money to spend in free agency, but they need to go in with a plan – do they pursue someone that could potentially help them sneak into the playoffs, or do they sign young players in hopes of developing them for the post-Dirk years? Then, with the draft they have the 9th pick, which provides them with a number of options. The good news is that this is a phenominal year to be sitting at the 9th pick. Frank Ntilikina has a chance to be a franchise changing point guard, but he will need time. They could go with a point guard like him or Dennis Smith Jr. if they fell to them, or they could look at frontcourt help in the form of Zach Collins, Jarrett Allen, Justin Patton or the most Dirk-like player in the draft, Lauri Markkanen. With Dirk’s career coming to an end, it’ll be interesting to see which way the Mavericks go this offseason.
New Orleans Pelicans
Needs: Jrue Holiday to resign, wings
The Pelicans got a head start on this offseason last All-Star weekend when they made the move to trade for DeMarcus Cousins. By pairing him inside with Anthony Davis, they immediately staked claim to the best center duo since at least David Robinson and Tim Duncan. The end of last season took on more of a feeling out process as they learned how to coexist, but moving forward, they will be a matchup nightmare for opposing coaches. The primary issue is that they have to find somebody that can get them the ball in position to make plays. They hope it’ll be Jrue Holiday, who for stretches of his career has looked really good since being traded to them from Philly. He’s a free agent, and he’s got to be priority number one for the franchise this offseason. If they can lock him up, it’ll go a long way towards righting the ship in New Orleans. Because they lack a first round pick, free agency will be their best bet at adding impact pieces to the roster, but even that will be difficult if they don’t time their moves correctly. Because of essentially dead money on the books being paid to the underwhelming Omer Asik and Solomon Hill (over 22 million dollars combined next season and both under contract until likely the 2019-2020 season) things will be a bit trickier for them. The Pelicans could opt to go out and try to sign a wing player of some significance and add him to the roster, and then resign Jrue Holiday using his bird rights. Ultimately, this could be their last offseason in terms of adding a significant player because Anthony Davis’ contract will keep getting bigger, Cousins is in line for a big pay day when he becomes a free agent after next season, and Holiday won’t come cheap if they retain him this year. The Pelicans have to get this offseason right. They can do that by adding a player that can slide in to a spot on the wing and be a scoring threat. Some options could be JJ Redick or Jonathan Simmons at the shooting guard position, Danillo Gallinari or Joe Ingles at small forward, or even Nikola Mirotic as a combo forward. At 40 some interesting power forwards could be available including (combo) Semi Ojeleje, Jonathan Motley, and Cam Oliver.
The Grizzlies don’t have a draft pick this year. It’s been a while since Memphis actually traded away the pick, so to judge this offseason, we have to go back and look at what they got for this year’s pick, which would have been the 20th pick, and instead belongs to Portland. So, what did Memphis get in exchange for the 20th pick? Jon Leuer and the additional cap space needed to help resign Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph. So, uhhhh…not exactly ideal there, but you win some and you lose some. They can’t change it now, so what do they do to maximize the opportunities they do have this offseason? While they are a blue collar, defense first team, they need to find some additional scoring. They thought Chandler Parsons was going to be the piece that they were looking for, but he has been a bust in Memphis and hasn’t been able to stay healthy. Because of the big deals for Mike Conley, Marc Gasol, and Parsons, the Grizzlies won’t be able to go on a spending spree, but they will likely look for somebody that can come in and be a scorer for them without being a sieve on defense. They will also have to make a decision on Zach Randolph. He took on a diminished role this season and it benefitted the team, but if he’s going to be coming off the bench, he might decide to go someplace where he’d be coming off the bench and have a solid chance at winning a championship. Ultimately, the Grizzlies probably will not look all that different next season from their current composition.
Picks: 43, 45
Let’s get something out of the way right away. Houston needs shooting, but not in the sense that they don’t currently have shooters, they obviously do. This past season they had a lot of success while attempting a league-high 40 three point shots per game and making 35% of them. Mike D’Antoni is an offensive mastermind that is utilizing the three point shot more than anybody else right now, so Houston would be well served to supply him with even more shooters. James Harden had an MVP-type season and part of what allowed him to wreak so much havoc on defenses is the fact that it was almost impossible to help off as a defender. Clint Capela was good inside for them as an athletic rebounder, and if Houston can get another player that can fill that same type of role, great. Otherwise, Houston’s best bet is to add more shooters to the mix and dare opposing teams to pick their poison between Harden probing the lane and scoring or giving up all kinds of long distance jump shots. Houston is in a position where they could take another step next year towards potentially dethroning the Warriors in the west. The best way for them to do that is to embrace D’Antoni’s style and shoot the long ball at a clip that other team’s simply can’t keep up with. And here’s the thing, even though they don’t have a first round pick, it’s possible to find quality shooters in the second round. Houston has a bright future as long as they stick with the formula that worked for them this season. Alec Peters and Tyler Dorsey stand out as 2nd rounders with potential as NBA 3 point shooters.
San Antonio Spurs
Needs: Shooting guard, point guard
Picks: 29, 59
Think about this for a second, Tim Duncan retires and the Spurs just finished with the 2nd best record in the league. The Spurs are a machine, and with Popovich at the helm, it has almost become a plug-and-play system. They have transitioned to become Kawhi Leonard’s team, and they look to be a team that is (somehow) only going to continue to get better. Tony Parker got hurt late in the season and we’ll see how he looks upon his return, and Manu Ginobili may finally call it quits on a celebrated career, but the Spurs just keep rolling. With Ginobili possibly retiring and Jonathon Simmons being a free agent, the Spurs could probably use another shooting guard on the roster for next season. Parker will be a free agent after next season and Patty Mills is entering free agency this year, so point guard could also be a position they look to bolster despite Dejounte Murray giving them minutes in the playoffs. There have been rumblings about targeting Chris Paul, but the Spurs would have to gut a large portion of their team to make it happen, and that simply isn’t what the Spurs like to do when building a team. They would likely need to try to find a taker for LaMarcus Aldridge to clear space. Ultimately, this team doesn’t have very many weaknesses, especially when Kawhi plays the way he did this season. They play differently than other teams in the league, as they rely more on smart, meaningful ball movement than anything else, and while they don’t emphasize the three as much, they shoot it more efficiently than any other team in the league. By this point, we all know how the Spurs offseason will work. They will get a cheap free agent or two that is looking to join a championship contender for a chance at a ring. In the draft, one of two things will happen: either a really good player will inexplicably fall to 29, only to be picked by the Spurs and become a contributor, or they will draft some player that nobody is talking about and that player will eventually become a valuable commodity a few years down the line because that’s just how things work when you’re the Spurs. This is a team that has legitimate championship aspirations and what they do in free agency and the draft this year could go a long way in determining not only the viability of winning a ring next season, but in the seasons beyond. If the Spurs want a point guard, Frank Jackson or Edmond Sumner make sense. A senior wing like Wesley Iwundu or Jaron Blossomgame could also fit into their system.