Needs: Talent in general
Picks: 3, 17, 26
Houston is a team that is quite possibly in need of talent more than any other in the league. They have Jalen Green who looks like a piece they can build around, but outside of that, there isn’t a lot on the roster. Christian Wood got traded to Dallas for the 26th pick, so he’s out of the picture. Kevin Porter Jr. is a good (albeit sometimes erratic) player that would benefit from playing alongside a veteran lineup that could keep his attitude and decision making in check as he develops. Alperen Sengun is a good prospect, but he has his limitations and needs to have a group of teammates that fit his particular style. Eric Gordon is perpetually on the trade block, and John Wall has no future with the franchise. Houston will be looking to build their roster through the draft, and the trade of Christian Wood essentially confirms that Houston believes they will land Paolo Banchero of Duke, Chet Holmgren of Gonzaga or even Keegan Murray with the third overall pick. At 17, they could target someone like Ousmane Dieng of France, Jeremy Sochan of Baylor, or Tari Eason of LSU. And at 26 they could target a player like Tennessee’s Kennedy Chandler. It’s hard to nail down a specific direction for Houston in the draft, however, because of their three picks and their many, many needs on the roster. It’s all about building towards the future and building their talent base.
New Orleans Pelicans
Needs: A Zion resolution
Picks: 8, 41, 47, 52
Unlike Houston, the Pelicans have found themselves as one of the talent-rich rosters in the league. When healthy, Zion Williamson is a star, Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum are both high level scorers, Jonas Valanciunas is one of the underrated centers in the league, and they Herbert Jones and Jose Alverado are two of the top young defensive playmakers. So with the 8th pick, the Pels will be looking to add a piece that can help to bring those pieces together. They could look at someone like AJ Griffin, to provide outside shooting, but they may look at Kentucky’s Dyson Daniels if they want someone that can play the point, or I could see them being enamored with the athleticism of a Arizona’s Benedict Mathurin, or even [player: Shaeden Sharpe]. The unfortunate aspect of the offseason for the Pels is that their best player, Zion, may not be committed to staying in New Orleans long-term. After Anthony Davis forced his way out, the Pels may be hesitant to see that same scenario play out again, but they can’t really trade someone who’s talent outweighs his value the way Zion’s does due to his injury history, especially when he will be a restricted free agent after this year if he doesn’t sign an extension. But it’s for that reason that you could see the Pelicans push extra hard to get Zion to sign a max deal. They could also look to be active in free agency, with the non-taxpayer mid-level exception to offer, which comes in at a little over ten million per year and the bi-annual (just over 4 million) they could look to add smaller rotation pieces. Then there’s the 17 million dollar trade exception they netted from the trade of Steven Adams. But it expires in less than a month, so they would probably need to utilize it on draft night or right after if they are going to use it.
San Antonio Spurs
Needs: Pieces to build around
Picks: 9, 20, 25, 38
The Spurs are, to me, one of the most intriguing teams this offseason. They have three first round picks, nearly thirty million dollars in cap space, and a roster that could be down to the three aforementioned first round picks, Dejounte Murray, Doug McDermott, Devin Vassell, and Josh Primo after next season. So the question becomes, how much flexibility do the Spurs opt to retain, and how does who they land in this upcoming draft impact their future plans? Having this much flexibility offers the Spurs an opportunity to focus on the long-term, but do they do that with Coach Gregg Popovich nearing retirement? The Spurs have the 9th pick and Duke’s AJ Griffin would be a great fit with his all-around game, but they could also target Kansas’ Ochai Agbaji, Wisconsin’s Johnny Davis, or the G-League’s Dyson Daniels. Last year’s first round pick was the extremely young project, Josh Primo, which leads me to believe that the Spurs could look to swing for the fences in this draft knowing that if they miss, they are in the middle of a rebuild anyway, but if they hit a homerun, they have the ability to build a team around their newfound star. At 20, the Spurs could look at G League Ignite’s Jaden Hardy, Serbia’s Nikola Jovic, and at 25, Caleb Houstan or Michigan State’s Max Christie are possibilities. Shooting guard is the deepest position in this year’s draft, and provided the Spurs hold onto their late first round picks, there’s a good chance they will look to exploit the depth at the position here. If the Spurs decide that a slow build is not the approach they want to take, they could look to package those picks in a deal that, because of their cap situation, could be unbalanced salary wise. Would Washington take a package of picks and Josh Richardson for Brad Beal? Would the Hawks swap John Collins and 16 for a couple of the picks? What about the Knicks and Julius Randle, or the Wolves with D’Angelo Russell? The bottom line is that the Spurs have options, and after draft night, we will have a much better idea of where the Spurs are headed.
Needs: Three point shooting, secondary scorer
Picks: 22, 29
The Grizzlies took the massive jump from young team with good prospects to legitimate contender. They did it behind the stellar MVP-level play of Ja Morant and a physical, gritty defense. It’s a team that has exceptional balance and really only needs a secondary scorer to take some of the onus off of Morant and three point shooters to give him more space to operate. The Grizzlies could opt to continue growing their talent base through the draft, but with such a good roster in place already, now could be the time that they go all-in on winning it all. They have about 19 million in cap space plus the non-taxpayer midlevel and bi-annual exceptions, but there is another option. They could opt to move Steven Adams in a deal to clear cap space and pursue a max free agent like either Zach LaVine or DeAndre Ayton. If the Grizzlies could swing that, they may just catapult themselves into the top contender in the West. But even if they don’t go that route, they have two first round picks, and with those picks could target players such as Jaylin Williams of Arkansas, Walker Kessler of Auburn, Jaden Hardy of the G-League, Caleb Houston of Michigan, or Patrick Baldwin of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The Grizzlies could really use more three point shooting, as they ranked 23rd in three pointers made and attempted this season. However, they will likely look to take the best player available with their picks as opposed to filling a need, and then fill in the blanks through free agency.
Needs: Resign Jalen Brunson
The Mavericks made their big offseason splash before draft night, trading their 26th overall pick to Houston in a deal to acquire Christian Wood. Luka Doncic needs some help, and by giving him a versatile forward like Wood to play alongside, it could open up some opportunities. And if Spencer Dinwiddie can continue to play the way he did down the stretch, the Mavericks could be contenders. Jalen Brunson is a free agent and the Mavericks would be best served looking to bring him back, even though he could be in line for a massive pay raise. With Dinwiddie and Doncic, it may seem like Brunson isn’t a need, but Dallas is short on resources to improve the team, so they need to keep from hemorrhaging any talent. The Mavs only have the tax-payer mid-level to use, and few trade pieces that would be overly attractive to other teams. They also will have a number of roster spots to fill as they moved four players (Boban Marjanovich, Trey Burke, Sterling Brown, and Marquese Chriss) in the Christian Wood trade. They could use their trade exception from the Josh Richardson trade worth just under 11 million to add another piece, but outside of that, they are going to have to get creative to improve this team any further.