New Orleans Pelicans
Needs: Jrue Holiday trade, center
Picks: 13, 39, 42, 60
The Pelicans are attempting to build around Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson, meaning a guy like Jrue Holiday doesn’t really fit their current timeline. So look for them to find a trade partner to move him to a team that is closer to contending than they currently are. The Pelicans could use another center to develop alongside Jaxson Hayes. My guess is that they may use their cap space on shorter term deals bringing in veterans to assist in developing their younger players to allow them to set themselves up to add a major free agent in a few years when they anticipate being a contender. With their 13th pick, it’s unlikely that there is a big man worth a pick that high, so look for them to try to find a younger replacement for Holiday in the lineup. Florida State’s Devin Vassell, and French guard Killian Hayes, if either falls, could all make some sense for them. Another option is energy forward Saddiq Bey. Their early second round picks could be where they look to land one of the big men such as Isaiah Stewart of Washington, Kansas’ Udoka Azubuike, or Aleksej Pokusevski of Serbia. However, until the Pelicans finalize a trade for Holiday, it’s difficult to know for sure what they will need, because they should be able to get some value for Holiday on the trade market.
Memphis outperformed expectations last year, finishing just outside of the playoff bracket. Ja Morant showed himself to be a real playmaker, and the trio of Jaren Jackson Jr., Brandon Clark, and Jonas Valanciunas were all quite good. The thing this team needs most at this point is quality play on the wings. If they can find that, they could be a serious playoff contender. It wouldn’t vault them into a title contender just yet, but as a young team, they could grow into that in time. Now, they don’t have enough allure to land a major player in free agency, and they don’t have a first round draft pick, but even if things stay as they are now, the Grizz will have some options with the 40th pick. Arkansas’ Isaiah Joe (pictured) could offer them perimeter shooting alongside Morant, as could Syracuse’s Elijah Hughes or [Player:Desmond Bane] of TCU. In free agency, it might be worth kicking the tires on signing someone like Wesley Matthews.
Needs: Defensive wing
Picks: 18, 31
Dallas has Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis to build around, and because of the versatility of those two, they have numerous options on how to build their team. Luka can play three different positions, and regardless of what position he’s listed as, he’ll be doing a lot of the ball handling and creating for the team. Porzingis can play the four or the five, but probably fits best as the five in most lineups. The Mavericks are always looking for ways to improve their team, and I think it would be worth seeing if they can swing a deal with New Orleans to acquire Jrue Holiday. He would give them another scoring threat who is also a credible defender on the outside. If they don’t make a run at Holiday, the focus will likely turn to the draft, where they have the 18th and 31st pick. At 18, they could very well target Jaden McDaniels of Washington, Precious Achiuwa of Memphis, or RJ Hampton. Now, none of those three really provide them the defensive wing they need, but would represent good value at that pick and could fit alongside Doncic and Porzingis. At 31, they could grab a shooting specialist like Isaiah Joe (pictured) to complement Seth Curry.
San Antonio Spurs
Needs: To rebuild
Picks: 11, 41
It’s been a fun run, and I might feel extremely dumb for this because I expected the Spurs to fall apart several times in the late 2000’s and early 2010’s, but this time just feels different. Their current core is composed of DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge, both of whom are limited in what they provide to the team, and the role players aren’t good enough to overcome the limited games of the aging Aldridge and lack of DeRozan’s shooting. The other thing that makes me believe the Spurs are on the precipice of a full rebuild is their current cap situation. They have next to nothing on the books after this upcoming season. They have only 4 players under contract at that point, and one of those is Dejounte Murray making over 15 million, meaning we could see him traded between now and the start of the 2021-2022 season. The Spurs could also look to expedite the process by trading some of their current players, but don’t expect them to take on contracts with a lot of years on them. They also have the 11th pick, and because of the impending rebuild, they will not be considering need, but best value. They could consider taking Saddiq Bey of Villanova, Killian Hayes, or Tyrese Haliburton if they get lucky and see the Iowa State Cyclone slide.
Houston needs bigs. Like, they REALLY need bigs. I like Daryl Morey, I think he’s historically been pretty good at his job, but last season he and his analytics went off the rails. Now, the Rockets have a new general manager, a new head coach, and exactly zero big men. Let’s not over complicate this, in basketball, it generally benefits a player to be tall. With the direction the league is going, it benefits players to be skilled and thus smaller players are getting more opportunities, but having a 6-foot-5 PJ Tucker man the center spot for you is a good way to get exposed. The Lakers just bullied them in the post. Houston cannot let that happen again, and obviously needs to address the fact that their interior has been completely gutted. The problem is that the only means they have to improve their team this off-season is through a trade or by using their Mid-Level Exception. If they go the trade route, they don’t have much in terms of trade chips that most teams would be interested in unless they are willing to give up a player they need to remain competitive. Having Harden on the team keeps them competitive, but it’s likely that last year’s run at a title with an odd lineup construction was not only unsuccessful, but may have doomed the franchise to an eventual rebuild. To take a phrase from Rick Pitino, Yao Ming’s not walking through that door, fans, Hakeem Olajawon’s not walking through that door, and Ralph Sampson’s not walking through that door.